Wagyu beef steaks: $200.  Arugula salads: $25.  Case of Bud Light: $20, tops.  Eating all  this at the White House: not priceless after all.

Barack Obama has a new idea of hospitality at the White House that may delight class warriors, but has at least one former Kennedy staffer aghast.  Obama invited the CEOs of major American corporations to dinner to strategize about reviving the economy.  Despite a reputation as hostile to free enterprise, Obama showed his credentials as a small-business entrepreneur by converting the Oval Office into a restaurant start-up:

Four of the most powerful business leaders in America arrived at the White House one day last month for lunch with President Barack Obama, sitting down in his private dining room just steps from the Oval Office.

But even for powerful CEOs, there’s no such thing as a free lunch: White House staffers collected credit card numbers for each executive and carefully billed them for the cost of the meal with the president.

The White House defended the unusual move as a way to avoid conflicts of interest. But the Bush administration didn’t charge presidential guests for meals, one former official said, and at least one etiquette expert found the whole thing unseemly – suggesting it was a serious breach of protocol.

“I’m sure they have their political reasons for doing that, but I think it’s not what quote, hospitality, unquote is all about,” said Letitia Baldrige, who headed Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House staff in the early 1960s. “We’ve got to relax about this. To have people to the White House and worry about the price of things is laughable.”

Hey, now, let’s not overreact.  I often invite people to my house for some grill and the First Mate’s excellent desserts, and of course we pull out the credit-card authorization device and run the guest cards through it!  Who invites people to their homes, especially to get their advice, and doesn’t charge them for the privilege of providing it?

This calls for a poll. Do you think that Obama has the right idea in making his guests pay for their food, or do you consider that an embarrassment for the people of America?