My First Encounter with Air Force One

211113_PC_lombardiIt was a regular flight for me to Miami…a late Saturday afternoon two weeks ago. As our flight approached Miami International Airport, the captain announced we would soon be starting our descent.

Then something happened that I thought was strange.

We started circling in the air. Not once or twice, which is common when air traffic gets congested, but we circled for what seemed to be 20 to 30 minutes. I told my wife, “Something is up. I wish the captain would come back on and tell us what’s going on.”

And finally that announcement came. The captain came on and said, “Ladies and gentleman, as you probably know, we have been circling up here for the last little while.”

The captain then proceeded to tell us President Obama had left the Miami airport on Air Force One within the last hour or so, and when that happens, commercial airlines are not allowed to take off or land for a specific amount of time. We were stuck in the backlog of flights trying to land because Air Force One had recently taken off.

The next day, I heard on the news that President Obama was in Florida the night before for Democratic fundraisers and to play golf on Saturday morning.

This got me thinking and researching.

Air Force One costs approximately $200,000 per hour to operate. (Source: USA Today, May 22, 2012.) But that doesn’t include the cost of lost productivity for the thousands of business people who are often delayed when Air Force One travels (or the thousands of tourists who are inconvenienced).

According to Kiplinger Washington Editors, the White House has asked Congress to allocate $1.14 billion for “research and development” of the next-generation Air Force One scheduled for debut early the next decade. (The United States is the only country in the world that has a custom-made aircraft to carry around its leader.)

So we live in a society where our leader is transported at the cost of $200,000 per hour when traveling in the air (I believe it’s much more than that) in an aircraft that costs hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to, in this case, attend fundraisers and play golf on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, we have 17.6 million American households having trouble putting food on the table; we have millions more on food stamps and a government spending trillions of dollars on 80 different poverty and welfare programs. (See “Trouble Putting Food on Table for 17.6 Million American Households?)

I have written before how we will never reach a time when we have an annual budget surplus. Our government spends way too much; if it were a business, it would be bankrupt. But the Federal Reserve does have the luxury of printing billions of dollars of new money each month so the government can cover its obligation.

A national debt of $17.0 trillion? As I have written before, that’s nothing. Get ready for double that—$34.0 trillion. And it might just happen in my lifetime.