Going once, going twice, $150,000 for a house, uh I mean, a new wardrobe
In 1999 there were 308 people living in Tanana, Alaska, where the median family income was $29,750 and where they retire on a median income of $10,576. I wonder how many residents from that little tiny town could afford to pay $2,500 for a jacket?
One of my favorite family photos shows my father standing in an open doorway with about four feet of snow piled up behind him. He’s wearing a $50 insulated, fur-trimmed parka that he paid for with his own money while working on the Defense Early Warning system in Tanana, Alaska, during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Dad worked as an electronics engineer for the military on its DEW line, the enormous radar network that ran along the 69th parallel between Alaska and Greenland. During the Cold War, the DEW line was supposed to give early warning in the event the Soviet Union tried to bomb the United States. Dad loved Alaska, and regaled me throughout my childhood both with stories of his adventures up north and slides showing his life there.
Back then $50 was quite a price tag. But Dad was working outside in the Alaskan wilderness, and he had to have something that would keep him warm. But getting back to the other jacket: who pays $2,500 for the one Governor Sarah Palin wore while being introduced to the American public? Evidently we, the taxpayers, do. The single comment that jumped out at me about ShoppingGate , among many others, in yesterday’s The Washingon Post, was that of Gretta Monahan. She said:
“Everything is relative … Sarah Palin’s goal is to be the vice president of the United States and that’s a pretty damned big job. The better your image is, the better people will receive you.”
Yes, Greta, everything is relative. So the $150,000 shopping spree Governor Palin and Company went on (hubby Todd also benefited, as did other Palin family members) is relative to the American people’s current plight: they are broke, unemployed and homeless.
Not the homelessness of yesterday that forced one to live in a car or under a bridge; this is the new homelessness, brought on by greed like that from executives of American International Group, Inc. According to Bloomberg, they spent “$440,000 last month at the St. Regis resort in Monarch Beach .” Apparently, they did that about the same time they asked the federal government for a $85 billion bailout … from their greed-induced financial collapse.
What, if anything, can be learned from this? Only that since September 19 some greed remains undiminished. That’s when Wall Street came tumbling down faster than Humpty Dumpty, only to be followed by Wall Streets in foreign countries around the world. What on earth is a woman who calls herself a hockey mom just like any other doing with such exorbitant tastes, when so many citizens aren’t able to make their house payment—let alone go shopping at Neiman Marcus?
And no, I’m not a supporter of Senator Barack Obama. As far as I’m concerned, if he can afford to pay $1,500 for a two-piece suit that’s fine. It’s his money, to use as he sees fit. But paying that price out of your own pocket is far different from what Governor Palin has done, by having the Republican National Convention pick up her shopping tab.
As with many professional journalists, I don’t vote. I remain neutral with regard to politics and politicians because I can do my job better that way. I happen to believe that objectivity is still a cornerstone of journalism, so what better way to remain objective than to not take sides?
But I am an American citizen who lives in a house the bank foreclosed on about two months ago. It was only due to the kindness of a family friend that we are still living there, and the reason why the public auction slated for August 28 was cancelled at the last minute.
I have never been a spendthrift or a clothes horse, so I can honestly say my spending didn’t lead us into this position. Rather, my husband’s first wife died after fighting a 10-year battle with breast cancer, leaving him a mountain of unpaid medical bills. When we married, he continued to run the small business that had been in his family since the 1940s. He gave to the handful of employees who needed his help. If they had an emergency, he gave them an advance on their paycheck; if they needed to borrow his heavy equipment, he loaned it without charging them a penny, and if they did a great day’s work, he bought beer and pizza for them at the end of a long hard week. And we helped our respective six children financially, when they were in a pinch.
In the meantime, his son, a boilermaker, was tragically killed when he fell from a power plant. That was a year ago. Since then, my husband has had to have a quadruple bypass and I needed back surgery so I could continue to work, earning less than $27,000 a year. Together, our medical bills are out of sight.
So Gretta, who works as a fashion advisor to Rachel Ray, will just have to forgive me when I say I have no sympathy for people who equate price tags with character.