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Phony Sequester Consequences Continued: White House Tours

In an article released yesterday, I demonstrated the absurdity of the White House’s claims regarding the impact of sequestration on lines at the airport. Today, I continue this analysis by examining the budget for the United States Secret Service.

One of the most visible impacts we are seeing from sequestration comes from the White House’s announcement that beginning March 9th, they will cease offering tours to the public.Although the Washington Monument is usually the first casualty from budget fights, the fact that it has already been closed since it was rocked by an unusual East coast earthquake in 2011 means that the Administration has to look elsewhere to make its point.

And never mind that the White House is funded by taxpayers, who have a right to see where there money is going. It is one thing to appropriate the hard earned money of workers in order to maintain government buildings, but it is quite another to then deny those same people access to to the fruits of their taxes. It is certainly an undemocratic move to make, but the White House is blaming cuts in the budget for the Secret Service, claiming that they don’t have the staff to effectively manage protection for tours.

Once more, however, an actual examination of the budget numbers reveals that these excuses do not stand up to scrutiny. The budget request for the Secret Service in 2013 was $1.601 billion dollars, whereas their funding in 2008 was a mere $1.385 billion, which becomes $1.481 billion when adjusted for inflation. The amount of money cut from this budget under the sequestration process has been reported to be just $85 million dollars, leaving the Secret Service with fully $35 million dollars more in 2013 than they had in 2008.

Additionally, Secret Service employment has increased along with the budget, indicating that they are more able to carry out their duties now than they were five years ago. In 2008, Secret Service employment totalled 6,496 persons. Although they do not list a precise employment figure in their latest annual report, the agency puts the number at “more than 6,500.” For all we know, this could mean considerably more, and it is unclear why so small a cutback should have such visible consequences unless it is to intentionally give the impression that things are worse than they really are.

In an effort to justify the tour cancellations, the White house reported today that the tours cost the Secret Service $74,000 a week, but this only further hurts their case. A little simple arithmetic reveals that this cost amounts to just over $3.8 million a year, barely ten percent of the budget increases seen by the Secret Service in the past five years, even after the sequestration cuts.

The cancellation of White House tours is a petty political move intended to anger citizens who would like nothing more to view the most famous house in the country, paid for by their own tax dollars. There is no legitimate reason why the Secret Service, which had no problem administering tours in 2008, can now be unable to do so given more funding and more employees. The longer this conversation goes on, the more obvious it becomes that the claims made by the White House are nothing more than scare tactics designed to inconvenience Americans and demonize political opponents.