Why the Obamas don't advertise their standard of living
By Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration.
Campaigning for her husband in Zanesville before the Ohio primary, Michelle Obama described to a group of women how hard it had been for her and Barack to make ends meet:
"We spend between the two kids, on extracurriculars outside the classroom, we're spending about $10,000 a year on piano and dance and sports supplements. And summer programs...Do you know what summer camp costs?"
The burden was especially heavy because she and Barack had to repay the student loans for college and law school at Princeton and Harvard: "The salaries don't keep up with the cost of paying off the debt, so you're in your 40s, still paying off your debt at a time when you have to save for your kids," Michelle Obama said.
Actually, Michelle's salary has kept up pretty well. The University of Chicago Hospital, where she is vice president for community affairs, bumped her pay from $121,910 in 2004 to $316,962 after her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate that year. National Review's Byron York, who covered her remarks at the Zanesville Day Nursery, noted that her new salary is roughly ten times the median household income in Muskingham County.
The Obamas also have Barack's salary as a U.S. Senator ($169,300), royalties from his two best selling books, and an undisclosed amount of income from her service on six corporate boards. But this hasn't brightened Michelle's outlook: "We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day," Michelle had said at a black church in South Carolina in January. "Folks are just jammed up, and it's gotten worse over my lifetime... The life that I'm talking about that most people are living has gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl."
Mrs. Obama was counting her husband and herself among the folks who are just jammed up, reported Lauren Collins of the New Yorker, who was at the Pee Dee Union Baptist Church in Cheraw when Michelle spoke there. "You're looking at a young couple that's just a few years out of debt," Mrs. Obama said. "See, because we went to these good schools, and we didn't have trust funds."
It is, apparently, America's fault that the Obamas didn't have trust funds, and unfair that they had to repay their student loans. We're a country that is "just downright mean," Mrs. Obama said.
It is true that some people in America are having trouble making ends meet. Some people in America always are having trouble making ends meet. But what Michelle Obama said is astounding.
She was born in 1964. At the time, segregation was still legal. Governors in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi stood in schoolhouse doors to prevent blacks from attending college.
"The per capita income of African-Americans has risen sixteen-fold over the last 40 years," noted John Podhoretz of Commentary. "Black home ownership has risen tenfold. The black poverty rate has declined from 75 percent to 25 percent." But this is, I suppose, meaningless if you think piano lessons and summer camp are among the things government should guarantee everyone. Whatever gratitude Michelle Obama has for the opportunities America has provided her are overwhelmed by her resentment that some others have more than she does.
Husbands and wives often have different political views, so we should not assume Barack shares the chip on Michelle's shoulder.
But "Spengler," the erudite cynic who writes for the Asia Times, thinks the women in his life are a clue to the inner Barack. His mother, Ann Dunham, was a communist sympathizer, he noted. A childhood mentor who Barack praised in his autobiography was Frank Marshall Davis, a prominent member of the Communist Party USA. "Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household," Spengler said.
"Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother's milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career," Spengler said. "He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at an emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath."
Spengler's is a minority view. But if he's right, we shouldn't wonder why Barack won't wear an American flag pin in his lapel.
"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the
history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as
we try to change it."
-- Barack Hussein Obama