If the Super Committee is looking for places to cut, the Washington Times has an idea. Stop letting the State Department use earmarks to buy bookmarks! According to the Times, U.S. embassies have spent upwards of $70,000 buying copies of the President's books to stock "key libraries" around the world.
Officials say the publications were routinely used as Christmas gifts. (Apparently, the Department ran out of coal.) Thanks to the generous taxpayers of the United States, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope (or The "Authority" of Hope, as it was listed in the federal database) can now be read throughout South Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, and France.
And in case you weren't feeling generous enough, President Obama thanks you too. He "has earned far more writing books than he has earned holding government office. He reported from $1 million to $5 million in royalties in 2010 for Dreams of My Father... If he earned 10 percent royalties on roughly $60,000 in purchases of his books by the State Department... he could expect to pocket $6,000. It's a tiny slice of Mr. Obama's overall earnings, though still a sizable chunk to most Americans, whose median household income in 2009 was just over $50,000."
Even if the President donates the royalties from the government orders, he still benefits from the bump in sales. When White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the purchases, he insisted it was an "embassy-by-embassy" choice. The State Department was equally defensive, telling reporters, "These are not decisions that are made in Washington."
But aren't they? These embassies don't operate in a vacuum. Secretary Hillary Clinton may not have authorized the titles, but she certainly authorized the spending. Every government agency has dozens of accountants whose sole purpose is balancing the books--and I don't mean President Obama's! If they didn't flag these expenses as questionable, then it speaks to a greater government problem.
Pushing our Presidents' books may be "standard practice," as State officials said, but maybe it shouldn't be (especially when America has to borrow money to pay for them)! What happened to that "new era of responsibility?" Remember Barack Obama's promises to go through the federal budget "line by line" to "make sure we aren't spending money unwisely?" Well, Mr. President, now would be a good time to start!