Monday, October 27, 2008

A Little Perspective

The Republican party just spent $150,000.00 on new clothes for Sarah Palin. When it comes to politics and government, it's easy to let very large monetary figures wash over you. With a national debt in the tens of trillions of dollars, it can be difficult to remember just how large a sum $150,000.00 is.

On my way to work this morning I started calculating to try to put this kind of clothing budget into terms that intersect with my life and finances. After all, I make clothes for a living. The largest costume budgets I've come into contact with have been for operas. I don't handle the money or purchasing, so I don't usually know the exact budget of each opera on which I work, and I especially keep myself ignorant of the per yard cost of most fabrics before I cut them up. However, I do know that the costume budgets are generally in the tens of thousands of dollars. One of the first operas I worked on had a budget of $20,000.00 which the designer not only went over, but tripled. Even so, let's figure from $20,000.00 to $60,000.00 to costume an Opera. In all fairness, that budget does not include my or my crew's income, so add in between $9,000 and $13,000 for us. So an Opera could cost from $29,000.00 to 73,000.00.

Operas have a chorus. Sarah Palin does not. Operas are often opulent, chronicling the lives of the rich, or even of royalty. The Palins claim to be a down-to-earth household run by a hockey mom and a laborer. Operas are opulent. We are told that Alaska is not.

Somehow it costs two to five times as much to clothe Sarah Palin for the last few weeks of a campaign than it costs to create costumes for an entire Opera which will run for 2 months and be rented out in perpetuity.

Here's another point of view: how long does it take to earn $150,000.00? The median income in the US is a little over $40,000. At that income it would take almost 4 years to earn $150,000.00. More, if you'd like to still have that much after taxes. For me, I'd have to go back to the beginning of 2004 and continue to the end of this calendar year to have earned that much. To take home that much, probably back into 2001. I'm one of the few people who even save my tax information for that long.

Finally, what if I had donated to the Republican party? I don't donate to any politicians, and it would be a cold day in hell before I supported a Republican campaign, but lets just suppose for a moment that I had. My charitable donations usually range between $20 and $100. If I were to donate to a politician or political party, it would probably be in that range. I know that's a pittance compared to donations from corporations and wealthy individuals, but it would be a lot for me. If I donated, it would be to further the cause, to get the word out, to raise voter awareness of my candidate, to fund studies crucial to the campaign. It would not, in fact, be to buy clothes for someone who already has an income to buy their own clothes. In the face of $150,000.00 what would my donation even buy? Shoe laces? A pair of panties? Maybe socks? I mean, I can only guess that with at least 2 Operas worth of funding they're buying the most expensive clothes possible. They can't be spending it on more items than she'll wear before they become unfashionable next season.

If I were a republican donor, with McCain falling further behind in the poles, I'd be livid to see my money spent this way.

Of course, after being given the clothing, and wearing at least some of it, Ms. Palin has decided to say "no thanks" and go back to her old wardrobe. They claim she will not keep them but eventually donate the clothes to charity. I'm betting it gets overlooked and she keeps them. Just like she was able to keep and spend all the money she accepted for the "bridge to nowhere" to which she later said "no thanks." Maybe this is more of the same.

For that kind of money, every stitch of that clothing better be American union made.

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