If ever there was a politician who embodied the quality of hypocrisy, it is Georgia’s own Tom Price.
Price, a former legislator and later the congressman from Georgia’s 6th District, has spent his political career claiming to be a conservative Republican who hates excessive government spending.
Back in 2009, when Democrats made a proposal to spend $550 million on eight passenger jets for congressional travel, Price criticized the idea as “just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in Congress right now."
For good measure, Price added this tweet: “Congress doesn’t need to have private jets.”
Price was one of the first persons appointed to Donald Trump’s cabinet as the secretary of health and human services (HHS). Last week, he became the first member of Trump’s cabinet to exit when he was forced to resign over his excessive use of . . . private jets.
It seems that Price took dozens of official trips on expensive private charter jets or by commandeering military aircraft, even when far less expensive travel was available on commercial airlines.
The media outlet Politico published article after article exposing the fact that nearly $1 million in taxpayers’ funds was spent on Price’s private and military flights.
Politico reported that Price’s overseas trips on government planes included stops in Berlin, Geneva, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, and Tokyo, where he attended world health meetings.
According to Politico, “Price took a Gulfstream C-37B owned by the Department of Defense for a weeklong trip in late May through Africa and Europe. The six legs of travel, which represented about 30 hours of flight time, were projected to cost $311,418.25.”
There was also the time when Price took a government-funded private jet to fly to St. Simons Island, where he and his wife own property. HHS also chartered a jet to fly Price to Nashville, Tennessee, where his son lives.
Price’s expensive spending habits have triggered investigations by the inspector general’s office of HHS and the House Oversight Committee.
It’s quite obvious that Price has no problem with excessive government spending when he’s the one doing the spending.
Even in an administration populated by plutocrats who love to spend lavishly on themselves, Price’s expensive habits were just too much. “I certainly don’t like the optics.” Trump said, and he pushed Price out.
For those familiar with Price’s career, none of this was very surprising. Price has always exuded an air of smug arrogance and contempt for people who aren’t wealthy orthopedic surgeons like he is.
When he was a state senator in the Georgia legislature – this was in the days when Democrats still controlled state government – Price would sneer at his Democratic colleagues for being “corrupt” and for allegedly perpetrating “waste, fraud, and abuse.”
There’s no question that Democratic lawmakers, along with Republican ones, had their faults. But I don’t recall a single one of those legislators who ever spent a million dollars in taxpayer funds on private charter flights and military aircraft. When it comes to waste, fraud, and abuse, Price is in a class by himself.
Price has also been a politician who likes to take care of himself. When his nomination to be the head of HHS came before the Senate earlier this year, Price was lambasted by critics because he had purchased medical stocks at the same time that he was handling legislation that could affect the market prices of those stocks.
Price’s ouster is actually good news for the roughly 500,000 Georgians who get their health insurance coverage through the state exchange operated under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
As HHS secretary, one of Price’s primary goals was to smash Obamacare (he really doesn’t like the idea of poor people getting health insurance). Congress has been unable to repeal the law, but HHS under Price has been doing everything administratively possible to hamper it.
Price also doesn’t like Medicare, another program that comes under the purview of HHS.
He has been a member of an organization called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) that declares it is “evil” and “immoral” for physicians to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.
For all of those reasons, Georgians should cheer the departure of Tom Price from Washington power circles.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.