Poor Mrs. Barack Obama! "My income is pretty low compared to my peers" she says.
According to a tax return released by the senator this week, the promotion nearly tripled her income from the hospitals to $316,962 in 2005 from $121,910 in 2004.
Her income coincidentally jumped when her husband was elected to the United States Senate. She handles "community outreach" for the University of Chicago Hospitals, which does indeed sound like vital work, right up there with open heart surgery. But wait, there's more, as the late night television commercials assure us. Hubby bashes Wal-Mart, following the union boss catechism:
The Chicagoan who would be president - maybe - told members of a union-backed coalition that they have "a moral responsibility to stand up and fight" the big retailer. "The battle to engage Wal-Mart and force them to examine their own corporate values and what their policies and approaches are to their workers . . . is absolutely vital," the Associated Press quoted the U.S. senator as saying.
But Mrs. Obama is a director of a certain company: Tree House Foods.
Michelle, make $45,000 a year serving on the board of a Chicago-area company that pays its executives a very hefty amount of money while laying off mostly minority workers in an economically deprived area, a company whose No. 1 customer is - you guessed it - Wal-Mart?
The story, by Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business continues: In early 2005, Texas-based Dean Foods Co. spun off its processed-food subsidiary into an independent company, TreeHouse Foods Inc. Stock in Westchester-based TreeHouse began trading on June 15, 2005. Elected to its board of directors on June 6 of that year was Michelle Obama, who receives $30,000 a year plus $1,500 per board or committee meeting she attends. That totaled $45,000 in 2005, according to Mr. Obama's Senate ethics disclosure. Ms. Obama got 7,500 stock options this year, company filings show. At the current price of TreeHouse stock, she has a paper profit of about $60,000 on the options.
Now, I never thought there was that much money peddling pickles, non-dairy creamer, puddings and related goods to grocery stores, which is what TreeHouse does. Apparently I was wrong. In 2005, TreeHouse CEO Sam Reed was one of the highest-paid executives in Illinois. In fact, on Crain's annual Fortunate 100 list of best-compensated execs, Mr. Reed ranked No. 2, with total compensation of nearly $26.2 million, just ahead of Motorola Inc. chief Edward Zander and Abbott Laboratories boss Miles White.
I am sure that Senator Obama and his wife, with a combined income of about half a million dollars (plus all those book royalties), will somehow manage to scrape by. And besides, the experience of low income will help them empathize with America's poor. And Senator Obama can demagogue on about the gap between rich and poor, since his wife has given him an example of high compensation for executives.
Wal-Mart board of directors veteran Hillary Clinton freely obeys the dogma of the union bosses and bashes her former benfactor. There's no reason why the Obamas can't learn from her example.