In his New York Times column today, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol expressed his disappointment at what Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) “left out” of his commencement speech last week at Wesleyan University. Kristol claims that Obama’s decision to become a community organizer in Chicago isn’t very impressive:
And one day, a group of churches in Chicago offered him a job as a community organizer for “$12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.” […] Obama wants us to be impressed by the drama of his spurning the big bucks, by his bold acceptance of such a pittance of money in order that he could do good.
Leave aside the fact that two years elapsed between Obama’s graduation from Columbia in 1983 and his heading off to Chicago in 1985. Dramatic foreshortening is, after all, sometimes necessary. And leave aside whether $14,000 in 1985 was really such a shockingly low salary for someone recently out of college — in inflation-adjusted dollars, it’s about what we pay entry-level editorial assistants today at The Weekly Standard.
In today’s dollars, Obama’s $12,000/year in 1985 translates into an inflation-adjusted current salary of $23,958. It seems Kristol may be living in a time warp because what he pays his new employees is less than the average salary for the lowest-level congressional staffer.