I doubt that many people have any idea of what electing the Trump Corporation to the highest office in the land is costing us. I am fairly certain we will never know down to the last dollar.
This week, the mayor of West Palm Beach and one of our Congresswomen went to the island where the media are penned up while President Trump is in town. They went to plead, conspicuously, for money. They were asking for millions of dollars --$5.8 million, plus $4.7 million, plus $4.3 million -- partly on the guess that Mr. Trump’s biweekly visits will continue year-around but also for security equipment the Secret Service told the city of West Palm Beach it needs to buy.
That money would be on top of the money the county sheriff has to lay out in overtime -- $280,000 for the first five weekend trips of his presidency. The sheriff’s office started bleeding money while Mr. Trump was only a candidate. The sheriff expected to be reimbursed. He now knows better. The Secret Service politely listens to complaints. And politely dismisses them.
The Government Accountability Office put the price tag for one President Obama visit here at $3 million. Presumably Mr. Trump is into the feds for a similar amount per visit. That’s in federal, not local, money. Hawaii hosted two Obama presidential visits and is still waiting for $2 million from the same non-existent presidential visit pot our sheriff hoped to tap.
Although Obama, like presidents before him, did a lot of travelling, he didn't go to the Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach every other weekend. And take foreign heads of state. This week’s added attraction will be Chinese President Xi Jinping.
And Mar-a-Lago is key to where big added costs may be.
You, see, unlike the Bush compound in Maine or Ronald Reagan’s California ranch, Mar-a-Lago is not just a home to Mr. Trump. It is also the private Mar-a-Lago Club where, (if you are invited and pay the $200,000 initiation fee) you can spend $14,000 a year in dues to have a room when you want to get away, drink Trump wine and play The Trump International Golf Course. The golf course. We will get to that.
Mr. Trump might not be able to afford the mansion hinself if his paying guests weren’t paying for it. Which raises the unanswered question: Who pays the Club bills for Mr. Trump’s entourage when he comes? Whoever pays, the money goes to the Trump Corporation, Which is Mr. Trump.
He has taken to calling the private club “The Winter White House.” I’m betting that eventually will mean a $400,000 initiation fee, instead of $200,000, for the Club. Shouldn’t a White House be pricier than just a private club?
You may wonder where the town of Palm Beach is in all of these expenses. The rich folks winter there; West Palm Beach, the city, was built for the help. The town authorized a helipad so Mr. Trump can get to and from the airport without causing traffic jams. The authorization was reluctant because now everyone is going to want a helipad. But, in fact, the Mar-a-Lago Club is only a few feet into the town. Most of its traffic and security problems belong to the city where the help resides.
And this: Mr. Trump does not go to Mar-a-Lago and stay there. He spends part of the weekend making phone calls and taking meetings at Trump International Golf Course. His comings and goings all require motorcades of big, black SUVs with motorcycle escort for the 4.6 mile trip. (Does he has to make phone calls from the course because he can’t find a phone in any of Mar-a-Lago’s 126 rooms?)
The SUVs are flown in before he arrives, sometimes on a C-5 Galaxy that has a cargo bay 80 yards long, sometimes on a slightly smaller jet. The cars are picked up and flown to the next place he is going after he leaves. There is other communications and security equipment aboard, as well, but I didn’t want anyone to think the President of the United States gets his motorcades from Hertz.
Now it is possible that Mr. Trump will go to other of his properties for a Spring White House, a Summer
White House and an Autumn White House. No sense upgrading only one of his properties while his leading the free world. And it would be good – for his West Palm Beach neighbors -- if he spreads the expenses of his visits around a bit. We have a president for our neighbor, and he's going to cost us even more than he will cost everybody else.