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Why Trump Should Start Paying for the Secret Service

Daniel J. Mitchell

The news that the Secret Service is way over budget because of
President Donald Trump’s frequent vacations is a rich source of
material for political satirists. It’s easy to zing Trump for being
a hypocrite, as he previously complained about the cost and
duration of President Barack Obama’s vacations. Trump is way ahead
of his predecessor’s pace.

But let’s look at this issue from the perspective of taxpayers.
Every time the president hops on Air Force One for a weekend
getaway at one of his resorts, that involves a major shift of
manpower by the Secret Service, along with major outlays for
travel, lodging, and other costs. Now there’s talk of making the
budget even bigger to accommodate all of Trump’s trips.

It’s time to consider
some sensible reforms that could limit the agency’s burden on
taxpayers.

With the prospect of even higher Secret Service costs, it’s time
to consider some sensible reforms that could limit the agency’s
burden on taxpayers.

First, Congress should put an annual limit on expenditures for
unofficial White House travel. Restricting the president’s ability
to take taxpayer-funded vacations could be politically
advantageous. According to a 2013 Center for Economic and Policy
Research report, the average American gets 10 paid vacation days a
year
. Congress would likely get credit for bringing the
president’s funded vacation time closer to that of the people he’s
supposed to serve.

Presidents are not average, of course, so they should get
taxpayer-financed protection for around four weeks of vacation. Any
more than that would still have a Secret Service detail, but the
president would have to pick up the incremental expenses, either
personally or (more likely) by having their political party or
campaign committee cover the cost.

There should also be similar restrictions for the presidential
family, especially with regard to overseas business trips. If
Trump’s children feel it is necessary to go overseas to sign a
deal, then the company at the very least should pay half the cost
for Secret Service protection. Congress could stipulate this when
it writes its annual allocation of funds for the White House and
the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the Secret
Service.

Another reasonable reform would be to permanently expand the
Secret Service’s travel budget, but protect taxpayers by limiting
the number of other administration staffers that go on junkets. He
should be forced to cut in half the number of political advisors,
speechwriters, and flunkies that have turned White House trips into
costly boondoggles. It’s not ideal to have congressional spending
bills micromanage White House operations, but that might become
necessary if presidents don’t exercise good judgment on personal
and business trips.

None of these suggestions should be interpreted as attacks on
Trump. They would be permanent reforms to address the systemic
problem of wasteful spending and administrative bloat in
Washington. This problem existed before the current president. And
in the absence of reform, it will be an issue with future
administrations.

Daniel J.
Mitchell
a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of
the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, is on the Editorial Board of
the Cayman Financial Review.