TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump, son Barron and wife Melania step off Air Force One upon arrival at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 17, 2017.
Trump is heading to Palm Beach, Florida where he is scheduled to spend the weekend at the Mar-a-Lago estate. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The price of protecting the first family
02:01 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

Story highlights

This weekend, Donald Trump made his fifth visit to his Florida country club Mar-a-Lago

Each visit costs American taxpayers millions in federal and local law enforcement dollars

But taxpayer money should instead be going to assist our nation's most vulnerable citizens, writes Obeidallah

CNN  — 

On Thursday, Donald Trump released his budget for 2017, which proposes slashing programs that help some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including the poor and the elderly. And then Trump, in his own “let them eat cake” moment, jetted off 24 hours later to spend another weekend at his luxurious private country club Mar-a-Lago, a place described as akin to the Palace of Versailles.

Trump’s opulent Mar-a-Lago is an estate that Marie Antoinette would have felt right at home in. It boasts 16th century Flemish tapestries, lavish oriental rugs and a Louis XIV-style ballroom added by Trump that includes $7 million in gold leaf on the walls.

Dean Obeidallah

Now if Trump were simply spending his weekends at Mar-a-Lago on his own dime, that would be one thing. But he’s not. You, I and every other taxpayer are the ones paying for the five trips Trump has taken there since being sworn in as President.

In other words, instead of spending money on those most in need, Trump is wasting taxpayer dollars on a lavish lifestyle he is seeking to maintain.

What’s the cost? Politico has estimated that we pay $3 million each weekend that Trump travels to his palatial country club. That means Trump’s five getaways have cost taxpayers in the neighborhood of $15 million for expenses associated with Secret Service, Air Force One, etc.

And that doesn’t even include the nearly $1 million in local tax dollars spent by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office to protect Trump when he stays at Mar-a-Lago.

But that’s not the end of the costs we bear for the personal choices of the Trump family. In late January, the President’s son, Eric, traveled to Uruguay for a Trump Organization business meeting. The cost for private security was close to $100,000 – and of course his meeting had nothing to do with the governance of the country.

Then there are the additional costs we pay for Melania and Barron Trump to live in New York. While Trump’s wife and son certainly have the choice of where they want to live, you and I – not “billionaire” President Trump – are the ones paying for this personal choice. Though estimates vary, it appears New York taxpayers are saddled with approximately $146,000 per day in security costs. That’s over $4 million a month!

Imagine for a moment how Trump would’ve responded if the Obama family were costing US taxpayers an additional $4 million per month because Michelle and one daughter wanted to remain in Chicago. Or how Trump would have reacted if Obama had traveled to a luxurious private resort five times in the first two months of his presidency, costing millions in taxpayer dollars. Keep in mind Trump blasted Obama when he sporadically went to play golf.

In fact, over the eight years Obama was President, the cost to taxpayers for his eight annual family vacations to Hawaii was a grand total of approximately $85 million. In contrast, Trump has rung up nearly $15 million going to Mar-a-Lago in just his first two months.

Even putting aside Trump’s hypocrisy, the most despicable aspect of this is that Trump is spending our taxes on himself, while at the same time advocating policies that slash the budget and hurt so many vulnerable Americans. For example, Trump has callously called for cutting funding for the Meals on Wheels program, which is a critical lifeline for nearly 2.4 million senior citizens and disabled Americans. Five-hundred-thousand of the people who receive Meals on Wheels are veterans, the group Trump keeps telling us he cares so much about.

Trump is updating the “let them eat cake” line to “let them starve.”

Get our free weekly newsletter

  • Sign up for CNN Opinion’s newsletter.
  • Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    The Trump/GOP health care plan would also hurt the most vulnerable Americans, namely the disabled and children. The American Health Care Act would even punish Trump’s supporters, because it would negatively impact older Americans and those in rural areas, two populations that favored Trump in the election.

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump – like Antoinette – is a person more concerned with living a lavish lifestyle and less with helping those most in need. The question is, will Trump’s base continue to support him once they feel the pain of his policies? Or, like the French did to Antoinette, who continued to live an extravagant lifestyle while they suffered, reject him? Trump’s political survival turns on the answers to this.