This Time, Washington — and the President — Are Really ‘Out of Touch’!

It has always bothered me during our endless national campaigns when congressional candidates spend millions of dollars and years of their lives trying to persuade voters that he or she, the candidate, loathes Washington, D.C. (my adopted hometown of 45 years) and the federal government more than his or her opponent does.

Think about it: This is roughly comparable to someone applying to baby-sit your child by emphasizing how much she dislikes children or some young man, trumpeting his total commitment to nonviolence, while trying to join the SWAT team of the local police force.

Of course, many of these Washington-bashing candidates do win, and then overnight these new federal officeholders mostly spend every available hour and even more millions of dollars seeking to convince the folks back home that their own well-being and that of the nation depends upon the government-loathing, Washington-averse officeholder being returned in perpetuity to his government office in Washington, D.C.

But once in a while, I have to admit that the critics are right, that Washington, D.C., and even the highest-ranking federal officials, are out of touch or just plain out of it. That was clearly the case this past week when President Obama explained one reason Robert Gibbs was leaving his job as White House press secretary: “He’s had a six-year stretch now where basically he’s been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay.”

The press secretary’s job is both high-pressure and high-profile. No argument there. But, Mr. President, $172,200 a year does not qualify in the United States in 2011 by any definition as “relatively modest pay.”

The median household income in the country in the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency was $52,500. Every year since then, the annual household income in the United States has been lower than it was 11 years ago. In 2009, median household income fell to $49,777 — the lowest it had been at any time in the preceding 13 years.

Last September in Richmond, Va., President Obama acknowledged the possibility that he might be out of touch with ordinary Americans: “When you’re in Washington all the time … sometimes you’re in what’s called a bubble.” To a crowd in Albuquerque, N.M., he confided about the presidential residence that “it’s a very nice house they provide me in Washington, but at times you do feel like you’re in the bubble.” He added, “I just need to get out a bit and have a chance to talk to folks.”

And how. Between 2007 and 2009, according to the Economic Policy Institute‘s analysis of Federal Reserve numbers, the average American family’s entire net worth shrank by 41 percent to just $62,200.

This time, the critics and the naysayers are right about my hometown of Washington. It truly turns out to be a different world “Inside the Beltway,” where someone earning a handsome six-figure income with full and generous benefits can become an object of pity for whom his understanding neighbors ought to consider holding a benefit.

Would somebody please tell the president that Robert Gibbs’ White House salary of $172,200 puts him above the 90th percentile of all earners in the United States. That is not “relatively modest.” Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly living in a bubble.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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