Obama hosting pricey party in a dicey economy

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Unemployment is up. The stock market is down. Let’s party.

The price tag for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration gala is expected to break records, with some estimates reaching as high as $150 million. Despite the bleak economy, however, Democrats who called on President George W. Bush to be frugal four years ago are issuing no such demands now that an inaugural weekend of rock concerts and star-studded parties has begun.

Obama’s inaugural committee has raised more than $41 million to cover events ranging from a Philadelphia-to-Washington train ride to a megastar concert with Beyonce, U2 and Bruce Springsteen to 10 official inaugural balls. Add to that the massive costs of security and transportation – costs absorbed by U.S. taxpayers – and the historic inauguration will produce an equally historic bill.

Some University students were skeptical about the cost of the ceremony.

“There always seems to be a lot of pomp and circumstance involving the ceremony that I’m not sure is always needed, especially considering [the] economy right now,” said Keith Huffman, senior in LAS.

To others, this was more than the typical presidential inauguration.

Nadia Sofiandi, sophomore in business, received a 7 a.m. phone call from her mother asking if she was planning to watch the ceremony. Her family in Indonesia considered the occasion important.

“[The inauguration is] big news back home,” Sofiandi said.

Students agreed that this inauguration was important and worthy of the hype.

“I really considered skipping [class],” said Catherine Martin, freshman in engineering. “I felt like this was monumental.”

The Associated Press, Jennifer Wheeler, Emily Herbick, and Kate Szyszka contributed to this report