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Cut costs, and devil take the critics



Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore. It became the Obama campaign plane. Trump wants to cut costs on the next Air Force One.

Today’s Trump elevator pitch almost needs no introduction and no urging. CNAV urges President-elect Donald J. Trump to go on thinking like the hard-nosed businessman he is. That means looking for ways to cut costs. It especially means cutting the costs of the luxurious trappings of the office he is about to enter into.

First way to cut costs: decline a salary

Trump showed the country his serious desire to cut costs within one week of claiming his election. He announced he would take many fewer vacations, and less expensive ones, than his predecessor did. Trump also announced he would draw no salary as President. (He told Lesley Stahl on CBS’ Sixty Minutes he would take a token salary of a buck a year.)

CNAV wouldn’t suggest a $400,000 annual Presidential salary is hay. It ain’t. But it is relative alfalfa to one already making $557 million a year from investments and other sources. (Source: Federal Election Commission, as CBS News quotes them.) By declining that salary, Donald Trump lets the country know why he ran for President. He ran, “not to [have others serve him], but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28.)

Must Trump take a salary?

Rob Goodman at Politico takes alarm. He says Donald Trump must take a salary for the same reason President George Washington did. To quote The Federalist, no. 73:

There are men who could neither be distressed nor won into a sacrifice of their duty. But this stern virtue is the growth of few soils.

Says Goodman, the First Congress did not want to set a precedent of Presidents serving without compensation. But he misses two points. First, $400,000 is relative alfalfa to this President-elect. Second, a country owing twenty trillion dollars needs a President willing to cut costs everywhere he can. It does not need a President ostentatiously enjoying the trappings of his office. The country had its fill of that from Barack Obama for eight years.

Nor would Trump be the first to forego a salary. John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover didn’t draw salaries, either. Kennedy simply gave his salary away to charity, as he had done in the Senate. Hoover did much the same, though also paid personal bonuses to some of his own employees. Trump could simply draw a check for $400,000 every year to the Bureau of the Public Debt. But he probably doesn’t want the government to cut one check to him and cash another check from him every year. That would waste time.

True enough, $400,000 is also relative alfalfa to a country $20 trillion in debt. But Trump needs to set an example for bloated public agencies. And he decided to start with the United States Air Force.

The Air Force One project

Yesterday Trump found another way to cut costs. He faulted the current project to replace the Air Force One transports for serious cost overruns. And he did what any businessman would do. He threatened to cancel it if the prime contractor didn’t bring him a more reasonable estimate.

You read that tweet right. Four billion dollars for two special-purpose aircraft! Trump found that absurd. The Washington Post didn’t. Strange: one would think they would applaud a President-elect willing to forego the trappings of office to cut costs. But no Mainstream Media organ can give this President-elect credit for anything to save one of their editors’ lives.

In fact, Boeing now has a $170 million contract merely to write an estimate of the full cost of replacing the Air Force One fleet. That fleet always includes two aircraft, each backing up the other. A nice racket, if you can get it. Demand a whopping fee for an estimate. Your editor is dealing with a contractor now, and deals with automobile mechanics often. Such men give written estimates free of charge.

A substitute personal aircraft?

Trump earlier offered to substitute his own aircraft for the official one. That he didn’t was only because such a move wouldn’t cut costs, but inflate them. (Think extra security retrofits, flying a Secret Service detachment separately, things like that.) Then-Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller faced a similar dilemma in 1974.

The best value for the money

None of this should detract from this simple truism. When a contractor offers an outrageous preliminary estimate, a smart client puts the contractor on notice! Give a more reasonable estimate, or forget about the contract! Trump did this. And if you read everything Boeing said in reply, they got the message. Jake Novak writes and quotes:

And it looks like it may have already worked. About two hours after the tweet, Boeing delivered the following statement:

“We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serves the unique requirements of the President of the United States. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.”

“The best value.” Anyone hiring a contractor wants the best value. Of course, Trump should have been able to put it out for competitive bids. But what can he do, now that only one contractor is available? No one except the Boeing Group builds passenger airliners anymore. (Lockheed-Martin quit the business, and Boeing bought out McDonnell-Douglas.) So Trump did the next best thing to cut costs. If the contractor insists on $4 billion, the country, and he, will make do without a new Air Force One.1 Or at least, he will do without one for a little longer than the 30-year “product cycle.”

Absolutely anyone who gets upgrade notices for software for which he must pay for a new license, should sympathize. The same applies to buyers of durable goods when their makers unveil their “new and improved” models. But the Mainstream Media don’t sympathize. That shows further their petty, ungracious, and inconsistent attitude.

Cut costs, and let them carp

So here’s the elevator pitch. Go on with plans to cut costs. Let the Mainstream Media carp all they want. They’ll do it anyway. Suppose Trump hadn’t fired that warning shot across Boeing’s bow. Then they would talk about Trump looking forward to the privileges and trappings of office.

More to the point, Trump showed he means to cut costs. That means looking at every budget question with a true zero base. People will tell him, “But we’ve always done it this way!” And Trump will ask why. That’s how to cut costs. Trump must apply that same attitude to everything else the government does.

1He can’t invite Airbus Industrie to bid on the contract. That would take an act of Congress. It also would break his buy-American principle.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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