Obama lives it up in the lap of luxury
Niles Niemuth, WSWS, Apr 18 2017
Photographs published over the weekend show Obama and Michelle in the lap of luxury, frolicking in Tahiti on holiday with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey on the Rising Sun, a super-yacht owned by David Geffen. The response from the entertainment press to the brief glimpse into the Obama’s lavish getaway was unabashedly glowing. Vanity Fair gushed:
American Royalty Gathered in the South Pacific!
New York Magazine squealed:
Barack and Michelle Obama Are Hanging Out With Oprah, Tom Hanks, and Bruce Springsteen on a Yacht.
All of those among the aristocratic coterie who gathered around Obama on the world’s sixth largest motor yacht are either multi-millionaires or billionaires. Oprah has an estimated net worth of $3.1b; Hanks has a net worth of $350m; Springsteen, with a net worth of $345m, had an income of $60.5m in 2016. Geffen, an early backer of then Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2007, is among the richest people in the world, with an estimated net worth of $6.5b, placing him in the highest echelons of the top 0.01%. The former president has spent much of the first three months since he left office in January hobnobbing with the elite of the elite. In February the Obamas traveled with an entourage of 100 secret service agents and aides to Richard Branson’s private Caribbean island.
While the Obamas’ combined net worth, estimated at a measly $24m, pales in comparison to their travel companions, the 44th president and his wife have wasted no time in cashing in on his eight years in the White House, which saw a stock market boom and record corporate profits, making the already fabulously wealthy even richer. A $65m deal announced in February for two books from the couple is only an initial down payment for services rendered. It is expected that they could earn nearly $300m off of book deals, speeches and pensions. This is not the end of the former president’s earning potential. He will have help from his wealthy friends in his efforts to become one of the wealthiest ex-presidents in Pindosi history. Steven Spielberg has been working with Obama to develop a “narrative” for his life post-presidency. Those overseeing the construction and operation of the Obama presidential library and foundation have set a fundraising floor of $800m for the center, which will be built on Chicago’s South Side. In the waning days of his presidency, Obama openly fantasized about the possibility of joining the highly profitable world of professional sports and taking part ownership of a professional basketball team, something well within the realm of possibility given his wealth and connections. If he decides to go this route, Obama would join other celebrity NBA team owners like Michael Jordan and Mark Cuban, both billionaires. One should not be surprised to someday see an Obama-branded Nike high-top shoe.
While there never was a golden age, many presidents, including George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and JFK were quite wealthy, and since then things have come a long way. Thomas Jefferson had to sell his personal library to pay off his creditors. Visitors could walk up to the door of Harry Truman’s home in Independence, Missouri, and share tea with him and his wife Bess. Today, the former president vacations at exclusive $3k/night Tahitian resorts and travels the world on the yachts and private jets of billionaires. The Obamas are paying $22k/month to rent a “quasi-mansion” in the exclusive Kalorama neighborhood of Faschingstein. They will share a neighborhood with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, as well as Jeff Bezos. While always a bastion of corruption, there is a new and distinctive odor emanating from the White House and the halls of Congress. Extreme wealth is not only the outcome of holding public office, it has in fact become the rule for holding office. Most Congress critturs are now millionaires. Those who hold office, and the corporate executives at whose pleasure they serve, live in a separate world from the vast majority of Pindosis. They have access to the best medical care the world has to offer. They can skip humiliating security screenings at the airport, and fly first class or in private jets without fear of being dragged off the plane. They eat the best food. They drive or get driven in the most expensive cars. The presidency and a spot in the administration are seen as tickets to even greater wealth. Filled with billionaires and multi-millionaires from the outset, the Trump administration has taken this process to its logical conclusion. Trump and his associates no doubt see their time in the White House as a shrewd business maneuver and expect to follow in the footsteps of the Obamas.