2013 Inauguration: How much will it cost you?

Taxpayers are off the hook for the gala balls, but not for the swearing-in ceremony. Photo: President Obama gives his first Inaugural address AP

WASHINGTON, January 7, 2013 — Taxpayers are casting a skeptical eye at the upcoming Inauguration on January 21. No wonder they are asking how much it will cost us.

Remember we were just dangled over the fiscal cliff. Payroll taxes have now jumped up by 2% or $20 a week for a family earning $50,000 a year. The deficit is almost $17 trillion. And the debt ceiling could shut down the government in a few weeks. Who can afford the Inauguration?

Not to worry, Taxpayers. You are off the hook. Well, almost. You won’t be picking up the tab for the grand and glamorous galas surrounding the big day. And President Obama has even scaled back the big doin’s thanks to these tough economic times.

Crowd for the 2009 Inauguration reached to the Washington Monument

However, it is the President of the United States who is sworn in every four years, so We the People pick up the tab for those important moments. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies is in charge of the official swearing-in ceremony. That means taxpayers will pay for the cost of security, expenses connected to the ceremony and the cleanup afterwards. Meantime Obama supporters are raising money for the inaugural balls, concerts, parties, and all the folderol that comes with the Inaugural gala.

So how much will the Inauguration actually cost? If we use past Inaugurals as our guide, we see they are pretty pricey events. It is estimated that in 2005 for President Bush’s Inauguration, Washington, D.C. and the Federal government spent a combined $115.5 million, primarily on security. Virginia and Maryland also submitted bills totaling $75 million. That was with only 400,000 people attending the ceremony.

Then in 2009, the crowd swelled to 1.8 million people to see the first black president sworn in. Security costs ranged around $150 million. While the crowd may be smaller this time around, maybe only 800,000, the security will once again be fearsome and thus costly. Expect expenses to be closer this time to Bush’s $115 million mark, thanks to security.

President Ronald and Nancy Reagan at his 1981 swearing in

But all the fun stuff is the business of fundraisers, who are probably a little tapped out after raising oodles of cash for the campaign.

President Obama has decided to seek corporate, but not lobbyist, money to help underwrite the balls, something he eschewed four years ago. At that time, he raised $53 million dollars from private donors for the round of gala events, a record. President George W. Bush raised $40 million each time for his parties and President Bill Clinton back 1997 hit the $30 million mark. Adjust for inflation and those celebratory parties were also opulent affairs.

But this time around the President is making the 57th Inaugural a three-day instead of a four-day event, kicking off with a National Day of Service on January 19 and ending with the Inauguration and Inaugural Ball on January 21.

Thanks to the sluggish economy that is out of the recession but far from robust, President Obama has cut back on number of inaugural balls, having only two official balls this year, both honoring members of the Armed Services. It is the lowest number of Presidential balls in 60 years. In 2009, there were 10 official balls.

Roslyn and Jimmy Carter with daughter Amy at his only Inaugural

There will be the Commander In Chief’s Ball on Inaugural Monday, January 21 for members of the Armed Forces at the Washington Convention Center a few blocks from the White House.

Tickets are free to invited guests, who will include both active duty and reserve service members, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors. Troops overseas will be able to participate by video.

The Inaugural Ball, also on Monday evening, January 21 and at the Washington Convention Center, has a limited number of tickets for the public on a first come, first served basis for $60 a piece and only two tickets per request. There will also be an official Children’s Concert for those children whose parents serve in the Armed Forces. Hosted by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden it will be by invitation only and the list of young artists has not yet been released.

President George W. and Laura Bush at an Inaugural Ball

However, there will be other glitzy balls to dazzle the eyeballs, but all sponsored by private parties, corporations and even states. The Washingtonian Magazine is hosting its first inaugural ball at the National Air and Space Museum while Iowa’s state ball will be held in the Museum of Women in the Arts.

Other unofficial balls like the Bytes and Books Ball will dance the night away at the Folger Shakespeare Library (where else?), and the Disability and Pride Ball will be held at the National Press Club. So far 35 balls are scheduled around the city from grand hotels to gourmet restaurants to the littlest museum. An up-to-date list of all the balls can be found About.com.

The prices vary, ranging from $15 for the Tilted Torch: Vaudeville’s Only Inaugural Ball at the D.C. Convention Center to $1,000 for the Native Nations Inaugural Ball at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Also read: Want to see the 2013 Inauguration and Parade? Here’s how

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.


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More from Inauguration 2013 - Ceremonies, parades, balls and parties past and present
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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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