February 29, 2008


Michelle’s Struggle: Mrs. Obama empathizes in hard-hit Ohio. (Byron York, 2/29/08, National Review)

As she has many times in the past, Mrs. Obama complains about the lasting burden of student loans dating from her days at Princeton and Harvard Law School. She talks about people who end up taking years and years, until middle age, to pay off their debts. “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,” she says.

“Barack and I were in that position,” she continues. “The only reason we’re not in that position is that Barack wrote two best-selling books… It was like Jack and his magic beans. But up until a few years ago, we were struggling to figure out how we would save for our kids.” A former attorney with the white-shoe Chicago firm of Sidley & Austin, Obama explains that she and her husband made the choice to give up lucrative jobs in favor of community service. “We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do,” she tells the women. “Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.” Faced with that reality, she adds, “many of our bright stars are going into corporate law or hedge-fund management.”

What she doesn’t mention is that the helping industry has treated her pretty well. In 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mrs. Obama’s compensation at the University of Chicago Hospital, where she is a vice president for community affairs, jumped from $121,910 in 2004, just before her husband was elected to the Senate, to $316,962 in 2005, just after he took office. And that does not count the money Mrs. Obama receives from serving on corporate boards. She would have been O.K. even without Jack’s magic beans.

So her struggle appears to be somewhat different from the struggles of the women sitting at the table. In addition to its below-average median household income, Muskingum County’s unemployment rate has risen in recent years. And it is not filled with Harvard-educated lawyers. According to census data, just 12.2 percent of adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree or higher — well below the Ohio and national average. About 20 percent don’t even have a high school degree. They won’t face the wrenching choice of whether to go into hedge fund management or the helping industry.

She may be Karl Rove's greatest invention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 29, 2008 2:29 PM

What BS.

Posted by: erp at February 29, 2008 3:36 PM

She's Hillary - without the tact, the deft ear, or the personal warmth.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 4:29 PM

Life has been pretty difficult on Michelle Obama. Still paying off Princeton and Harvard student loans? Oh, the horror!

Ya know, that kinda makes McCain's 5 years in a North Vietnamese POW camp sound downright pleasant.

McCain can't lift his arms above shoulders but the real tragedy is that Michelle Obama clips coupons because she can't make it with a 6 figure salary.

Posted by: pchuck at March 1, 2008 10:25 AM