Let’s define ‘working class’

LET’S DEFINE ‘WORKING CLASS’…. As a rule, I don’t care about politicians’ personal wealth; I just don’t see how it tells us anything useful about them. I can think of some pols who’ve enjoyed enormous personal wealth — the names Kennedy and Roosevelt come to mind — but went on to represent the needs of those who were far less fortunate.

I do care, however, when wealthy politicians pretend to be struggling to help the rest of us “relate” to them on a personal level. John McCain recently launched a television ad, for example, that told voters, “Life in the spotlight must be grand, but for the rest of us times are tough.” For McCain, though, times aren’t tough — he’s extremely wealthy, and owns seven homes and 13 cars. “Us” doesn’t apply.

Similarly, Sarah Palin said yesterday:

“I know what Americans are going through. Todd and I, heck, we’re going through that right now even as we speak, which may put me again kind of on the outs of those Washington elite who don’t like the idea of just an everyday working class American running for such an office.”

I’m afraid it’s pretty difficult to see Palin as an “everyday working class American.”

A check of financial records, though, shows the Palins live anything but a common life when compared with their fellow residents of their hometown of Wasilla.

Their combined income of nearly a quarter-million dollars last year was five times the median household income for Wasilla’s 7,000 residents. They own a single-engine plane, two boats, two personal watercraft and a half-million-dollar, custom-built home on a lake that is worth three times the average of other homes in town.

And what’s wrong with the Palins living well? Not a thing. I couldn’t care less.

But I do care about the dishonesty. If you’re pulling in a quarter-mil, own a plane and two boats, and live in a half-million-dollar, custom-built lake house, don’t have the audacity to call yourself “an everyday working class American,” and then whine about the condescension of the “Washington elite.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.