Obama´s trip to India - what will it cost?

Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 08:18 pm
It's all a bunch of rightwingnut bullshyt, readily taken up and run with by everyone who is hungry to feed their antipathy toward Obama....


Q: Is President Obama’s trip to India going to cost $200 million per day?

A: This highly doubtful claim originated with one Indian news agency quoting an anonymous source in Mumbai. The White House says it is "wildly exaggerated," and there’s no evidence to support such a huge figure.


There are reports all over that Obama’s India trip will cost $200 million per day. I haven’t been able to find a credible rebuttal to this but I can’t believe it could be true.


This story has spread rapidly among the president’s critics, but there is simply no evidence to support it. And common sense should lead anyone to doubt it. For example, the entire U.S. war effort in Afghanistan currently costs less than that — about $5.7 billion per month, according to the Congressional Research Service, or roughly $190 million per day. How could a peaceful state visit cost more than a war?

What else can you get for $200 million? Try the New Jersey Nets basketball team or possibly the Hope diamond — if only the Smithsonian were selling it.

The hard-to-swallow claim originated with a Nov. 2 Press Trust of India article quoting an unnamed "top official" in the government of Maharashtra (one of India’s states). The source was quoted as saying that Obama’s upcoming trip to Mumbai will cost $200 million per day for security and living arrangements, among other things. The story claimed that the president would be accompanied by about 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents, government officials and journalists, and will stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel — the scene of a 2008 terrorist attack.

We find stories based on anonymous sources always deserve special caution, especially when they come from only one news organization. In this case, the anonymous official is not even in the U.S. government, and any information about costs would necessarily have come second-hand at best, an added reason for caution.

Nevertheless, the story was widely repeated without any additional reporting. Soon after the article was released, The Drudge Report — a news aggregation website — linked to the Press Trust of India article, with the headline "REPORT: US to spend $200 million per day on Obama’s Mumbai visit…" Later that day, Rush Limbaugh claimed on his radio show that "Five hundred seven rooms at the Taj Mahal, 40 airplanes, $200 million a day this nation will spend on Obama’s trip to India." He repeats the "$200 million a day" claim several times throughout the show without specifying its source.

The allegation has generated a great deal of Internet discourse over the past few days, including a Washington Times post that claims Obama’s entourage on the trip "will spend enough to bankrupt a small nation." According to the Economic Times and The Daily Mail, Obama will take over the entire 570-room Taj Mahal Hotel for the trip. A Google search for the exact words of the original Press Trust article returned about 11,000 results. And we received about two dozen queries about it.

The White House is always reluctant to discuss cost figures about presidential trips, since the bulk of the expense is for Secret Service security. Not this time. The White House press office, which said it had been flooded with queries, gave us the following statement:

Matt Lehrich, White House Office of Media Affairs: The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality. Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated.

It is always costly to move a U.S. president around the world. And in this case, the president is attending a G-20 meeting and will be accompanied by several cabinet officials. But given the dubious source of this assertion, the fact that the claimed cost exceeds the cost of a war, the flat denial by the White House and the lack of any evidence to support the claim, we’ll classify this one as false.

–Lara Seligman

Update, Nov. 4: Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota repeated the claim Nov. 3 on CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360," attacking Obama for "over-the-top spending." When Cooper countered that "no one really knows the cost, because for security reasons they don’t disclose the cost," Bachmann responded, “Well these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press."

On Nov. 4, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell called the story "absolutely absurd," because it had claimed that the U.S. Navy was sending 34 warships to the coast off Mumbai as part of the president’s visit:

Morrell, Nov. 4: I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy — some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier — in support of the president’s trip to Asia. … That’s just comical. Nothing close to that is being done.

ABC News reported that 34 ships would actually amount to nearly 12 percent of the 288 in the Navy’s fleet, not 10 percent.

Later the same day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during his regular press briefing that the $200 million per day estimate is incorrect.

Gibbs, Nov 4: Well, we have set the record straight with you guys. I’m not going to go into how much it costs to protect the president. Costs are comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush traveled abroad.

So how much did those trips cost? In the case of some Clinton trips, we have figures from a 1999 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office — now called the Government Accountability Office. The GAO said that Clinton’s trips to Africa, Chile and China in 1998 cost at least $42.8 million, $10.5 million and $18.8 million, respectively — not counting the still-classified cost of providing Secret Service protection.

In Africa, Clinton was accompanied by about 1,300 individuals — not including members of the Secret Service — representing the White House, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. The president visited six countries in 12 days, which means the trip cost $3.6 million per day.

Clinton made the five-day Chile trip in order to attend the second Summit of the Americas — a meeting of 34 heads of state or governments from countries in the Americas — and to hold meetings with the president of Chile. About 600 individuals accompanied the president on the trip, which we calculated would have cost $2.1 million per day.

When Clinton visited China to conduct talks with the president of China, he brought along about 500 individuals. The trip lasted nine days, which works out to a little less than $2.1 million per day.

The total cost including Secret Service protection would of course be somewhat higher, but even doubling or tripling those figures and adding in an adjustment for inflation would not produce anything close to the figure given by the Indian news article for Obama’s trip.

Schmelzer, Paul. "Using inaccurate figure, Bachmann calls Obama’s India trip ‘massive overspending.’" The Minnesota Independent. 4 Nov 2010.

Martinez, Luis "Pentagon Dismisses Reports of 34 Warships for Obama Trip Security" ABC News. 4 Nov 2010.

General Accounting Office. "Costs and Accounting For the President’s 1998 Trips to Africa, Chile, and China." 21 Sept 1999.

Congressional Research Service. "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11." 2 Sep 2010.

Eichelberger, Curtis. "Prokhorov’s $200 Million Purchase of Nets Gets NBA Approval." Bloomberg Business Week. 12 May 2010.

"Mystery of the Hope Diamond." Press release. Smithsonian Channel.25 Oct 2010.

Press Trust of India. "US to spend $200 mn a day on Obama’s Mumbai visit." NDTV.com. 2 Nov 2010.

Sengupta, Somini. "At Least 100 Dead in India Terror Attacks." New York Times. 26 Nov 2008.

The Drudge Report. 2 November 2010, accessed 3 Nov 2010.

Stack of Stuff Quick Hits Page. The Rush Limbaugh Show. 2 Nov 2010, accessed 3 Nov 2010.

Knight, Robert. "Pulling back the curtain on Obama’s audacity." The Washington Times. 29 Oct 2010.

Mumbai Mirror. "Barack and Michelle’s Mumbai darshan plans." The Economic Times. 23 Oct 2010.

White, James. "’$200m-a-day’ cost of Barack Obama’s trip to India will be picked up by U.S. taxpayers." The Daily Mail. 2 Nov 2010.

Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 08:35 pm
joefromchicago wrote:

mysteryman wrote:

Yes, it was sarcasm.
But based on facts.
There were many people on here after 9/11 that charged that Bush was out of communication when he was on AF-1, and when he was at his ranch.

Yes, I know. It's always "many people" with you, isn't it? Never any identifiable people, just a lot of them. But if there were so many, I'm sure you'll have no trouble naming three -- and providing links to the posts where they made those claims.

mysteryman wrote:
I am finding those posts now, because I knew it would be challenged by you and others.
After I find 3 for you, will you be man enough to admit I was right and they were wrong?

So, MysteryMan: After a good day of searching, how many names did you find so far? I can't wait to find out if joefromchicago will meet your "man enough" standard. But until you've provided those three names, we'll never find out. Please don't be such a tease, you're killing me!
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Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 09:01 pm
Maybe what Mystery Man is remembering is that some of us said Bush was "Out of Touch," and he's remembering it as "out of communication."

Bush was out of touch. He still is. He thinks his most disgusting moment as president was when Kanya West said he didn't care about black people. Yeah. The waterboarding, Katrina fly over, invasion of a country based on lies, Enron, record gas prices, ... non of that was disgusting.
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cicerone imposter
Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 09:14 pm
Interesting how the right wing media can spread these rumors with abandon, and how so many Americans believe them.

Many are not prepared to do their own fact check about any rumor about Obama, but once they grasp onto something like this, it has a life of its own that grows until it goes beyond reality.

Most people like okie continue to parrot the idea that Obama has been on a spending spree, but when asked for details, none seems to be forthcoming.

Most people still blame Obama for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession. When Obama gave the middle class tax cuts, they complained that Obama increased their taxes.

Is there any reason why we should have hope with the GOP control of the House?

Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 09:40 pm
@cicerone imposter,
What middle class tax cuts would that be? If you mean the extention of the Bush era tax cuts to be a tax cut, it just hasn't happened yet - though he is keeping his mind open.

Do you know the tax prep software companies are still wondering what rates to set in November?
cicerone imposter
Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 10:05 pm
roger, Look at the detail of the stim bill. It's all there.

Found this under FactCheck.org:
CBO also estimated that about $190 billion of ARRA’s authorized $787 billion had been spent by the end of September, about $100 billion of it in direct outlays and $90 billion in tax cuts. That leaves nearly $600 billion to go.
Reply Thu 4 Nov, 2010 11:29 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Which is to say, all classes of taxpayers are still endanger of the Bush tax cuts not being extended.
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Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 12:56 am
The $200 million Myth
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Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 01:10 am

"The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day."

Michele Bachmann on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 in a CNN interview
Rep. Michele Bachmann claims Obama's trip to India will cost the taxpayers $200 million a day
Share this story:

It sure sounds outrageous. On his upcoming presidential trip to India, President Barack Obama is bringing an entourage of 3,000, staying in swanky hotels, guarded by an armada of Navy ships -- costing American taxpayers the staggering sum of $200 million a day.

To say this figure -- $200 million a day -- has made the rounds in the blogosphere would be a huge understatement. It has been repeated by nearly every conservative pundit in the land: Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Drudge. Always with a healthy dose of indignation.

It also got picked up by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Nov. 3, 2010, it was just the latest example of government excess and spending from the Obama administration.

"The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day," Bachmann said. "He's taking 2,000 people with him.

He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It's a very small example, Anderson.

"And I think this is an example of the massive overspending that we have seen, not only just in the last two years, really in the last four. That's what we saw at the ballot box last evening."

Again, $200 million a day sounds outrageous. But is it true?

The White House says, emphatically, that it's not.

"Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated," said White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield.

Cooper asked Bachmann how she came up with the number.

"These are the numbers that have been coming out in the press," Bachmann said.

Actually it's a figure that came from just one source, a news agency in India, relying on an anonymous source. It was then repeated thousands more times in the blogosphere and over conservative airwaves.

The claim that the U.S. would be spending "a whopping $200 million per day" on Obama's visit to Mumbai, India, originated in a report from the news agency Press Trust of India. It was an estimate attributed anonymously to "a top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit." Maharashtra is a state located in western India.

Here's what the story said:

"The huge amount of around $200 million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit," a top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit said.

About 3,000 people including Secret Service agents, U.S. government officials and journalists would accompany the President. Several officials from the White House and U.S. security agencies are already here for the past one week with helicopters, a ship and high-end security instruments.

Said Bedingfield: "The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality."

Now it's true that overseas travel by presidents can be expensive, said Kelley Gannon, who worked on the press advance team for George H. W. Bush and was director of press advance for George W. Bush. "You have to re-create a mini White House."

But pegging an exact cost has long been an elusive task for news reporters.

In an Oct. 7, 2009, story for McClatchy Newspapers, reporter Steven Thomma took a stab:

The costs of the trips -- borne by taxpayers -- are difficult to measure, but they're expensive. When (the president) uses the familiar blue-and-white reconfigured 747 as Air Force One, it costs $100,219 an hour to operate, according to the Air Force. And that's just HIS plane.

There also are cargo planes, used to fly in armored limousines, helicopters, staff and other equipment, as well as the Secret Service. A single Air Force C-17 cargo jet, for example, costs $6,960 an hour, according to the Congressional Research Service.

A total of 77 other aircraft were used on one multi-country trip to Asia by former President Bill Clinton in 2000, according to the Air Force Times, including 14 C-17 Globemasters, 12 C-5 Galaxys, three C-141 Starlifters and two C-130 Hercules. ABC News at the time estimated the cost of that entire trip at $50 million.

An Air Force Times story on March 27, 2000, said Clinton's trip to India and Pakistan "may be the most expensive such mission ever carried out by the Air Force." The reporters said the operation required hundreds of aircraft missions. They tagged the cost of the 5-day trip at $50 million as well. That comes to $10 million per day.

Previous trips by the Clinton administration were less expensive, according to a September 1999 U.S. Government Accountability Office analysis of the costs for Clinton's 1998 trips to Africa, Chile and China.

"Presidential travel to foreign destinations requires planning, coordination, and logistical and personnel support," the report stated. "The estimated incremental costs of President Clinton’s trips to Africa, Chile, and China were at least $42.8 million, $10.5 million, and $18.8 million, respectively. The largest of these costs consisted of operating expenses of the president’s aircraft and other military passenger and cargo aircraft; travel expenses, including lodging for the travelers; and telecommunications, vehicle, and other equipment rentals and procurement in the countries visited."

We couldn't find any significant evidence that Obama's 3-day trip to India was going to be unusual in scope.

According to Press Trust of India and the Times of India, two US Air Force Jumbos and four helicopters landed ahead of the president's visit; and Obama will be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier.

In addition, the Times story states:

Obama is expected to fly by a helicopter -- Marine One -- from the city airport to the Indian Navy's helibase INS Shikra at Colaba in south Mumbai.

From there, he will drive down in a Lincoln Continental -- the Presidential limousine -- to the nearby the Taj Hotel.

Two jets, armed with advanced communication and security systems, and a fleet of over 40 cars will be part of Obama's convoy.

Around 800 rooms have been booked for the President and his entourage in Taj Hotel and Hyatt.

The President will have a security ring of American elite Secret Service, which are tasked to guard the President, along with National Security Guards (NSG) and personnel from central paramilitary forces and local police in Mumbai and Delhi.

Similar arrangements will be in place in Delhi, with the Air Force One to be kept in all readiness throughout Obama's stay here from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning.

That probably sounds like a lot, but it's pretty standard fare for presidential travel, several people familiar with such travel told us.

James Gerstenzang, a former reporter who covered numerous foreign trips by presidents for the Los Angeles Times, laughed at the $200 million a day figure, which he guessed was probably "inflated by a factor of 10." And the claim about the entourage of 3,000 also seems grossly inflated, he said. He noted that any members of the press traveling with the president pay their own way, so that's not a cost borne by taxpayers.

"It really bothers me when numbers like that get thrown around by both sides for political reasons, without it being backed up," Gerstenzang said.

Veteran reporter David Jackson, who has traveled on a number of foreign trips by presidents, wrote for the USA Today, "No, President Obama's trip is not going to cost $200 million a day."

"That figure -- first thrown out by a single Indian media outlet and now viral on conservative talk radio -- is wildly, wildly off the mark."

And basing the claim on an estimate from an anonymous state government official in India is dubious at best.

"I think you have to ask, 'How would they know how much any of this costs?'" said Gannon, the advance press director under George W. Bush "We don't share that with officials from foreign governments. I'd question where they got that number from. That does sound very inflated."

As fact-checkers, we wish we had hard numbers from public documents to settle the issue of the cost of Obama's trip to India. But they don't exist. White House officials say details about foreign travel -- including the cost -- are not released for security reasons. So we don't know the cost to taxpayers of Obama's trip.

But we think Bachmann and others have a responsibility to back up statistics they cite. And in this case, the backing appears to be one news story, relying on an anonymous state government official in India. People familiar with presidential travel say that estimate is way off, and they question how a government official in India would know anyway. And a report by the independent GAO backs that up: A trip to India by Clinton, regarded at the time as perhaps the most expensive in history, was estimated to cost $50 million, or $10 million per day. That alone should cause someone to question the $200 million a day figure. In short, we don't see any evidence to back up this statistic. And we rate Bachmann's claim False.
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Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 02:09 pm
I have in the meantime read that the rumours first came from India...
And when you start to calculate the amount of people travelling and the "few" rooms rented something is wrong. 870 rooms for either 3000 or 2000 people. That is about 3-4 in each room.....Wonder if they would like that?

cicerone imposter
Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 02:17 pm
Get this; this is the party that the American people voted for to increase their influence in the House.

There is no hope for our future.
Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 03:10 pm
@cicerone imposter,
According to what I have been reading - the rumours came from India and were continued in USA.
Some and probably not all Republicans have spread it, is a fact. Do you really think that all Republicans believed it and not one single Democrate? That I can hardly believe.
Yes the Democrates lost their influence in the House.
And now there is no hope for the future of America? That is a gloomy and pessimistic attitude.
cicerone imposter
Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 04:55 pm
What you say is true; that not all republicans believe nor spread those rumors, but the impact on the American people is a whole different story.

Many Americans say that not enough moderate Arabs/Muslims speak out against terrorism, but we also have that problem in the US where party members who disagree with those rumors do not help to stifle it.

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Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2010 04:55 pm
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