Chutzpah! The unlikely austerity advocacy of the Obama administration

The Obama administration is pulling the tail of the Chinese dragon in a most unlikely way: posing as symbols of modesty when it comes to personal consumption as office holders. John Chin of the Wall Street Journal reports:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew took time out Tuesday afternoon to dine at the Bao Yuan Dumpling House a restaurant near the U.S. Embassy, popular among expatriates and locals alike for its extensive selection of colorfully wrapped-and reasonably priced-jiaozi, or boiled dumplings.

Total outlay for Mr. Lew and two of his Treasury colleagues: 109 yuan, or around $17.50.

While the Treasury secretary no doubt has eaten his fair share of richly priced meals, his cheap lunch in Beijing earned no shortage of applause along with a few raised eyebrows on China's top Twitter-like microblogging platform, Sina Weibo. (snip)

News of the modest meal comes amid a Communist Party crackdown on outward evidence of the opulent lives led by Chinese officials and follows other acts of perceived humility by U.S. officials part of a larger anticorruption drive aimed at bolstering the party's scandal-scarred reputation. Mr. Xi has led the charge, coining a new catchphrase for bureaucratic austerity when he and his entourage ate a modest meal of four dishes and a soup while visiting a rural county outside Beijing in December.

Now, I sympathize with the Chinese people who suffer under an arrogant bureaucracy that lives itself up at our expense, but I do gag a bit at the pose of the Obama administration. After all, news came yesterday of Vice President Biden's gigantic hotel bill in London.  As Russ Vaughn put it:

Joe Biden, like his boss, doesn't travel light. Why a traveling American vice-president's entourage should require 136 rooms in a luxury hotel baffled me until I made the political/money connection. One could reasonably assume that Joe Blow and his immediate staff and security detail would bunk closely together; but does that assumption include 272 people? Couldn't the more menial folks be bunked at lesser digs? Oh wait, you mean that in these times of austerity and sequestration that each of the VP staff gets a private room in the same high-priced ($500 bucks per night) digs as their buffoon boss? One stinking single night's tab for American taxpayers: Half a million, hard-earned and hard-paid, taxpayer bucks. And it was followed by another half million dollar night in Paris.

It should pain all Americans that we let this loquacious fool, Biden, travel at all, embarrassing us to foreign governments and publics with his obvious intellectual inadequacies. But to do it at these kinds of costs in these times of federal over-spending is insanity.

The fact is that any president worthy of respect as leader would already have announced a substantial cutback in the White House budget, and would visibly exemplify a spirit of austerity in his public actions. Clearly that is what the nation needs, there just isn't the money to keep on spending as before.

China's problem with self-serving arrogant bureaucrats goes back millennia and could be cured at the polls, at least potentially. But both nations exemplify the human experience: when you give people too much unaccountable power they live it up on your dime.

Hat tip: David Paulin