Inaugural money better spent on tsunami victims, not Bush
The federal government places a great burden on the residents of the nation?s capital. Aside from overbearing control on the city?s government (in spite of their home rule documents), the federal government is now weakening the city?s ability to defend itself against future terrorist attacks in order to pay for President Bush?s vanity.
Washington, D.C. was targeted on September 11 and continues to be rated as one of the most likely targets for terrorists. Congress has appropriated $240 million over three years to prepare for such a possibility. Much of this money has been earmarked for such necessities as expanded emergency services, hospital capacity, and transportation security.
Now the Bush administration callously wants it back. The federal government is demanding that the District use this money to pay for security for George W. Bush?s second inauguration. The security costs are estimated to be $17.3 million. Two-thirds of that money will come from the city?s homeland security emergency budget, which should be used to fix municipal deficiencies instead of securing an unnecessary event.
The social aspects of the inauguration are estimated to cost $40 million and are being funded by private donations. It is an affront to society to hold this second inauguration in light of the economic downturn over the last four years (compared with Franklin Roosevelt cancelling his own in 1937). It is also an affront to hold such an inauguration during wartime (Roosevelt again canceled in 1941 and 1945) or following Asia?s biggest natural disaster in 30 years. Tapping municipal funds for what should be a private event is yet another inappropriate action for funding the administration?s brazen ego.
For the first time in recent history, there will be no stipend from the federal government to pay for this security. Asking Washington D.C. to fund the first inauguration since the September 11 attacks is yet another way the Bush administration continues to disrespect the city.
Boston and New York were both reimbursed $50 million for securing the two major party conventions this summer. Earlier attempts to raise Washington?s security budget specifically for the inauguration were soundly defeated last year. Homeland security money should be used not for barricading Constitution Avenue with police on overtime but for important security upgrades and actual protections.
There have been a number of high-profile calls for President Bush to split the balance of the event costs. Much of this criticism has come from Democratic members of Congress, including Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District?s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, but the most surprising criticism comes from a Republican. According to the Washington Post, Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R?Va.), charged with Congressional oversight of the District, has called the Bush administration?s withholding security funds ?simply not acceptable.?
There have also been calls for Bush to cancel the extravagant parties and donate the $40 million to tsunami victims, including strong words from prominent Bush donor Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. President Bush should view the opportunity to serve as our president for a second term as a privilege, not as a chance to throw a big party at the public?s expense.