Today is the big day: the Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

It seems that no expense has been spared on the ceremonies and celebrations. And, although it will undoubtedly be a day of history in the making, I question if the actual cost is fiscally responsible. Even more, I question if it is morally responsible.  

A news article on the ABC News website, What Recession? The $170 Million Inauguration, had this to say as its opening lines:

"The country is in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, which isn’t stopping rich donors and the government from spending $170 million, or more, on the inauguration of Barack Obama

The actual swearing-in ceremony will cost $1.24 million, according to Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies."

The reason I question the fiscal and moral responsibility of spending so much on the Inauguration celebrations is because of another ceremony I read about yesterday.

Several weeks ago, I published a post titled: Rest In Peace Mr. Egan. In it, I mentioned the passing of Thomas Lawrence Egan – a homeless gentleman who had literally frozen to death in Eugene Oregon.

Mr. Egan was more than just a homeless person. He was a decorated Korean War Veteran. By the time he retired from the military he had attained the rank of Major.

Although Major Egan, died alone and homeless – he touched the lives of quite a number of people.

According to a news article on the website, Homeless vet who died cold, alone remembered, about 100 people attended a memorial service this past Saturday to honor him and,

"… they said their final goodbyes, in the most appropriate way possible, with full military honors."

Each year, U.S. Veterans die on the streets of this nation’s cities homeless and alone.

This is perhaps why it seems to me unconscionable that so much will be spent on the inaugural celebrations – particularly since Mr. Obama himself said in his August 21, 2007 campaign speech Kansas City, MO:

"Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America’s commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end."

The reality of politics is this: despite the Department of Veterans Affairs having an overall budget of $91 billion dollars for fiscal year 2009, only $158 million will be spent to help America’s approximately 400,000 homeless Veterans transition back into society.

Regardless of the historic nature of today’s Presidential Inauguration, it does not justify spending $170 million dollars on pomp and circumstance, but only $158 million to help this nation’s homeless Veterans. That doesn’t seem to be inline with the type of change Mr. Obama was advocating while campaigning for the Oval Office. If anything, it seems to directly contradict the type of government responsibility and accountability which he spoke of while on the campaign trail.

On the MSNBC website the article, Obama calls Americans to service, optimism, showed a photograph of Mr. Obama helping to paint the wall of an emergency shelter for homeless teens. While I don’t question the genuineness of the act, I nonetheless have to ask myself this: rather than help paint, why not spend less on the inauguration and divert some of its cost to help fund that shelter? Wouldn’t that have been a better use of the money?

Think about this: the actual cost of the swearing-in ceremony is $1.24 million.

Considering the economic condition of our nation, is spending the additional $168 million an absolute necessity?

Or would our nation have been better served to utilize those funds to ensure that Veterans such as Major Egan do not die homeless on our city streets?

It occurs to me that sometimes the price of "standing on ceremony" isn’t worth the cost.

And, as far as I’m concerned, this is one of those times.

  1. Wayne says:

    I applaud your concern for homeless veterans or otherwise marginalized citizens. I’m ashamed of such cases falling through the cracks. I’m ashamed and embarrassed about dozens, maybe hundreds of areas in which people are marginalized and disenfranchised by both governmental and private decisions and apparent negligence.

    But in my opinion I think you are comparing apples to oranges. I think the care of folks like Major Egan and the inauguration President Obama should both be accomplished with excellence. It’s not an either/or issue.

    I try to think outside the box. Sometimes I do. For instance, I think that the USA has so much influence upon other nations that they should be assigned electoral votes for helping to determine our Presidents.

    The whole world watches how the US handles power transitions. It’s critical that it be accomplished with great care in terms of procedure, security, openness to the public, fanfare, ceremony, etc. Such stuff aint fluff. This particular inauguration held even more significance than usual at home and abroad for numerous reasons.

    Homeless folks in particular walk beneath the radar of helpful programs. It really takes local citizens to get them initially cared for and hooked up to programs and funds and to fight for better programs and more funds. By nature, homeless folks often have little fight left in them.
    So I deeply agree with your social concerns, but I would hope that you would have peace about the costs of other critical activities that take place on far larger scales.


  2. Skye says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I just keep thinking of so many better ways all that money could be spent.

  3. Russell says:

    I agree. However, it’s what the world expects. But I agree. For 12 years I worked in social welfare law and worked with the homeless and otherwise dispossessed. Money that was squandered elsewhere …..

    Your blog is and inspiration and I hope it gets your message through the way you want it to.

    All the best.

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