Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Cabinet of Horrors



When I'm on a plane, I like to catch up with the magazines that have gotten stacked up on my bedside table. I always stuff a bunch in my backpack and consume them with my pretzels and club soda while hanging out back in 21C. On a flight last week, I was reading a New Yorker story about VA Secretary David Shulkin, and I was well into it before I realized it wasn't about Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Shulkin/Mnuchin. Tomato/Tomahto. When it comes to President Trump's cabinet, it's getting really hard to keep up with who's who and who's in and who's out — and who's spent the most taxpayer dollars on lavish travel. These guys sure aren't sitting back in Row 21, that I can tell you.

Honestly, it's easy to get Shulkin confused with Mnuchin. Not only are their names sort of weirdly synchronic, they both like to take their wives on lavish vacations on taxpayer money.

Shulkin and his wife enjoyed a 10-day European vacation on our dime last summer and lied about it by having a staffer alter an email. They also accepted free tickets to Wimbledon, and Shulkin had his government staff act as his travel agency, planning all the fun places he and the missus could go visit. After an Inspector General's report was released last week, Shulkin says he was fired. The White House said he "resigned." Tomato/Tomahto.

Mnuchin, you may recall, took his babe-ish wife on a military jet jaunt to watch last summer's eclipse. After that, he requested a military plane to take his wife to Europe for their honeymoon. He still has his job.

And there's EPA head, Scott Pruitt, who has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first-class travel because, well, someone might recognize him and bother him back there in the cheap seats. He's also had his own private phone booth built at our expense (not weird, at all) and is under an ethics investigation for a sweetheart luxury apartment deal with a major lobbyist. And, for good measure, he went around a White House denial to engineer massive raises for two young female staffers.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke? He spent $12,350 on one charter trip to Montana, and tens of thousands more of our money island-hopping the Caribbean on a "fact-finding" tour in a private jet.

But the king of tax-paid travel is former secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, who spent more than $1 million of our money on domestic and international flights between May and September 2017. In addition, Price used White House-approved military jets for international travel to Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Proving that even Washington has limits, Price was forced to resign, but only after receiving the Presidential Medal of Honor for Chutzpah.

Speaking of chutzpah ... HUD secretary Ben Carson decided it was a good idea to spend $31,000 on a dining room suite for his office, then blamed it on his wife. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has billed taxpayers $58,000 in travel expenses, including one flight that cost $31,000, which, to be fair, is chicken feed for this bunch.

To her credit, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not been busted for improperly using government money, but it may only be because she's too dimwitted to figure out how to do it.

I could go on about Dr. Trump's Cabinet of Horrors, but really, I think the point is made. The common denominator connecting Trump's administrators is that they are all rich, privileged, and used to living the high life. Unfortunately for them, federal officials are supposed to travel coach class on commercial air carriers whenever feasible. For folks used to flying first-class or on private or chartered aircraft, this is a major blow to their sense of self-worth. Coach is for the hoi-polloi munching on dry pretzels in the back. You know, like you and me — the ones footing the bill for this brazen corruption.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Add a comment