Gray doesn’t say where he came up with this number, but one presumes it comes from the Federal Budget. It’s a lot of money, of course, and it’s caused no small degree of outrage on conservative blogs. There’s just one problem, Gray’s assertion that costs associated with the Presidency have “tremendously” increased since Obama took office simply isn’t true.
To establish that, we need only look at a paper produced by the Brookings Institution’s Bradley Patterson [PDF] in which, in one chapter, he lays out the question of what it costs to run the White House. The first point Patterson notes is that this isn’t an easy question to answer:
Patterson attempted to do that for the Fiscal Year 2008 budget and came up with a figure of $1,592,875,254. This does not include classified outlays for things such as Air Force One. One assumes that the figured that Gray came up with also omits these classified figures. The first thing that jumps out, of course, is that the cost that Patterson came up with for Fiscal Year 2008, when Bush was President, is more than the figure that Gray provides. Since we don’t know exactly how Gray calculated his figures, we can’t say that this ends the debate since he could have left off items that Patterson included, which would be odd since he seems to have started out with the assumption that the President dramatically increased the cost of the Presidency. Nonetheless, it seems rather obvious from comparing these two figures that the assertion that the costs to the taxpayer associated with the Presidency have increased “tremendously” under President Obama are, quite simply, wrong.
There is, perhaps, a decent argument to be made that our Presidents live in far too much luxury, and far too much of a pampered bubble of privilege. Things have been that way, however, for many decades now both because of the manner in which the increase in the power of the Presidency has lent the office a more regal air and because of the security bubble that has enveloped the Presidency and anyone associated in the wake of the Kennedy Assassination and the various assassination attempts that have taken place since then. These are legitimate issues worthy of discussion, but trying to frame this in a partisan manner simply doesn’t conform to the facts. We spend a lot of money on the Presidency, we have been doing that for quite a long time, and there’s no evidence at all that this is a phenomenon unique to the Obama Administration.