It's the cost of Sarah Palin's wardrobe.
Breathlessly, if somewhat cynically, the MSM is invoking the spirit of Joe the Plumber: how can Sarah possibly justify letting the Republican National Committee spend a staggering $150,000 on clothes, hair and makeup for Palin as well as clothing for the rest of her family? In these times of economic crisis how can an Alaskan hockey mom governor spend all this cash--RNC cash, not her own money--on clothes?
Of course, the MSM is being rather hypocritical, considering that most of the news anchors who will read these words with furrowed brow (assuming their last Botox treatment has worn off) are also wearing rather expensive designer suits for which they didn't pay. Consider this, from an article in the NY Sun in 2006 about Katie Couric:
She estimates that Ms. Couric will need to purchase at least 10 designer suits, and matching shoes, which could cost more than $30,000. Not that those brand-name outfits would set her back much, even if she didn't have a wardrobe allowance. At CBS, Ms. Couric will reportedly take home some $15 million a year.
While Ms. Couric may be commanding a salary on par with or higher than her male counterparts, women broadcasters face more pressure to keep up appearances, Ms. von Sperling said. "Here is the unspoken rule: Anchormen are allowed to get that wise, distinguished, salt-and-pepper gray," she said, referring to the just-named anchor of World News Tonight, Charles Gibson. "For anchorwomen, that's not the case. Katie Couric will be dying her hair until she no longer wants to be an anchorwoman. Katie's a very smart cookie, and I'm sure she was aware of that when she took the job."
Prices have gone up a little in the last two years; Hillary Clinton can only get about five of her signature pants suits for $30K:
The clothes aren't cheap. Jackets are about $3,000, shirts run to $1,350 and pants hover around the $2,000 mark. For first-time clients, there is a minimum three-suit requirement, simply because it costs so much to make the mannequins.
Now, I'm not going to say that $150,000 for clothes and so forth for seven people (Sarah, her husband, and the children) isn't excessive. But our elites in the media and in politics are well aware how much image is worth, and would be the first to notice if the Palins' clothes were the sort of nice but still off-the-rack garments they can afford on their approximately $120,000/year salary. We would be hearing endlessly about how Sarah's lower-end clothing proved she was an unserious candidate, and Tina Fey would do a skit showing Sarah in the fitting room at Wal-Mart, wouldn't she?
So the Republican National Committee--not the Palins, mind--made the decision to spend some Committee funds on the Palins' public image. It's perfectly legal for them to do that; and considering that none of the other candidates in the race is coming from a similar economic background, it was probably a smart thing to do. The Obamas made over four million dollars last year; Joe Biden's suits have been familiar to the media since the Cronkite era, so the MSM has nothing to gain from criticizing him; the McCains have plenty of cash for clothes that will look good on prime time TV. But Sarah Palin has been under attack from the minute she set foot on the national political stage, so it probably seemed like ordinary prudence to make sure that the media couldn't criticize her for being poorly dressed on top of everything else they found to dislike about her.
The real problem, as I see it, is that we're drifting dangerously close to an oligarchy in America, where only elite people from elite schools and/or elite families with large sums of money to spend will ever have a shot at any national political office, let alone the presidency. So much of this comes from our media's perception that anyone who doesn't dress, speak, and think like they do must be an incompetent hick who is too incurious and provincial to be running for office; the elevation of image above reality, and style over substance, shows how true that is becoming. But there are serious consequences to this kind of thinking, and one of the worst is that our leaders become a protected class whose own self interest will always trump what is good for the nation.
Some observers of this election would say that we've already reached that point; it would be hard to disagree.