Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Obama's Congressional Address & the 'Day of Reckoning'

Don't worry everybody. Joe Biden's got it covered. Federal bailout money won't be wasted, President Barack Obama told us last night, because he's put the vice president in charge of a "tough, unprecedented oversight effort." And, as the president added, "Nobody messes with Joe." So we're all set.

But seriously folks, President Obama, invoking an upbeat and optimistic tone that called upon America's can-do spirit, told a joint session of Congress last night, "We will rebuild. We will recover." He hopes that the barrels of federal dollars contained in the various stimulus packages will truly jump-start the economy. He says now's the time to "act boldly" and to fix the health care system, double the production of green fuel, halve the federal deficit within four years, raise taxes only on a tiny fraction of Americas, give soldiers better pay and better benefits, pull troops out of Iraq, move some more into Afghanistan, improve the nation's schools and, oh yeah, beat cancer.

Now I'm an optimist who loves to see an ambitious agenda fueled by smart, innovative ideas, determination and the ability to see that people of all ideological stripes have something worthy to offer. But when I listened to President Obama last night, I kept wondering how in the world we could implement and achieve even half of what he put on the table last night. Is it even possible? To do everything he talked about? Simultaneously?

For the past few weeks, I've been voraciously consuming articles and editorials about Obama's economic proposals, including the ginormous bailout bills, and watched the now-infamous CNBC commentator Rick Santelli off-the-cuff speech where he scoffed at the notion of bailing out the ailing mortgages of people who bought more house than they could really afford. Across the board, there seems to be confusion, uncertainty and no clear path out of this thicket of daily reports about the Dow's latest drop, the jobless numbers spiking and the businesses shutting down. Just yesterday, news reports contained dire info about Target's steep decline in profits.

New York Times columnist David Brooks last week was critical of the bailout for homeowners who've defaulted or are behind on their mortgages, saying the federal plan rewards bad behavior, but asked what other choice do we really have if we're to stop the economic hemorrhaging. ". . . [T]he sad reality is that in these circumstances government has to spend money on precisely those sectors that have been swinging most wildly -- housing, finance, etc. It has to help stabilize people who have been idiots."

President Obama last night said we've arrived at a national "day of reckoning" and that it's time to pay the price for living a lifestyle beyond our means for so long. We need to grow up and settle the bill. After listening to his prescription to pull us out of what some commentators are frighteningly likening to a modern day Great Depression, I find myself agreeing with the New York Daily News' sentiment on today's front page, "Hope He's Right." Americans are giving President Obama high approval numbers because the majority of them are taking a leap of faith; we're praying that he's right.

But then articles like today's Maureen Dowd column about the gross misuse of federal stimulus money are published (a bank that got $1.5 billion in bailout money and fired 450 employees "flew hundreds of clients and employees to Los Angeles last week and treated them to four days of posh hotel rooms, salmon and filet mignon dinners, music concerts, a PGA golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club with Mercedes shuttle rides and Tiffany swag bags") and steam starts pouring out of my ears. Where's Joe Biden? He's got to get on the case, pronto! Want to restore Americans' confidence, then the Obama folks need to put an end to this kind of this abuse ASAP.

Image credit: New York Daily News.

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