Biz Beat [Opinion]: You mean we have to follow the rules, too?
Last year, CEOs from the embattled Big Three automakers came to Washington in their private jets. Congress threw a fit, and rightfully so.
But Congress has a problem understanding that, yes, the rules for everyone else also apply to them. That's the reason that, tucked inside the 2010 Defense spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved $200 million for elite private Gulfstream jets so members of Congress can fly in style.
How much style, you ask? Gulfstream promotes their G550 jets this way: "The cabin aboard the G550 combines productivity with exceptional comfort. It features up to four distinct living areas, three temperature zones, a choice of 12 floor plan configurations with seating for up to 18 passengers."
You just can't get that on a commercial jet. There's only one floor configuration, and no living areas, let alone "distinct" ones. But you do have the chance of getting a roomy, exit-row seat! How's that for "exceptional comfort?" And the air vent does allow passengers to create a temperature zone, although that cold air you're blasting is encroaching on your seatmate's zone, too.
Turns out that the Defense Department already has a fleet to carry around members of Congress and other top government officials, and this is just an expansion. Therefore, it's not classified as an earmark, and the lawmaker that inserted the spending into the bill doesn't have to disclose his or her name. But, really, who's happy with that explanation?
Lawmakers are supposed to represent us. We fly coach. Members of Congress should fly coach.
Some will argue that U.S. government officials could be taken hostage or harmed on commercial flights to violent parts of the world, and rescue missions would be costly. While this holds true for the president and other top officials, members of Congress aren't as well-known. Many constituents can't even name their own representative!
Gee thanks, Congress. While President Obama tasked his cabinet with cutting $100 million from their budgets - which they've done by vowing to use both sides of the paper and installing fluorescent light bulbs - you've undone the good deed in one fell swoop! Three planes costing $200 million is more than the $100 million savings. What about that "reducing the deficit" concept?