Can we pay them to leave us alone?

22 08 2011

In an insightful column at the National Review, Mark Steyn criticizes Obama’s lavish Martha’s Vineyard vacation and luxe travel habits, comparing his excesses to those of European royals. While our President flits about on the plush Air Force One, he notes, “Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands flies long haul on KLM.” Let’s hope she doesn’t have a peanut allergy.

Steyn’s broader point is that Obama’s behavior is more fitting of a monarch of old than the freely elected leader of a democratic republic. I don’t disagree–but I hardly believe this Obama’s problem. He wasn’t the first President to have access to Air Force One, a variety of opulent vacation destinations, or an attentive 24/7 staff. Yes, his timing and imaging is terrible. But he’s not doing anything that Congressmen, Senators, and past Presidents haven’t been doing for generations.

In fact, I suspect that our political system breeds, rather than squelches, the imperiousness so visible in Obama. Royals are in a tough spot; they were born into their position, and as such, they must maintain at least a modicum of modesty lest they raise the ire of their subjects. An elected representative, however, can convince himself that he has earned the ridiculous perks that he enjoys. Moreover, a President realizes that he has (at most…) eight years to rack up as many hours aboard Air Force One as possible. And this is supposed to encourage restraint precisely how?

None of this would be so bad if our elected leaders were as useless as the remnants of the European nobility. If all of D.C. would simply bask in their prestige and squander their ill-gotten gains on cocaine, prostitutes, and fancy dinner parties, we might finally be able to start putting our economy, and private lives, back together. There will come a time–if that time hasn’t already passed–where it will become profitable for us to double, even triple the salaries of our leaders with no strings attached save one: that they take a permanent vacation.

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