Trump’s Security Tab: A Good Case for Separation of Church and State

Photo of President Bush with Secret Service Ag...
Photo of President Bush with Secret Service Agents, Presidential Limousine and Air Force One. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Palm Beach County, Florida Commissioner Dave Kerner wants to tax a resort. Nothing unusual about that — politicians love to mug tourists in the name of “economic development” —  except that the resort in question is Mar-a-Lago, US president Donald Trump’s private club and preferred getaway spot when he tires of the White House.

Kerner complains that Trump’s visits cost the county government $60,000 a day in police overtime and other expenses and wants to turn the resort into a “special taxing district” to claw back that money.

Business owners at the local airport have complaints as well. The Secret Service shuts them down whenever Trump’s in the neighborhood, costing them thousands. A new tax doesn’t address those complaints. What’s really needed is some good old-fashioned separation of church and state.

Every time a president goes anywhere, a giant, expensive, purpose-built security apparatus goes with him. And when he gets there, entire city governments drop whatever they’re doing to shut down the streets and ensure that the Divine Presence remains undisturbed by the presence and activities of mere mortals.

The national media issues breathless breaking news reports, followed by endless updates, whenever some idiot climbs over the White House fence and profanes the sacred grass of the North Lawn with the soles of his unconsecrated shoes.

Treating presidents and former presidents as God-Kings at taxpayer expense violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause. It’s ceremonial observance of an official state religion, a religion the Libertarian Party’s Statement of Principles calls “The Cult of The Omnipotent State.”

In theory, the president is just a mere citizen, the guy we elected to do a particular job.

Why should he be entitled to any more personal security at taxpayer expense than you or me?

Why should the highways that we all pay for be closed to us whenever he happens to want to barge through with his motorcade?

Why should people with plans to fly — commercially or privately — be held up for hours or days just because that plane landing over there happens to be Air Force One?

No reason at all, unless you’re of a religious bent.

Instead of enacting a new tax on Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County’s government should inform Donald Trump that there will be no special police accommodations for his presence, and tell the Secret Service that attempts to shut down the airport will earn them free accommodations at the county’s correctional facility.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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  • JdL

    Agree 100%. When I lived in Atlanta many years ago, Vice President Quayle (remember him?) came to town for what was admitted to be a fund-raising event. The city shut down major Interstate highways to accommodate him, forcing thousands of working people to spend hours on secondary roads. That’s about as close as I’ve come to grabbing a gun to immediately solve some of the nation’s pressing problems.

    • Yep.

      When I lived in St. Louis, every four years either a presidential or vice-presidential debate took place at Washington University and they’d shut down the area for blocks around (as well as shutting down highways between the airport and the venue for the politicians’ motorcades).

      Also pretty much every four years, the Republican nominee lands in Springfield, Missouri then motorcades the ~50 miles to Branson at 100 miles per hour, with police escort (instead of police pulling them over and handing out speeding tickets) and the highway shutdown to mundane traffic.

      • Sheila

        “Mundane traffic” – meaning, us, the common folk, the rabble. We exist just to vote and pay the salaries of the elite.

        • Exactly. We’re not special. They are. We’re just human and they are living gods.

  • T Taylor

    I also agree with you 100% that security measures for the President go way too far, but good luck with your Establishment clause argument… the cult of government worship is obscene, and indeed probably violates the Constitution, but it doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause.

    • The Establishment Clause part was intended to be a fun play on the issue. Sorry if I didn’t do it well enough for that to come through.