The federal government will spend a little over $4 trillion this year, a 4 followed by 12 zeroes. In that light, the cost of chartering a private jet for a few hours is negligible, and the outcry over Tom Price’s travel predilections as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is far out of proportion to their significance for the federal budget.
As a matter of public perception, though, the $1 million or more Price has charged taxpayers for private air travel in less than a year seems the very definition of the swampish behavior President Trump campaigned on ending. And Trump himself is well aware of it.
Politico reported earlier in September that Price had been chartering private planes for travel, breaking a precedent with previous Health and Human Services heads. Among the flights was a $25,000 trip from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia — a trip that takes 2.5 hours driving or 90 minutes via Amtrak — and an $18,000 visit to Nashville that included 90 minutes of work and a lengthy lunch with his son.
Price released a statement Thursday saying he would repay the Treasury for the flights, but his department later told media outlets that he would pay just the prorated cost of his own seats—around $52,000—not the whole expense of the charters, more than $400,000. (He was generally accompanied by aides and security personnel who flew with him.) Following his statement Politico further reported that Price had spent an additional $500,000 of taxpayer funds using military planes while traveling with his wife in Europe and Asia.
As a congressman, Price consistently attacked what he called wasteful spending from Democrats, including criticizing then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “flying over our country in a private jet.” Twitter users have spent the past few days surfacing old tweets from Price’s time as a legislator in which he posed as a relentless guardian of the public purse.
“Reckless spending habits employed by Democrats in…