Opinion Brief

Robert Gibbs' 'modest' $172,000 salary

Was President Obama merely being honest by suggesting his outgoing press secretary gave up a lot to serve in government? Or was he being "tone deaf" in a time of economic suffering?

President Obama is facing a backlash after telling The New York Times that his outgoing press secretary, Robert Gibbs, could probably use a break after several years of "going 24/7 with relatively modest pay." The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe, noting that Gibbs was pulling in $172,000 a year, questions the wisdom of calling a six-figure salary "relatively modest" at "a time of persistent unemployment and a sagging economy." Does the remark suggest Obama is out of touch, or was he merely acknowledging that high-powered D.C. officials can earn more in the private sector?

Obama is living in fantasy land: The president's quip about Robert Gibbs' "modest" $172,000 a year salary, says Abby Wisse Schachter in the New York Post, indicates he's "completely tone deaf to the problems faced by most Americans." No wonder he's out there spending money "like a drunken sailor" — bailing out car companies, writing stimulus checks — instead of acting like an adult and righting the "fiscal ship either by cutting spending or raising taxes or both.""People want a boom and they want it forever"

Gibbs really can make more elsewhere: "Modesty is in the eye of the beholder," says Catherine Rampell in The New York Times. Consider Peter Orszag, who made $199,700 as Obama's budget director and now hauls in upwards of $2 million at Citigroup. "Certainly by comparison, his White House pay looks modest." "How 'modest' is Robert Gibbs' salary?"

True or not, Obama should have been more sensitive: "President Obama may have spoken a certain marketplace truth," says James Warren in The Atlantic. "Unfortunately, it's a market known to too few Americans during historically tough times when a pink slip, or just the need for a root canal, can bring financial crisis to homes." So Obama might want to choose his words more carefully before holding up a "loyal lieutenant" with a six-figure salary as "a portrait of financial sacrifice.""No pity for Robert Gibbs and his 'modest' salary"

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