We all know about Michelle’s expensive trips with her daughters to Spain, Hawaii and Colorado. But at National Review Online, Jim Geraghty asks an important question:
Does President Barack Obama know how much he is spending?
Critics of the president asked that question after he asserted, “Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years.” (This figure comes from an online article that has been widely debunked because, among other sleights of hand, it interprets modest rates of increase in annual spending as a reduction in the spending, even though the total actual spending under Obama’s watch has been gargantuan.)
But the same question could apply to the president’s personal finances as well, given that the president and Mrs. Obama have spent enough money during their time in the White House to reportedly express anxiety about their personal finances — even as the president earns several million dollars from his book sales and even though the taxpayers cover a portion of the Obamas’ living expenses.
In Jodi Kantor’s book about the president’s first three years in office, The Obamas, she describes tensions in the White House before the 2010 midterms:
“Even the president made uncomfortable jokes about why his wife needed so many things. Behind the scenes, aides said, the Obamas were concerned about money: the president’s books could only sell so many copies, and it would be years until he could write more and the first lady could write her own. From vacation rental homes big enough to accommodate the Secret Service to all the personal entertaining they did at the White House, their lifestyle had grown fearsomely expensive.”
David Mendell discussed the Obamas’ surprisingly dicey personal finances in his 2007 biography of the then-senator, Obama: From Promise to Power:
“He and Michelle were living a middle- to upper-middle-class, white collar existence, going home to a spacious town house in Hyde Park and employing a caregiver to help with child care. But despite their combined incomes, which topped $250,000 a year, Obama had personal debt. He had maxed out his credit card, partly on campaign expenses, and the couple were both repaying student loans from Harvard.”
Those campaign expenses came from Obama’s 2000 Democratic-primary bid to unseat Representative Bobby Rush, a four-term incumbent with 90 percent name recognition and a 70 percent approval rating. Obama lost, garnering 30 percent to Rush’s 61 percent. Michelle reportedly thought the campaign was a bad idea, and a new book, Ed Klein’s The Amateur, claims that the stress of the defeat and resulting debt brought the couple to the brink of divorce.
Undoubtedly the 2012 election will focus more on the federal government’s spending under Obama than on the president’s personal spending. But the parallel between the two financial pictures is worth noting. Almost all spendaholics or those who are unable to control their spending engage in a certain amount of denial, an effort to fool themselves about the hard truths of their financial situation. They assure themselves that they must spend money now in order to save more money later, or they count on additional earnings that are unlikely to materialize (say, through rosy assumptions of future economic growth). When confronted with evidence of a serious problem, they assert that it doesn’t really matter (“No matter what some rating agency may say, we have always been, and we will always be, a AAA country”).
In light of all this, “Does Obama know how much he is spending” appears to be an extremely relevant and entirely fair question.
And what does it say about a person who spends other people’s money for his own pleasure? We the taxpayers pay for the elaborate dinners and trips. No wonder Michelle is no longer “ashamed of my country.” We’re footing the bills! While the Obamas decry the 1% taking goods from the 99%, they certainly should include themselves in that 1%. Most decent people would tone down the splendor in light of the suffering of many in this recession/depression.
Even with all this largesse, the Obamas are having a hard time making ends meet. Huh? When is enough enough? Never in their case, I guess.