Meet Mrs. Obama, Class Warrior


The LA Times has a piece about Michelle Obama, Barack Obama's wife who has been in the news mostly so far for calling her husband "snore-y and stinky" (in opposition to Joe Biden's characterization of the candidate as "clean" and "articulate") and her statement after the Wisconsin primary that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

The Times piece details another series of ill-conceived, faux-populist remarks that might just play better with the voters:

We don't need a world full of corporate attorneys and hedge-fund managers," she told a crowd in a Baptist church in Cheraw, S.C., last month. "But see, that's the only way you can pay back your educational debt!

"The life that I am talking about that most people are living has gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl. And this is through Republican and Democratic administrations. It doesn't matter who was in the White House. . . . So if you want to pretend there was some point over the last couple of decades when your lives were easy, I wanna meet you!"

Her rhetoric is jarring given that the Obamas themselves are a stunning embodiment of the American dream. Michelle Obama and her brother, Craig Robinson, the men's basketball coach at Brown University, attended Princeton University. Barack and Michelle Obama both earned law degrees from Harvard, another of the nation's most prestigious schools, and are facing the possibility of raising their two daughters in the White House.

The couple's combined salaries were more than $430,000 in 2006, according to their tax return. In addition, Barack Obama earned $551,000 in book royalties. The family lives in a $1.6-million home in Chicago.

This kind of talk really rubs me the wrong way. Not only is it self-evidently bullshit when it implies that living standards for most people are imperiled (or that college-loan debt is crushing the poor young suckers graduating from the Ivies), it undercuts and ignores exactly the sort of steps that strivers everywhere can take to get ahead: get more education, work hard, etc. (No, really, she and her brother mystically appeared at Princeton.) Congrats on her success, but why can't she talk about it more forthrightly? Instead, you get an invocation of luck rather than effort:

Despite their Ivy League pedigrees and good salaries, Michelle Obama often says the fact that she and her husband are out of debt is due to sheer luck, because they could not have predicted that his two books would become bestsellers. "It was like, 'Let's put all our money on red!' " she told a crowd at Ohio State University on Friday. "It wasn't a financial plan! We were lucky! And it shouldn't have been based on luck, because we worked hard."

More here.

Over at reason.tv, Drew Carey took a look long at the middle-class squeeze. reason takes the pulse of the surprisingly lively corpse that is the middle-class here and here and here.