The day Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter gave his 2016 State of the State speech, he took some friends to dinner.
The bill was $24,345.90.
Technically, it was Otter’s political action committee that paid the bill, but you’ve probably already figured out who controls the Otter PAC. Just what kind of an event it was, we don’t know. The governor’s office does not coordinate with Otter PAC and an email to the PAC has not been returned.
Here is the political expenditure report from the Secretary of State’s website (page 5 if you’re curious)
So let’s put this in perspective. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Idaho’s median household income is $47,334.
Think about that. Otter PAC spent half of an Idaho’s family income — wining and dining the state’s wealthy and well connected — in a single meal at a fancy steakhouse.
Meanwhile, Idaho has some of the lowest wages in the United States.
Considering the price, steaks at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse must be amazing. But most Idahoans will never know because they can’t afford to dine there.
The upscale restaurant’s dinner menu features $28 pork chops and $65 bone-in fillets. But you’re not done there. Ruth’s Chris menu is a’ la carte, meaning you’ll need to separately order a salad, vegetables or even a baked potato. And they are not cheap.
For the average family of four, a trip to Ruth’s Chris could easily top $200. With teenagers, it could be closer to $400.
But even a $200 dinner bill is unthinkable for the average family. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four in the Treasure Valley spends $782 on food per month.
Now imagine spending one quarter of your family’s food budget on one meal.
And then consider the Otter PAC bill: $24,345 could pay the average Idaho family’s mortgage for 33 months.
Wouldn’t it be nice if wealthy people and the politicians who cater to them had to worry about the same things we do?
Clearly, a person who throws down the cash equivalent of a brand new Subaru Impreza on dinner isn’t sitting over a kitchen table worrying about mortgage payments, student loan debt, child care costs, healthcare premiums, retirement funds, nursing home bills, rent and all the other things the rest of us worry about.
It’s no wonder our politicians are so out of touch with the average Idahoan.