The United States Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are witnessing historic damage as millions of people recover from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria—but President Trump’s promise of a multi-million-dollar photo-op, is the opposite of what the ravaged islands actually need.
When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, it left nearly the entire island without power, 60 percent without drinking water, and it destroyed 80 percent of the island’s crop value. The U.S. Virgin Islands also experienced historic tragedy as two category 5 hurricanes—Irma and Maria—hit in just 12 days, destroying 70 percent of the island’s buildings.
While both territories are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, the U.S. government is receiving heavy criticism for its lack of an adequate response. Not surprisingly, President Trump is at the center of that criticism, as he took to Twitter to call for a boycott of the National Football League, and to call out players who dared to kneel during the National Anthem—a song that has only been played before football games since 2009, when the Department of Defense began “paying for Patriotism” to increase support for war.
Then it finally happened—Trump heard the anger of the public, and he decided it was time to get involved, and to give them what they wanted. He pledged his support to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and he said he is planning to visit the ravaged territories next week.
"Puerto Rico is very important to me and Puerto Rico—the people are fantastic people," Trump said. "I grew up in New York so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. These are good people and we have to help them. The island is devastated."
While the estimated cost of this visit has not been publicized, there is no doubt that it will be in the millions. The task of taking a disaster-stricken island with no power, no running water and scarce resources, and establishing the means necessary to accommodate the president, possibly First Lady Melania, and their entire staff and secret service team is no easy or inexpensive feat.
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Presidential travel is a highly complex logistical operation involving hundreds of people, dozens of planes, cars, military vehicles, and more.
As a result, it easy to see how the bill can skyrocket very quickly. According to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch, the VC-25A cost a whopping $206,000 an hour to operate. The flight time from Washington D.C. to Puerto Rico is about 4 hours. The plane flight alone will cost taxpayers upwards of 2 million—only if he goes directly there and back.
That is just the plane. When the president travels, he uses several military aircraft, including Air Force One, carrying the president, his entourage and guests, cargo planes packing motorcade limousines and other equipment, and aircraft to transport personnel who conduct security sweeps before the president arrives.
A conservative estimate of Trump's trip to Puerto Rico will be upwards five or six million dollars—hardly a just expense for a photo op.
However, Trump’s presence in Puerto Rico seems to be what the public and the mainstream media crave. They want the money shot of him kissing some random baby, or serving food to a family who has just lost all of their possessions. Don’t mind the outrageous cost of the trip, or the fact that the residents of Puerto Rico would be better off if the government just took the estimated cost of such a visit, and wrote a check for the same amount in aid.
Six million dollars could pay power companies to restore electricity, buy food for those in need, purchase clean water, or any number of other helpful ways. But not this time. Instead, the six million dollars will go to six minutes of propaganda.
The term “presidents are puppets” can be applied in a number of situations, but in this one, it is painfully evident. Trump’s trips to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be nothing more than a multi-million-dollar photo-op used to cover up the government’s negligence in providing proper aid to millions of American citizens, while it wastes billions of dollars on foreign aid programs in countries run by dictators.