President Obama thinks his wife should be paid for the privilege of serving as first lady. Speaking at a campaign event in Denver on Wednesday, Mr. Obama invoked Mrs. Obama's plight to make a point about equal pay for equal work. "I want to make sure that when she's working, she is getting paid the same as men," he said. "I've got to say, first ladies right now don't, even though that's a tough job." Poor Michelle, we feel her pain.
If Mr. Obama was joking, it was in poor taste, especially with so many women struggling in hard economic times. First ladies have never been given a paycheck, but they certainly benefit from their privileged circumstances. Michelle basks in the reflected fame of her powerful husband; she lives rent-free in the most exclusive address in the world; she has chefs, maids, drivers and other servants at her beck and call 24 hours a day. It might be a "tough job," but she is assisted by a personal staff of more than 20 people, who are paid a collective salary of over $1.5 million. Those perks are forms of compensation.
Mrs. Obama lives the good life and she lets everyone know it. While not known for being a fashion leader in the style of Jackie Kennedy, she has come under fire for flaunting her expensive tastes in times of economic trouble. Her latest offense was showing up in London at a pre-Olympics party wearing a jacket costing $6,800. That's 10 times the median weekly earnings for full-time working women.
The Obamas are notorious for their lavish, taxpayer-subsidized vacations. Their December 2011 getaway in Hawaii cost more than $1.5 million. Mrs. Obama's jaunt with some of her friends to the Costa del Sol in Spain in August 2010 billed for close to half a million dollars, much of which was from travel costs incurred by the U.S. Air Force.
She should enjoy it while it lasts. Mrs. Obama's high-rolling routine hasn't helped her chances of enjoying another four years of living large. A focus-group study of blue-collar independents and Democrats who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 found a deep well of resentment for the first family. "They view everything through their own personal situation, and if they can't afford to do it, they can't enjoy it, they don't like Obama using their tax dollars to benefit himself," pollster John McLaughlin told columnist Paul Bedard. "In this case, they see him as out of touch. While they are struggling he's not sharing in that struggle and he's basically doing what they can't do on their tax dollars."
Mr. Obama isn't doing well with the ladies in the polls these days, with Gallup showing him losing white women by 8 points. But women skeptical of his record aren't likely to rally around calls for his wife to draw a tax-supported salary. Like her husband, Mrs. Obama's career has been marked mostly by patronage positions, and she lives like royalty. If she wants to get paid, nothing is preventing her from going out and getting a real job -- except for the fact that there are so few of them in the Obama economy.
The Washington Times
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