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How Big Is Your… Detail?

I commented earlier today on Twitter about this article. It seems the good folks in Congress have decided to vote themselves eight new planes – 4 Gulfstreams and 4 737s. This after bashing corporate CEOs for their “excesses” in traveling by private aircraft.

In response, I got the standard pushback that the costs for such things are reasonable because of the security details that travel with elected officials. I was specifically asked if CEOs travel with security.

I had similar discussions in the spring when the issue was $12 billion for new helicopters in the Marine One fleet. The President, to his credit, was at least smart enough to say, “I’ll make do with the old ones.” Congress has had no such thought. Instead, the Congressional plan to buy eight planes actually DOUBLES the costs and number of aircraft the Department of Defense had requested.

This strikes me as odd on three levels.

First, there is a size issue. The request included four 737s. These are not small planes. So we have to ask exactly how big these security details are. Do we really need planes that big to ferry them?

Second, I am guessing that many CEOs do travel with security, but I am guessing that most do not. As a stockholder, I’m of two minds on that. I would like to think that the CEO of a company I have invested in is protected from threats of kidnapping or assassination. I may count on that company to provide income in the form of dividends or retirement planning. It would be nice if that were safeguarded.

On the other hand, however, I appreciate that most CEOs understand that they are expendable. If something happened to them, there are a lot of people who could be brought in to fill that role.

This brings me to the last point. Most Members of Congress don’t share that understanding of their relative importance. And we as a people seem to condone their inflated sense of their place in the world. We make excuses for their excess because “they have to be protected”. Yet we must ask ourselves whether that’s really true.

Their jobs, by nature, are such that they can be replaced on a whim by us in regular intervals. A Representative, specifically, serves only two years at a time and can be fired by the public every 750 days. Yet they believe (and we allow them to believe) that they are critical to the function of our government. That they even have security details is absurd. You can argue that only certain Members in leadership have such protection, but their term of service is still at our pleasure. We, and the Constitution clearly feel we could do without them.

We coddle our elected officials. More specifically, we allow them to coddle themselves. Then we make excuses for their behavior because its easier than looking in the mirror and asking ourselves why we don’t throw them out when they get out of control.

We’re left with Congress deciding, contrary to the wishes of the Department of Defense, how many planes are appropriate and how much private access to aircraft they need.

Perhaps we need to rethink things and send a clear message by throwing out every Member who votes for these planes. They clearly believe they mean more to us than we think they do.

If we took away some of their perks, forced them to live like the common citizens they’re supposed to be, and specifically did away with security details designed to protect them from us, maybe they’d behave less like protected overlords and more like our representatives.

Written by Michael Turk