Reporting from CNN finally puts a price tag on President Trump’s long-sought “military parade” emulating the one he enjoyed in France last July. But before we get to that number, let’s contextualize it with some other costs largely unique to Trump’s administration.
We will start with a vacation in Scotland.
For you or me, a trip to Scotland would cost a few thousand dollars, maybe, depending on how fancy we got. When the president of the United States goes on a trip, though, he brings a substantially larger entourage than you do. His trip to Scotland last week, therefore, cost almost $70,000, money paid to the lucky proprietor of the hotel where he stayed. (It was a Trump Organization property; the proprietor was, indirectly, Trump.)
So let’s plot that figure: $68,800. We’re going to use a scale for these costs that runs up to $25 million (you’ll soon learn why), making that pricey-for-us jaunt to his golf club at Turnberry look relatively cheap.
Let’s consider another cost. A report published this week by USA Today tells us that protecting Trump’s sons, Don Jr. and Eric, does not come cheap. In one month — February 2017, when the pair traveled to the Middle East — it cost the government $230,000 to keep them safe.
That cost was probably higher than in other months. But since protecting the two sons is an ongoing expense for the government, let’s extrapolate it outward. If every day of protection cost as much as those 28 days last year, the government would have spent $4.5 million protecting them through Thursday. Again, this is almost certainly high! This is a worst-case scenario.
You know who cost more to protect? Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. It cost about $3.5 million to protect him for a year, far more than past administrators who demanded less security. If we extrapolate that out to cover the period beginning when he was sworn in and ending with his resignation earlier this month, we get a total of about $4.8 million.
At long last, we come to the military parade. CNN reports that it will cost $12 million.
CNN is also quick to note that this compares unfavorably with the now-canceled war games on the Korean Peninsula, which Trump labeled “tremendously expensive.” Those were expected to cost $14 million, meaning that by canceling those exercises and adding the parade, the United States saved $2 million — but gained an opportunity for Trump to be on television saluting at soldiers.
We covered Trump’s travel to Scotland, but that, of course, is only a small part of his travel costs. The conservative group Judicial Watch estimates that for Trump’s first year in office, the government spent $13.5 million on his travel in total. That includes trips to Mar-a-Lago, his club in Bedminster, N.J., and the various campaign rallies he has held.
If we extrapolate that per-day cost to now, Trump’s may be over the $20 million mark.
That extrapolation is probably low. Judicial Watch also estimates that it costs $1 million for each Mar-a-Lago trip, and Trump’s already traveled there six times since the report above was released. We pointed that out in June, when Trump was complaining about the cost of the Russia investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
That investigation cost about $16.7 million from May 2017 through March. Extrapolate out those costs, and the probe is at about $22.6 million to date.
For the cost of Trump’s parade, then, we could pay for eight months of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But let’s factor in another expense that Trump hopes the government will incur — building a wall on the border with Mexico. In January, Customs and Border Patrol sent a proposed budget for the wall to Capitol Hill: $18 billion to build 316 miles of new fencing and to reinforce an additional 407 miles of existing barriers. The cost, then, is an average of $24.9 million per mile for new construction or upgrades.
That’s the important context for the costs above: Millions of dollars is a lot for us, but not for the federal government. In fact, we can add another line to the graph.
If it took you 90 seconds to read this article, during that period the federal government spent about as much as it will on that military parade.