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April 04, 2013

Questioning Obama's Empathy...

Richard Cohen, the big brute, has the temerity to point out that a 5% pay cut to The Presidential Salary does not have quite the same impact on disposable income as a 5% pay cut to the salary of your average federal worker:

I once had a boss who was independently rich, and when I asked him for a raise, he turned me down, adding that he, too, had forsaken a raise that year. A surge of anger, resentment and sheer hatred welled up in me, and were it not that I needed the job, I would have gone for his throat. His unthinking and unthinkable attempt to make common cause with me brought to mind Anatole France’s observation that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Now it brings to mind Barack Obama.

The president yesterday announced that he would return 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury Department. This is an effort to make common cause with federal employees who may have to take a similar paycut. This is the way this tone-deaf White House put it:
The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury.

The president makes $400,000 a year. In addition, he is provided living quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, several limos, a very nice (Rose) garden, an (Oval) office and some very nice bedrooms, one named for a former occupant, the late President Lincoln. The president also gets a $50,000 expense account and an additional $100,000 for travel. The average government worker, I dare say, does not get quite that much for travel and might have to live in his or her own home, invariably not on Pennsylvania Avenue, necessitating a tiring and expensive commute.

But wait: This president is independently rich. He is rich by dint of his own talent and industry, but rich is rich –- and you probably ain’t. Obama has made a small fortune in book royalties, and last year the president and Michelle Obama reported an adjusted gross income of $789,674. Without having to Google it, I can say that the Obamas made more than your average federal employee –- even including overtime.

So the $20,000 Obama is kicking back to the Treasury is a pittance that will not be missed. (What’s the difference between $789,674 and $769, 674? Will the kids not go to camp? Is Hawaii out of the question for next summer? ) But 5 percent for someone making $100,000 is a different story. That’s five grand, and it well could be camp or a vacation. It is not chump change.

Cohen's point is fine, as far as it goes, but there's a better point to be made here.

During the last presidential campaign, this President consistently called for the rich (of which he is one, by the way) to make greater sacrifices than the hoi polloi because they can afford to. The essence of his argument was this: because the rich have more than everyone else, they need to pay more than everyone else.... Obama called this "economic patriotism":

“What I’m going to need, what the country needs, what the business community needs to get to where we need to be is the acknowledgement that folks like me can afford to pay a little higher rate,” Obama said.

So if he thinks the rich should sacrifice more, why isn't he?? Paying a little higher rate, we mean?

It is a puzzlement.

Posted by Cassandra at April 4, 2013 05:20 PM

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Obama's Presidential salary, and even his book royalties, etc, do not in any way reflect his true wealth. Once he leaves office, he will be able to command very high speaking fees...I've heard Hillary Clinton is asking $200,000 per speech...and a wide variety of consulting deals, partnership opportunities, Board memberships, etc.

Al Gore is now richer than Mitt Romney.

Furthermore, much of Obama's wealth will be transferrable to his children without estate or gift taxes, because influence is not taxable but is very real in its financial value.

Power is always and everywhere transmutable into money, and in the American society today, public recognizability is also transmutable into money.

Someone in Financial Times was complaining that Jamie Dimon (J P Morgan) makes more money than the President. If "making money" is accurately measured in terms of present value of lifetime earnings resulting from current job, I think Obama is actually making considerably more than Mr Dimon is.

Posted by: david foster at April 4, 2013 09:47 PM

The Obamas aren't rich, they're black. In the mental ontology of the Left, these are separate categories.

Posted by: Grim at April 5, 2013 10:55 AM

An old and favorite comic of mine - single frame of an apparently wealthy man looking into his wallet;
thought bubble:
"I thought I had 1000$ in here....I don't remember spending it...I hope I didn't lose it..."
Caption: Rich people have the same problems we have, only different.

Posted by: tomg51 at April 5, 2013 11:28 AM