Sarah Palin: Joe sixpack or Martha moneybags?

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At their most basic level, Presidential elections are a battle between archetypes. Each candidate tries to position himself or herself a particular way, hoping to project a certain image and gain the affections of some portion of the populace. The 2000 election was a battle between the populist Bush and the egghead Gore, while 2004 saw John Kerry's JFK imitation going head-to-head with the further adventures of George Bush's ersatz working class fratboy.

In 2008, the battle is fourfold, between John McCain's battle-tested veteran, Barack Obama's unflappable statesman, Joe Biden's urban manual laborer, and Sarah Palin's redneck beauty queen. As she has repeatedly reminded the voters, Palin considers herself a part of the "Joe Sixpack" portion of the populace, a down-home, hunter-gatherer subset of the population characterized by simple values and simple tastes.

What's interesting, however, is that the Palins are considerably wealthier than most of the blue collar workers that they claim to represent. In addition to the respectable $47,000 paycheck that Todd Palin brings home from BP Alaska, the "First Dude" also makes about that much as a commercial fisherman. With the addition of Palin's $10,500 prize winnings from the 2007 Iron Dog race, his earnings last year were upwards of $100,000.

Sarah Palin was even more productive. In addition to her $125,000 gubernatorial salary, she collected over $60,000 in travel costs and per diem payments for sleeping in her own home. Added to this, every member of the Palin family collected $1,654, their portion of the oil royalties that all Alaskans receive each year.

Between their salaries, real estate holdings, and assorted vehicles, it is estimated that the Palins are worth more than $1.2 million. While this is miniscule compared to the McCains' princely personal wealth, it is quite impressive, particularly for those of us who sometimes have to buy our beers by the bottle!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's a few beers short of a Joe Sixpack.

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