Tuesday, September 21, 2010
CHANGE... your perspective
Yesterday President Obama attended a jobs forum and fielded questions from disappointed supporters. First off I thought it took real guts for the President to put himself out there like that so kudos to Mr. Obama for answering some really tough questions and being accountable to the very people who helped vote him into office. As for the job he’s doing as President of the most powerful nation in the free world (allegedly), not so much. That aside one woman’s question in particular really struck me. Below is the transcript of her question/s with the President’s response/s, followed by my commentary (of course).
Q Thank you very much and, quite frankly, good afternoon, President Obama. I am deeply honored to finally be in this forum, and so grateful for CNBC making the forum available so that you can speak to American citizens just like myself.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you.
Q I am a chief financial officer for a veterans service organization, AmVets here in Washington. I'm also a mother, I'm a wife, I'm an American veteran, and I'm one of your middle-class Americans. And quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for --
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q -- and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.
I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet. And I thought, while it wouldn't be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure.
I have two children in private school. And the financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family. My husband and I joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q But quite frankly, it's starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we're headed again. And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly, is this my new reality?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think that you describe exactly what is the bedrock of America -- a veteran who's working for veterans, somebody who is a CFO and I am sure knows how to manage their money, have made good decisions.
Q Sometimes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not saying once in a while you don't want to get a new pair of shoes. (Laughter.)
Q Today. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So the life you describe -- one of responsibility, looking after your family, contributing back to your community -- that's what we want to reward.
Now, as I said before, times are tough for everybody right now, so I understand your frustration. But I would just -- when you say there are things that you'd like to see happen or you're hoping to see happen that haven't happened yet, let me just give you a couple of examples.
I right now have two children -- it sounds like you've got kids, as well.
Q Two girls.
THE PRESIDENT: Two girls. You're going to be thinking about college soon.
Q Next year.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Now part of what we did over the last year and a half is to make sure that billions of dollars that were going to subsidize financial service industries under the federal student loan programs are now going to be going directly to students so that millions more students are going to be able to get loans and grants and scholarships to go to college. Now, that's going to have an impact on a whole bunch of kids out there, including maybe yours.
If you have a credit card, which I assume, you do --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, see, now you're really -- now you've shown how responsible you are. (Laughter.) But if you have a mortgage or a credit card or any kind of financial dealings out there, as a consequence of the changes we made, the credit card companies can't increase your interest rate without notifying you, and they can't increase your interest rate on your previous balances. In terms of getting a mortgage, they -- you can't have a mortgage broker steer you to a mortgage that ultimately is going to cost you more money, because maybe they're getting a financial incentive to do so. Those things are now against the law. So there are a whole host of protections in there.
You are a parent who has children -- if your child, heaven forbid, had a preexisting condition, before I took office, you were out of luck in terms of being able to get health insurance for that child. Now, insurance companies have to give you health insurance for that child, and by the way, that health insurance can't drop you if you get sick.
So there are a whole host of things that we've put in place that do make your life better. But the bottom line is if your 401(K) is still down substantially from where it was a while back, if you haven't seen a raise in a long time, if your home value went down --
Q Keep going. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: -- depending on where you live, all those things still make you feel like, gosh, I'm treading water.
Q Still struggling -- that's right.
THE PRESIDENT: And so my goal here is not to try to convince you that everything is where it needs to be. It's not. That's why I ran for President. But what I am saying is, is that we're moving in the right direction. And if we are able to keep our eye on our long-term goal -- which is making sure that every family out there, if they're middle class, that they can pay their bills, have the security of health insurance, retire with dignity and respect, send their kids to college; if they're not yet in the middle class, that there are ladders there to get into the middle class, if people work hard and get an education to apply themselves -- that's our goal. That's the America we believe in. And I think that we are on track to be able to do that.
A really tough question from one of his own constituents – I liked that (but I didn’t like where the question was coming from – see paragraphs 2 & 3 below). The President’s response? Mostly lip service. Almost two years in office and his administration has delivered the following: more student loan money for college tuition, the elimination of exorbitant rates on credit cards and mortgages, and health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. All nice things but hardly the “CHANGE” everyone was “HOPING” for, am I right? I’d be curious to know how many frequent flier miles he’s racked up on his numerous exotic vacations and how many strokes he’s shaved off his handicap over that same time period? Whatever – history shows us that people will say whatever it takes to get elected, and that once elected will rarely deliver on the promises made during their campaigns. I get it. The United States government is a large and unwieldy beast. Even if you’re the President it’s not easy to get shit done. When I voted for Obama (gulp - my fellow Republicans will have a heyday with this information) I didn’t expect him to solve all of our country’s problems overnight or at all. Honestly all I really expected was for him to not fuck things up as much as McCain would have. Was I right? The jury’s still out on that one. I digress…
The point I’m trying to get to is that the problem with the United States today isn’t so much that our government is all fucked up (it is) or that the person in charge isn't working hard enough (he’s not), but rather that there are too many citizens (like the woman who questioned President Obama above) who feel sorry for themselves in the face of adversity and expect the government to make things better. Your 401K’s down significantly from where it was a few years ago? Bummer. You haven’t had a raise in 4 years or worse yet your income has actually decreased over that span? That sucks. Your home’s worth just a fraction of what it was a few years back? Join the club, lady. These problems are only affecting about oh 99% of the U.S. population so pardon me for not indulging in your personal pity party. Times are tough for everyone and there’s no guarantee things are going to get better any time soon (although economists recently announced that the recession was officially over as of last June - what, you didn’t get the memo either?). Amidst all of this economic uncertainty there is one undeniable truth I can guarantee however – expecting the U.S. government to fix your problems is about as futile as expecting Paris Hilton to stop doing drugs and making sex tapes. If you truly believe the government’s job is to take care of you and shield you from all the hurt in the world perhaps you should consider moving to China to join their robot army.
Otherwise stop feeling sorry for yourself and start proactively working towards a solution to your problems. Cut back on the things that aren’t an absolute necessity, adjust your lifestyle according to your new reality, or go out and find a different job to make more money. This country was built on making sacrifices in order to achieve the greater good. Right now is no different. Rather than focusing on how great things were 4 years ago and how shitty they are today, instead focus on how great things can be again and then work your ass off towards getting there. I wouldn’t be giving this advice if I wasn’t affected by it myself. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone hit harder by the current recession, depression, or whatever the hell you want to call it, than me. 4 years ago I was in fat city. Today I’m clawing and scratching just to get by. It would be real easy to sit around with my head in my hands and wait for the government to make things better. Unfortunately that would be one hell of a long wait. Just like in any other situation wallowing in my own discontent would do nothing but exacerbate the problem and prolong the pain. Bad times are only temporary unless we allow them to persist. Don’t ask the President why things haven’t gotten any better. He has no fucking idea why. Instead go out and make things better for yourself. Work hard, keep a positive attitude, and deal with your issues one day at a time knowing that things will ultimately get better. This is America for Christ's sake. For hundreds of years people have rolled up onto our shores with nothing but the clothes on their backs and gone on to be wildly successful. The only change you really need is the change you enact within yourself. So stop fucking whining and start making shit happen. I’m stepping off of my soapbox now. Thanks for listening.
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