Happy Birthday, Mr. PresidentAnthony Gregory • Monday August 1, 2011 12:36 PM PDT •
If the debt ceiling deal works out, Obama will be able to fly back to Chicago and enjoy a Wednesday evening birthday extravaganza. According to the Chicago Tribune, the event will feature “Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock. There’s also a dinner fundraiser planned for some special donors to go with the show at a cost of $35,800 a person.”
This money-drenched gala might not go through, however, due to the budget deliberations now in the eleventh hour. If things go as planned, the president will have his celebration. If things stall, it might have to be canceled. Who but the president can arrange such a huge event and cancel at the last minute, as though plenty of resources aren’t wasted in such a contingency—as though canceling an event squeezed into one evening of his week actually demonstrates his genuine commitment to anything?
Obama will need his party, because it’s hard to see what else he’s getting for his birthday. In light of the budget deal, it looks like the left is finally considering ending its romance with the president. By caving on the question of increasing taxes on “top 1%,” the chief executive has betrayed his base in a way that the wars and civil liberties violations apparently did not—it is one thing to keep Big Brother fat and strong; it is another to refuse to soak the rich.
We can expect taxes to go up anyway. The Bush tax cuts will expire next year and the president is adamant not to renew them next time. Maybe it’s the symbolism that enrages the progressives. It must be, because left-liberals are spinning this whole spectacle as a triumph for the Tea Party. Conservatives, too, have encouraged this narrative insofar as they have argued that the activism on the ground has given a bit of spine to the Republicans, for once.
But it is all theater. Sure, it’s a good thing that people are at least aware, for the first time, that the debt ceiling is going to be raised. Yet when it almost inevitably comes, this will be the largest debt ceiling increase in U.S. history—by a whole $500 billion. The “cuts,” meanwhile, are illusory. Government is projected to grow every year by an obscene amount, and the Republicans and Democrats are talking about shaving a couple hundred billion off the annual budget.
A couple hundred billion is dwarfed by the $1.5 trillion or so that the deficit amounts to. The “cuts” appear even smaller when put against the nearly $4 trillion federal expenditures we see every year.
Both sides of the aisle are to blame, of course. The Democrats view the slightest challenge to the inexorable growth of the welfare state as anathema. The Republicans fight against cuts in defense spending, even when those are “cuts” in projected war expenditures that were never budgeted and when Obama is still planning to spend more on militarism than Bush did.
In the midst of all this theater and America’s deep financial problems, Obama the Birthday Boy is planning to return to the city where he learned how to be a politician and enjoy the music and fine dining that only the political class can command. His supporters will each pay more than the average American household takes in per year, after taxes, just for the privilege of sitting in the emperor’s midst as he celebrates turning 50.
Some will surely protest, feeling betrayed by the president. Whether liberals who see the man they elected as having caved to the right, or conservatives who see the man they hate continuing to rule over the largest government in world history, one by which their very own Republican representatives have become completely co-opted, everyday Americans will grumble that the U.S. president has failed to “lead” and instead is sitting, enjoying himself, surrounded by champagne and glitterati.
Not me. I’ve had enough of the president’s leading. I for one would prefer he do nothing but attend these events as if he were royalty. Congress can join him there, as far as I’m concerned. Just stop the taxing and spending on the supposed behalf of us regular people, and I’d gladly pay the small tribute needed to finance a permanent lifestyle of unparalleled luxury for all the members of Congress, the president and his cabinet. It is not what they do on their time off that bothers me. It is what they do on the job.
Obama plans to rush back to Washington Wednesday night. That way he can get back to showing the American people, disappointed allies and partisan foes alike, that he does indeed to be a “leader” after all. He will only observe his birthday for a few hours, then right back to work, “leading” the country through his political deal-making, “leading” the economy through his schemes of central planning, and “leading” the world through his multiple wars.
I’d rather he should just stay in Chicago, party all night and never come back.