Sarah the Spendthrift

24Oct08

It’s so delightful to watch Republican apologists desperately try each daily controversy that emanates from the Palin/McCain campaign. Powerline dutifully trots out the talking points it has been issued:

The last 24 hours have been consumed by a media feeding frenzy over the fact that the Republican National Committee spent approximately $150,000 on clothes and makeup for Sarah Palin and her family. This is being peddled as though it were some kind of scandal. As a threshold matter, one wonders why: it’s not as though tax dollars were being wasted. Why is it anyone’s business? It isn’t, actually.

Oh, gee. I don’t know. Maybe because it’s unbecoming of Mrs. Main Street who asserted that “I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom” and “I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this great country” and built a campaign around Joe Sixpack and Joe the Plumber to have a wardrobe valued upwards of 3 times the median household income. It’s not like they gloated over Edward’s $400 haircut. The poor boys at Powerline then proceed to go off script and say something predictably insipid:

Palin is the exception. She and her family are not rich; they do not have clothes in their closets suitable for a run for the Vice-Presidency. So the RNC, entirely appropriately, fronted the purchase of clothes that will see them through until November. So why is this a news story, let alone some kind of “scandal”?

Parse that out.

  • “Palin and her family are not rich.” She earned $166,495 last year. That is 3.31 times more than the median nationwide household income. Cost-of-living adjusted to Washington, D.C. it rises to $181,475. If one were to extrapolate the fact that the average American household spends 3.0% of income before tax on apparel and apply that to her CoL-adjusted salary, that implies she should spend $5444 annually on clothes for a family of 7. Let’s say for the sake of argument that keeping up with the Joneses on the Washington social circuit requires triple that – $16332 annually. It would take upwards of a decade spending at this non-trivial rate to match Mrs. Palin’s new-found wardrobe.
  • “they do not have clothes in their closets suitable for a run for the Vice-Presidency” What clothes are suitable for a run for the Vice Presidency? The Vice President’s 2008 salary was $221,100, $39,625 (21%) more than her CoL-adjusted household income last year. Let’s just say you need all that difference just to keep up with the Washington fashions – six times the national average on household apparel expenditures – her new wardrobe is still almost 4 times more than this extreme “fashion discrepancy budget”.
  • “Why are they not concerned with how much money Joe Biden spent on his hair-plugs? …The answer is obvious: all of those other candidates are rich.” Joe Biden and his wife earned $248,754 in 2007, $82,259 more than the Palins. Even if Joe the Senator spendthriftly devoted this pay disparity to be spent only on clothes/grooming/appearances each year, it would take him 1 years, 9 months, and 26 days to spend as much as Mrs. Palin just demanded in the past month.
  • “So the RNC, entirely appropriately, fronted the purchase of clothes that will see them through until November.” Actually, this “uniform” doesn’t even pass the smell test in which the uniform “must be required at work” and “must not be usable for ordinary wear.”
  • “So why is this a news story, let alone some kind of “scandal”?” Draping a populist candidate in $150,000 worth of designer fashion seems to be newsworthy. Doing so in the midst of the most intense financial crisis in 79 years is scandalous.
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