Tom Price is apparently a big fan of private airplanes.
“In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel.
The secretary’s five flights, which were scheduled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he participated in a Q&A discussion with a health care industry CEO, and to community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents.”
Look. Private planes are great! (I flew on one while covering the 2005 gubernatorial campaign as Tim Kaine – and then Democratic Gov. Mark Warner – made a series of stops around the state in the fall of that race.) They are easier! You don’t have to go through security! You can be on your phone!
But, when you are a government official – who is not the President of the United States – you have to be smart enough to realize that jetting around on private, um, jets sends exactly the wrong message to the people paying your salary.
There’s nothing more elitist and upper-crusty than a private jet. It’s like a scene out of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” (Yes, I watched a LOT of that show as a kid. And, double yes, Donald Trump is shown walking with Michael Jackson in the show’s famous intro.)
The last thing you want as a public servant is to be perceived as asking for and receiving special (and better) treatment than the people you are there to represent.
Price should know better. He spent more than a decade in Congress prior to being nominated as Secretary of Health and Human Services by President-elect Trump in late 2016.
In fact, in 2009 Price railed against congressional expenditures in the hundreds of millions of dollars for several private planes that would ferry members of Congress. “This is just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in Congress right now,” Price said in a CNBC interview at the time. Whoops!
Republicans also sought to make hay out of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s alleged use of a 757 to jet her across the country to her San Francisco district. Those charges were largely debunked.
The usual explanation from politicians when caught using private jets is that there were simply no commercial airline flights available to get them where they needed to go. Unfortunately for Price, Politico appears to have him dead to rights on that claim.
“Price’s spokespeople declined to comment on why he considered commercial travel to be unfeasible. On one leg of the trip – a sprint from Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport, a distance of 135 miles – there was a commercial flight that departed at roughly the same time: Price’s charter left Dulles at 8:27 a.m., and a United Airlines flight departed for Philadelphia at 8:22 a.m., according to airport records.”
This is also not the first time – this month! – that a Trump administration official has faced criticism for his flying habits. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was battered last week by reports that he had inquired into the possible use of a government plane for his honeymoon. He insisted it was only a preliminary request driven by national security concerns.
When the wrap on the president and his administration is that it’s a bunch of rich white guys who are totally out of touch with how regular people live (even while insisting they are the voice of the people), it’s not a good look to be flying on private planes.
That’s Politics 101. Price must have missed that class.