The Washington Post runs a piece implying that Ron Paul wastes taxpayer dollars on his own travel.
And I agree that taxpayers ought not to be on the hook to fly Members back and forth to their districts at will, that’s the standard practice.
The crux of the piece turns on Paul buying flexible government fares which are eligible for confirmed upgrades based on Paul’s status in the Continental Onepass program, so they lead with Ron Paul “flying first class on dozens of taxpayer-funded flights to his home state.”
What they don’t say, of course, is Ron Paul was buying first class airfare, because he wasn’t. And they acknowledge at the end that Members of Congress buying flexible tickets is fairly standard.
The Post contends that by buying government fares rather than searching on his own for cheaper tickets, that Paul was wasting money. But the analysis seems more an indictment of government fares generally than about any particular member’s travel habits. I won’t pass judgment in this post on the need for flexible, refundable tickets, but rather pass this on as another example of either media that doesn’t ‘get’ travel or of media using the complicated world of travel to mislead a public that doesn’t ‘get’ travel.
Seems like there’s no story here, at least not the story that the Post wants to tell. What would be interesting is a broader analysis of government fares, whether the government saves money paying a premium for flexible tickets (albeit still at a discount relative to what those tickets would cost the average consumer) versus buying cheaper tickets without that flexibility and incurring change fees.
It would also be an interesting story, to go from there to the question of government perks, whether those setting the rules are in fact gaming the system to make their travel more comfortable while not having to be transparent about that. Ted Kennedy famously saved two jobs at US Airways several years ago, the individuals working ‘special services’ at Washington’s National airport, responsible for giving him special attention. Delta comps elite status to favored politicians (the Governor of Georgia gets Diamond status, the Lt. Governor only gets Platinum). And Members of Congress get their own free close-in parking at National airport as well.
But Ron Paul’s use of government fares is simply an example of how most of Congress travels, and much of the government, though the Speaker of the House gets a military aircraft rather than flying commercial. How this squares with Congressman Paul’s spurning of congressional pensions and various other perks is, of course, left to the reader to decide.
(HT: Dan R.)