There’s another part of the op-ed that leapt out at me, though – we already know Barack Obama hates the military, being a terrorist and a Democrat and all. But Bill Kristol engages in my favorite form of Republican crotchetism, the “You Broke People Are Secretly Rich” maneuver.
Obama chooses to introduce the notion of public service from an autobiographical point of view. In college, he explains, “I began to notice a world beyond myself.” So while his friends were seeking jobs on Wall Street, he applied for jobs as a grass-roots activist. And one day, a group of churches in Chicago offered him a job as a community organizer for “$12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.”
“And I said yes.”
Those four words form their own paragraph in the prepared text. Obama wants us to be impressed by the drama of his spurning the big bucks, by his bold acceptance of such a pittance of money in order that he could do good.
Leave aside the fact that two years elapsed between Obama’s graduation from Columbia in 1983 and his heading off to Chicago in 1985. Dramatic foreshortening is, after all, sometimes necessary. And leave aside whether $14,000 in 1985 was really such a shockingly low salary for someone recently out of college — in inflation-adjusted dollars, it’s about what we pay entry-level editorial assistants today at The Weekly Standard.
First, let’s note that Obama didn’t get paid $14,000 a year – the quote says he got paid $12,000 a year and got $2,000 for a car. Let’s also not leave aside that in inflation-adjusted dollars, that works out to about $23,600 a year with a $4,000 car.
Most importantly, let’s not leave aside that he was getting paid $23,600 a year in 2007 dollars in Chicago. Granted, there’s always the possibility that Chicago’s cost of living was ridiculously low in the mid 80s and Obama was rolling around in his 1977 Chevy Caprice snorting coke through his stash of rolled up hundred dollar bills…but I think Kristol just fucked up again.
UPDATE: Obama’s secret bonanza of brokeness works out to about $11.40 an hour in 2007 dollars. I heard in Chicago, that makes you one of the ten richest men in the city.