President Bush and his inaugural committee are getting grief about the privately-financed $40 million dollar price tag. This is from an AP story discussing some of his - er - second thoughts about aggressive statements:
Reporters at Thursday's round-table also asked Bush about the high price tag for his second inaugural celebration and suggestions the $40 million gala, which is being paid for by private donations — much of it coming from lobbyists and corporations — be scaled down.
I did a little basic research, something easily available to the reporters, and some off the top of my head calculation. I looked up the cost of Clinton's second inaugural, in 1997, from this Washington Post story dated January 26, 2001.
In 1997, the inaugural committee for Clinton limited donations to $100 but waited until mid-April to disclose the names of those who bought tickets or made donations. Clinton's inauguration cost $29.6 million and took in $23.7 million. Money left over from his first inauguration was used to make up the difference.
The reliance on private contributors to help pay inaugural costs is fairly standard. Clinton's inaugural planners scaled back the practice in 1997 after some of those who gave to his first inauguration figured in Democratic fundraising controversies.
The Washington post didn't have a problem with private donations in 2001, looking back at the Clinton inaugural of 1997. In addition, at 3% inflation, guess what $30 million turns into 8 years later? That's right, roughly $39 million.
So I ask these reporters, please, stop already, before someone begins to suspect you have a double standard for Republicans vs. Democrats.
UPDATE: deacon has more on this at Power Line, and he puts the Clinton inaugural cost at $33 million; I'm not sure where that number comes from, but it then puts Clinton's cost ahead of Bush's, with inflation.
UPDATE: A reader has taken me to task, including an unnecessary derogatory name in his comment, claiming that the inflation data for Jan 1997 to Jan 2005 indicates an inflation rate of 16.5%, not 21%. I checked his link - it does not work, so I'm not sure where his data comes from. I will admit to not having time to look up the actual data when I posted, and guesstimating the level. Mea culpa.
I did check the inflation rate at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Using their inflation calculator only allows you to go year to year, and does not include 2005, obviously. So calculating 1996 - 2004 yields a comparable cost of $35.6M vs. $29.6M in 1996.
However, I think a better comparison might be the Consumer Price Index for the Metro Washington DC area. Conveniently Nov. 1996=100, and Nov 2004=120.9. Using that data the rise in cost is from $29.6 M to $35.8M. Their data for the CPI including the entire Northeast Urban corridor shows 11/96=165.4 and 11/04=202.6. Using that data the cost changes to $36.2M.
The point is that the estimated $40M cost is roughly comparable with the Clinton '97 inaugural cost, we won't know if it's higher or lower until the final accounting is done after the fact, and if these same people were complaining every time money is spent for grand political events I'd be a little more likely to listen.
For instance, I don't recall any complaints from reporters over the price tag on the DNC Convention in Boston in July, another 3 day political event. The final price on that came in at over $100M, with security costs of $40M. In the end hosting the DNC is estimated to have cost the city $8.2M, whereas by hosting the RNC New York City saw economic benefit estimated at $163M.
I'd like to point out that I'm not complaining about the Bush Inaugural cost, I didn't complain about Clinton's Inaugural cost, and even though I live in New England and would like to have seen Boston do better with the economic impact of the DNC I didn't complain about that, either. Just as Clinton was allowed to celebrate his win, so should Bush.
UPDATE: There is a more recent article on the topic, in the Washington Times. I also have a later post discussing it here. It's unclear where the security costs figure. I do recall reading, however, that the Clinton didn't pay his security costs, and neither will Bush...Nonetheless, the point is that these things do cost some money, Democrats and Republicans spend comparable amounts, they only happen once every four years, and the winner is, I think, entitled to celebrate being voted in as leader of the free world in the greatest nation in the world. (sorry for the jingoism)
(Redundant update deleted)