Michelle Obama is coming under public scrutiny for taking a posh Spanish vacation. She and daughter Sasha are currently on a four-day trip along Spain's Costa del Sol, and they're staying at one of the world's ritziest hotels.
The Hotel Villa Padierna's rooms cost between $500 and $2,500 a night. The First Lady and her daughter aren't traveling alone, of course - they have an entourage of 40 friends, Secret Service, and staff. The Obama party will take up 60 to 70 rooms at the hotel. She's also flying on an official Air Force charter plane - Air Force Two. While the First Lady is paying for her personal expenses out of her own pocket, American taxpayers are footing the bill for the rest of her staff.
It may not be Michelle Obama's decision to stay in such a fancy hotel: the Secret Service often chooses where to accommodate the people it is protecting. That didn't stop Andrea Tartaros, writer at the New York Daily News, for calling the First Lady a "modern-day Marie Antoinette."
Adding to the public outcry over this trip is the fact that it's private: there's no official purpose for it, other than a photo-op with the Spanish royal family. Also, according to writer Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times, Michelle Obama will have taken eight vacations by the end of the summer. That's a heavy burden to place on already struggling taxpayers.
At a time when so many Americans are struggling to pay bills, it leaves somewhat of a bad taste in one's mouth to see the First Lady spending so much money on a vacation. Add to this the reports of the Obamas flying their dog to join them on trips, and date nights costing thousands of dollars, and it's easy to get angry that the President and his wife are living it up at our expense.
However, the Obamas can never travel alone. No matter what they decide to do, they must always bring substantial security and staff. That's always going to cost extra money. Should the Secret Service be expected to pay for their own plane tickets and accommodations? Of course not -- they're working. Her staff and security detail will always be an expensive element of even the most modest trips she takes.
But Mrs. Obama could scale back the luxury and frequency of her vacations.