If you remember the movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” perhaps you will recall the scene where Marion Ravenswood has been captured by the Nazis and is being entertained in Dr. Belloq’s tent. He requests that she change into a beautiful dress that he has brought with him. After she dons the dress, the Nazi investigator enters the tent to interrogate her. His opening line is, “So like you Americans, always dressing for the wrong occasion.”
Perhaps President Obama has seen this movie. But rather than dressing for the wrong occasion he has a habit of speaking at precisely the wrong time. I am not referring to his off the cuff comment about his “red line.” It relates to his choice of conversation on Monday as the scene at the Navy Yard was unfolding.
Rather than defer his comments to a more appropriate moment, he chose the time to take the opportunity to lambast Republicans for their “obstructionism” regarding the debt ceiling and, at the same time, he also lauded himself and his great success in turning around the economy. The only thing that was missing was his inheritance of a dreadful economy, courtesy of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
We heard the usual litany of achievements which, of course, included “Saving the American auto industry,” (effectively made uncompetitive through years of fat union contracts); Creating 7.5 million jobs (ignoring the fact that during that same period, 4.9 million jobs were lost); well, you’ve heard the list ad nauseam ad infinitum.
The message was a warning to the GOP that they better raise the debt ceiling – or else. The second part of the message was, “Look what a great job I’ve done turning around the economy.” I don’t know if marijuana is legal in D. C. but anyone who can make that statement and believe it must have a substantial stash of Mary Jane on hand. We do know that the Prez has a history of past use.
It is this writer’s opinion that the speech the president delivered on Monday could well have been deferred for a day – out of respect for those whom we already knew were victims. He defended himself both in giving the speech and in the way events turned out thus far with regard to Syria by saying, “People in this town tend to grade more based on style than on substance.” He should be grateful for that. If we graded as we should on substance, he would have been a one term president. Actually, he would never have been elected in the first place.
With respect to his claim that the economy is doing better – there is some small amount of truth in that. The official rate of unemployment has declined – but the real rate of unemployment if we include those who have simply given up trying to find work is at an all time high – nearly 17%. The unemployment rate for black Americans, his most loyal constituents is at all time highs. And the middle class whom he repeatedly claims to champion, has seen a regular erosion in both their earnings and purchasing power.
Today the House of Representatives is debating reducing the Food Assistance Program (SNAP) by $39 Billion over a ten year period. The program is so fraught with fraud that if it weren’t tragic it would be laughable. Sadly, those who truly need assistance are deprived of monies that are diverted to freeloaders who have figured out how to work the system. I’m surprised there isn’t a book out called “Welfare Fraud for Dummies,” published by HHS.
As an example of this fraud, while not part of this specific program, the effort to provide a “safety line” to those without communication services (best known as the Obamaphone Program) for which all other cell and land line phones users pay, has already demonstrated that it has no oversight of those who are recipients. Over 6 million people, that’s 42% of participants, have not proven that they meet the standards to receive these phones. Of course, they continue to receive the benefits of phone service for which you and I pay.
Returning to the SNAP program, let’s put the president’s comments on the economy in context. Let’s look at the substance rather than the style. That should be something Obama would applaud.
Since he has taken office, the number of households receiving benefits has increased by 52% to 21 Million. At the same time, 95% of all increases in personal income have gone to those who are the top 5% in earnings. In other words, the middle class is shrinking and those at the bottom of this tier are slipping into poverty levels of income. Of course, the poor are staying poor. Some things never change.
There are now 46.5 million Americans who are officially defined as living in poverty. That’s 15% of the population. Here in the richest nation on earth. If this is what the president is proud of accomplishing in his tenure, one can only speculate what he might have in mind for the future. But with all that is going on I suspect that Obama has more important fish to fry. And speaking of food, I wonder what he’s planning on wearing to dinner tonight.