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
"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
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.
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"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.