I really hate to believe that President Obama thinks Americans are stupid, but the White House’s latest public relations campaign suggests just that.
In case you missed it, the president is planning to give 5% of his $400,000 annual salary back to the United States Treasury in support of furloughed federal workers. On the surface, this seems like a nice gesture, and it falls in line with what other elected officials are planning to do.
When you consider the big picture, however, you realize just how ridiculous this “gesture” is. Obama makes and is worth a lot more than his annual presidential salary. Each year, he earns royalties from his books and other investments. He also lives like a “king” in the White House (the Earth is probably moving in Virginia as many of our Founding Fathers collectively roll over in their graves).
Despite all the money he makes, he plans on returning $1,700 per month to the United States Treasury, and we’re all supposed to praise him for this gesture.
Let’s put this in perspective. Giving $1,700 per month when you make what Obama makes would be like walking out of the drugstore and tossing your change in the Salvation Army kettle and thinking you’d done your part to help the poor at Christmas. While the good people at the Salvation Army certainly appreciate every donation no matter how small, I’m sure they’d be much happier if we all sat down and wrote a nice big check to the cause, particularly those of us who could afford it.
The other problem I see with this is that Obama has made his political career chastising “rich people” as misers when it comes to paying their taxes. Well, I hate to break it to him, but he’s a very rich man. After he leaves office, he’ll be even wealthier as evidenced by the largesse raked in by the Clintons after they entered private life.
Given that, if he really wants to make a statement consistent with his stated beliefs and rhetoric of the past four years, here’s what he should do.
Instead of the embarrassing sum of $1,700 per month (which for him amounts to his “fun money”), he should announce that he will additionally give the difference between the amount he makes and his personal income taxes so that effectively he’ll end up paying over 50% of his earnings on his $400,000 annual salary to the Treasury. He’s been campaigning all over the country for that rate of taxation. Here’s his opportunity to make two points at once. He can show sympathy to federal workers subject to furlough, and he can demonstrate that paying over 50% of his income to the government is completely fine with him.
Better yet, this is his chance to demonstrate exactly what percentage of salary rich people like him should pay in taxes. Is it 75% or 90%? He likes to talk about paying your “fair share,” but we can never quite pin him down on a number. This is his big opportunity to clarify that question.
Granted, even if he does this, it should still ring as a hollow gesture in some circles. As long as Obama is spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars on vacations and golf lessons, he won’t truly be making much of a sacrifice.
But at least if he’s going to pretend to care, this alternative approach should pass the laugh test.