Before he joined the Trump administration, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price made something of a name for himself by advocating for cutting wasteful government spending. So you can imagine the reaction when it was revealed earlier this week that Price has been chartering private jets and using military planes on the taxpayer dime to the tune of $1 million. And there’s no shortage of tweets about Tom Price’s plane usage to point out the irony and hypocrisy of his actions — using his own words.
Politico broke the news on Sept. 21 that Price used private jets at least 24 times since early May. While initially it looked like Price had charged roughly $300,000 worth of private travel to taxpayers, Politico has since reported that Price not only spent over $400,000 on chartered domestic flights (including a flight to go have lunch with his son) — he also took military jets on long international flights with his wife. A spokesperson for HHS told Politico that Price had reimbursed the government for his wife’s travel expenses, but provided no proof.
As of Sept. 28, the amount Price has spent on travel, both domestically and overseas, exceeds $1 million. He has been HHS Secretary since February 2017.
Price released a statement on Sept. 28, saying that he will no longer take private planes while serving in an official capacity. (How brave.) He also said in the statement,
Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes. No exceptions.
The language was deliberately opaque, but people easily honed in on the phrase “OWN SEAT.” And it has now been reported that Price will reimburse the government for less than $52,000. That’s about five percent of the total cost to taxpayers.
One of the more embarrassing aspects of this scandal? Price made a name for himself as a Congressman griping about Democrats’ wasteful spending — and someone dug up a deeply ironic from his old account as a U.S. Representative complaining about government waste.
The irony of a politician who used to about government waste and #spendingcutsnow being called out for using government planes as his own private Priceline has not escaped most.
And the roasts are delicious.
But that 2011 about #spendingcutsnow isn’t the only instance of Price accusing others of wasteful spending.
He even brought American taxpayers into the equation in 2010.
To be fair to Price, he’s not the only Trump Cabinet member who has drawn scrutiny for his spending on private travel.
Earlier this month Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin came under fire for taking a government jet to Fort Knox, along with his wife, for what he said was official business. (He watched the eclipse on the roof of Fort Knox with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.) He also allegedly requested to use a government jet for his honeymoon. A congressional inquiry is looking into his travel.
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has also come under congressional scrutiny for approximately $58,000 worth of private travel in his capacity as EPA Administrator, per ABC News.
But Price’s travel is, thus far, the most egregious example of outrageous travel expenses by Trump administration members.
As if the irony of Price’s old tweets weren’t enough, he has also, as HHS secretary, proposed billions of dollars in cuts to health entitlement programs and backed an almost $6 billion proposed cut to the National Institutes of Health in March, per Politico. He also backed a $213.6 million cut to teen pregnancy prevention programs and research programs, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, despite the fact that teen pregnancy costs Americans roughly $9.4 billion per year. So perhaps he’s not as fiscally savvy as he claims.
After all, if he thought it was a good idea to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a military jet to Beijing instead of just shelling out for first class, it’s a wonder he has a cent to his name.
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Lisa is a news writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is currently researching and writing about abortion for her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.
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