A first-class abuse of power

If a welfare recipient is caught buying candy bars and sodas with foodstamps, you can bet that a member of Congress would be up on his hind legs about it, spewing spit and fulminating ferociously in pious outrage that tax money is being spent on "luxuries" for the poor.

I find it fascinating that this very same member of Congress will then make what they call a foreign "fact-finding" trip (you would call it a junket) and demand that we taxpayers provide every travel luxury imaginable -- and then some.

Take Rep. Floyd Spence -- please! This South Carolina Republican led a delegation of six other lawmakers on a 10-day jaunt to Asia last year, supposedly on a fact-finding mission regarding our national security interests. To help find facts, the spouses of most of the members took the trip, too.

The Hill newspaper reported that Spence and company flew to Asia aboard a large luxury jet provided by the Pentagon, costing us $825,000 just for the plane. In addition, we paid for a full crew of stewards, as well as escorts to take care of the lawmakers and spouses while on land.

For the flight, taxpayers provided 36 bottles of wine, 21 cases of beer and 11 bottles of hard liquor. We also provided such travel supplies as sun block, eyedrops, playing cards, film, shaving cream, deodorant and breath mints. Indeed, $14 worth of breath mints.

And, of course, we paid for their fine dining abroad, their first-class hotels, their cocktail receptions, the tours for the spouses, all their ground travel and even tips for their hotel bellhops.

Then, on their way back, undoubtedly weary from all their fact-finding, these congressional travelers stopped for a two-day layover in Hawaii, apparently for a nice, relaxing round of golf at our expense.

But at least they're on guard against poor people getting candy bars.

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