much ado about clinton’s and obama’s wealth

Posted on April 17, 2008


So the Obamas made $4.2 million last year.

And there is nothing wrong with that. This is America, where working hard and being successful is not a sin.

Critics will point to Senator Barack Obama’s surprisingly substantial wealth, based on how much money he has made from his two very successful books, and say that makes him elitist. They would do better to remember that being elitist isn’t just about money, it is about a person’s attitude. Even those who aren’t exactly swimming in it can be elitist.

But what’s more interesting is the Obamas’ charity contributions.

Obama has won himself many backers with his platform of hope and transcending race. But he doesn’t seem to have put his money where his mouth is.

Of the $240,000 him and his wife Michelle gave to charity in 2007, by far the biggest portion of $50,000 went to the United Negro College Fund. Next was the international charity, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), to which they gave $35,000. CARE is an international humanitarian organization that is fighting poverty. The third largest sum the Obamas contributed in 2007 went to their church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, which received $26,270.

Taking together the Obamas’ contributions to their church, the United Negro College Fund and the National Congress of Black Women, that makes up about 34 percent of their total giving, which is towards black-only causes. This is the biggest chuck of their charity. In comparison, their donations to international organizations, such as CARE, Habitat for Humanity and Direct Relief International, constitute about 19 percent of their total giving.

The rest of their other donations go to Chicago/ Illinois-based charities, which is probably understandable, given where they live. One organization which the Obamas gave to, which stood out in particular, is the Mujeres Latinas en Accion, an advocacy group for Hispanic women. A nod to the Latino vote, perhaps?

Others have also noted that the Obamas’ charitable contributions seem to have increased substantially after Obama began his presidential run.

On the other hand, all the hullabaloo about how much the Clintons have made, $109 million, has to be taken into perspective.

First of all, it was over eight years, which averages about $13.6 million per year.

Consider the Clintons’ ages too. They are in their sixties, while Obama is 46 and his wife Michelle is 43. Given the age-gap, it is not unreasonable for the Clintons to have made more.

Bill Clinton is an ex-president, whose books have sold phenomenally, and is highly sought-after in the speech circuit. At the rate the Obamas are going, it wouldn’t be in the least surprising that he rakes in more than the Clintons, should he successfully become the next president of the United States.

Consider too, that the bulk of the Clintons’ wealth comes from Bill. If Bill’s portion is stripped, Hillary’s salary is considerably less. Hillary’s salary as a US Senator is $150,000 a year, and her book royalties netted her $153,000 in 2007 ($555,000 in 2006, $1 million in 2005, $2.4 million in 2004, $2.3 million in 2003, $1.2 million in 2002, $2.9 million in 2001).

Seen in that light, Clinton’s earnings are not substantially higher than Obama’s. His books will remain on the shelves and will probably bring in quite a bit more for him over the next few years, especially if he gets into the White House. In 2007 alone, Obama made $3.9 million off his book sales, which is higher than Clinton’s books in any single year.

Now that all this financial business is out in the open, let’s hope personal issues like these would be out of the way, and the candidates can focus on important things, such as how to deal with the fast-tanking economy and end the Iraq war.

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