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Obama Math

Your chuckle of the day, via Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit - "$250,000/year for a couple is 'rich,' but $172,000/year for a White House flunky is 'relatively modest'":

In bidding a sort-of farewell to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, [Obama] noted the "relatively modest pay" for which Gibbs has labored.

In fact, he earns $172,200 in a nation where the average family income hovers around $55,000, unemployment is high, record foreclosures persist and wages for most folks are at best stagnant.

But implicit in Gibbs' departure is the desire to slow down, recharge and earn a lot more money, especially after an arduous several years where he's been on call 24/7. He's hired an esteemed lawyer-agent, Robert Barnett, and is expected to hit the very lucrative speaking tour universe exploited by Washington insiders, including high-profile journalists.

It's a world in which a one-hour appearance can bring more than many Americans earn in a year, with the elite in the roughly $50,000 to $75,000 range. You offer a few benign inside anecdotes, take some questions and then get taken back by limo to the airport and a seat in first-class (assuming your deal doesn't include a private jet, as is the case for some journalists I know).

I'm reminded of course of Bill Clinton, who along with his wife made a career out of lambasting "the rich" who don't pay their "fair share," and identifying with "hard working Americans," yet who, after leaving office, wasted no time joining the lecture circuit at six figures per appearance.  When it was reported that the former President had difficulty using an ATM wiithout the help of an aid, and that he kept $1 million in an ordinary checking account, Americans collectively scratched their heads in puzzlement.

In the above-quoted piece from The Atlantic, James Warren explains that erstwhile government big-wigs search out the big bucks because they rub shoulders on a regular basis with the highest-paid, most elite executives, lawyers, and lobbyists from big business and big labor.  Many of these titans earn more than Gibbs' "modest" $172,000 annual salary every month:

People who came to town to change the world, and fight for the working guy, wind up thinking that a salary that would be a king's ransom to most of their constituents is chicken feed.

It's partly because they inevitably contrast themselves not with others in government, or cushier locales in the nonprofit world, but with the mightiest denizens of corporate America.

... I've known elected officials, who had significant impact on laws and regulations touching the private sector, who bristled at the sums earned by the CEOs who lobbied them and whose firms they impacted, sometimes helped enormously. One congressional titan even pointed with blatant envy to the seven-figure salaries of network television anchors who cozzied up to him.

And maybe we should also mention former Obama budget director Peter Orszag, who left the White House last month and promptly landed a senior job at CitiBank with a reported salary comfortably in the seven figure range.  And why not?  Orszag, Timothy Geithner, Christina Romer, Ben Bernanke, Austan Goolsbee, and others crafted possibly the largest crony capitalism deal between the government and any sector of private industry with their trillion-dollar bailout of the financial sector.  But as another Atlantic author, James Fallows, noted:

The idea that someone would help plan, advocate, and carry out an economic policy that played such a crucial role in the survival of a financial institution -- and then, less than two years after his Administration took office, would take a job that (a) exemplifies the growing disparities the Administration says it's trying to correct and (b) unavoidably will call on knowledge and contacts Orszag developed while in recent public service -- this says something bad about what is taken for granted in American public life.

When we notice similar patterns in other countries -- for instance, how many offspring and in-laws of senior Chinese Communist officials have become very, very rich -- we are quick to draw conclusions about structural injustices. Americans may not "notice" Orszag-like migrations, in the sense of devoting big news coverage to them. But these stories pile up in the background to create a broad American sense that politics is rigged, and opportunity too. Why do we wince a little bit when we now hear "Change you can believe in?" This is an illustration.

All I can say is, for the well-connected it must be nice, really, really nice ...

UPDATE: Instalanche!  Thanks for the link Prof. Reyonlds, and to Instapundit readers for their added comments.
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Comments (15)

Hypocrisy? Democrats? Sur... (Below threshold)

Hypocrisy? Democrats? Surely you jest. They're all about helping "the common man". Now hush!

Nah, the dems are all about... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Nah, the dems are all about helping the poor and downtrodden. Their method for doing so is to make everyone poor and downtrodden (except for themselves).

That SOB can make 20 times ... (Below threshold)
jim crane:

That SOB can make 20 times that and get a book deal. Be real!

NOT defending Gibbs here, b... (Below threshold)

NOT defending Gibbs here, but the salary he received at the WH does not seem out of line. That was our money paying him to do his job.

If fools want to throw their own money at him to hear him speak in the private sector, it is none of my business and I could care less. I don't care what anyone else makes as long as I am not paying for it.

"If fools want to throw the... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"If fools want to throw their own money at him to hear him speak in the private sector, it is none of my business and I could care less. I don't care what anyone else makes as long as I am not paying for it."

Sadly, how many schools and institutions that get gov't money will invite him to speak? I bet we'll all pay for some of that.

Too true, Les, too true, bu... (Below threshold)

Too true, Les, too true, but that is why we need to take back control of our local schools.

It won't be easy, it probably won't be possible in the short run, but the adults are starting to wrestle back the control.

As a parent, I can attest that once you have said yes, it is very difficult to start saying no, but it is possible.

I won't quibble with Gibby'... (Below threshold)

I won't quibble with Gibby's pay. It probably compares with what my company's chief flak gets paid. If a Fortune 100 company pays that, I can see why an increasingly unpopular and controversial White House would. In that light he may even have been under paid... if he had a press corps that asked him hard questions more than one in ten times (and I am being generous in that high a ratio).

This is just another example of the how President Obama's mythical genius in the realms of communications and politics is just that: myth. How out of touch with the average American and your own policies and rhetoric must you be to make a comment like this?

Don't ever get the idea tha... (Below threshold)
Jeff Weimer:

Don't ever get the idea that Democrats are "anti-business" - they're not. They're only anti-business as far as the amount of support. Small-business doesn't have the horsepower, so they're left out in favor of rent-seeking big business who can lobby them - or have their employees work for the government.

The Republicans haven't been that much better, FTR. Maybe that'll change with the Tea Party influence, maybe not. It seems they're pro-markets rather than pro-business, a la Milton Friedman, who said (I paraphrase) "competition is the bane of big business, it's hard work."

I join those who don't have... (Below threshold)

I join those who don't have an issue with Gibbs salary, except that every single paycheck and welfare check coming out of DC needs to be cut in half, yesterday. And, in general, anything that convinces Washington that they aren't the new masters of the universe would be helpful.

Wait until bk small governments and inflation grabs them all by the throat. Reality can only be avoided for awhile.

Congrats on the Instalanche... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Congrats on the Instalanche.

What troubles me here is th... (Below threshold)
Buck O'Fama:

What troubles me here is the projection; Gibbs, Obama, Clinton and others in this world make their money by connections, influence peddling and cronyism. They seem to think EVERYBODY makes their money that way. Joe the Plumber, who if he makes 100K a year does it by unclogging people's toilets while Robert Blowhard Gibbs makes his by telling lies and being an a**hole. That's fine, somebody's got to be Obama's press whore, but these people don't get it that most of us aren't earning money this way.

The unemployed make $0.00 i... (Below threshold)

The unemployed make $0.00 in salary per year.

Gibbs is third-in-command o... (Below threshold)
myth buster:

Gibbs is third-in-command of the US Armed Forces. A private-sector analogue would be the Chief Operating Officer of a corporation. So yes, $172,200 is a pittance compared to what similar executives in the private sector are making, though the salary is appropriate, given the nature of the job and the fringe benefits.

"Gibbs is third-in-command ... (Below threshold)
WV Eagle:

"Gibbs is third-in-command of the US Armed Forces" Huh?

Gibbs has nothing to do with the chain of command. He's a public affairs flack and that is all. And in my opninion, while all White House spokesman have to spin things in their bosses' favor, Gibbs has seemed even more willing to bend (or even break) the truth than most. It seems as though the campaign never stopped and the Presidency began. Lo and behold...where's he going?...to continue to work on the campaign. The Obama staff is slowly coming to the realization that governing (wherein the people expect results), is much harder than campaigning (where its all about image). Here's hoping their boss gets that distinction soon.

Reminds me of that famous l... (Below threshold)

Reminds me of that famous line from Oz: "Pay no attention to the man (men/women) behind the current!"






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