Friday, February 20, 2009

On Obama

I’ve long had mixed feelings about Obama. I’m no Democrat, but during the primary campaign I was rooting for him. I have nothing but contempt for the Clintons, and it was gratifying to see someone defeat them and all their moral squalor.

But I realize that Obama was a lawyer that never won a significant case, and a law professor that never wrote a treatise. He was a community organizer that left no enduring legacy in his community. He is an orator who seems flat and uninspiring when talking about anything other than the meaning of his own personal story.

He is the perfect president for our age. We’ve long told ourselves that we can judge the quality of a person not by what they do, but rather by examining the strands of their ethnic and political genealogy. Like Germans measuring human skulls, we examine his past – half black, half white, both a Muslim and a Christian background, child of a single mother – and we convince ourselves that such a mix must be the sign of an extraordinary person.

Is he a radical, some secret socialist? I don’t think so. I don’t think he believes in anything. He has only ever been motivated by the search for praise he can believe in. He gravitated towards Ayers and Wright because they seemed to him like important people, they could set him up in politics, and they praised his wisdom as he sat at their feet. I have no doubt that if David Duke and Timothy McVeigh held the keys to Chicago politics and told him he had a mission for America he would have embraced them as well.

Being a Chicago pol is surely no mark against his character. Harry Truman allied himself with some pretty shady characters too. But Harry sought out politics as an avenue for success after a long and ignoble string of failures. He was looking for something to be good at. Obama was never allowed to fail - at anything. I think he’s spent all of his adult life around people that would never allow him to fail, because of what he represents. Oh, how much better I would feel about him if I could look in his past and see one, just one, failure! Some experience, some confrontation between the realities of the world and a personal limitation that would have taught him something.

So we’ve lifted him aloft, this person of no failure, of no success. He didn’t climb there. I’m convinced that he entered last year’s primaries in the hope he might establish a basis for a future run. Chicago politics teaches you to wait your turn. I think he was as surprised as anyone that his smug reliance on some Iraqi invasion position statement as his sole distinguishing asset from Hillary provided traction. I think he was as surprised as anyone at the way the strands of his identity captivated the media, and how the absence of any earthly accomplishment lent his identity a mystic, uncorrupted brilliance.

Nothing in his past suggests how he will handle criticism, or failure. There is nothing that suggests flexibility or determination or the ability to make an ally of a former enemy, and these are the key markers of a skilled politician. His rise was the rise of a balloon. He’s never fought a bill through a legislature, negotiated a compromise, cleaned up after a disaster, built a team (or anything else), or even dealt with a hostile audience.

So even if he is a socialist, like some Republicans claim, nothing in his background suggests that he has the skills or ability to realize a long-term political vision. So far all he is doing is pandering to the pent-up demands of Democrats, in the vain hope he can continue to live off their praise. We have a complex polity, and there is no telling how he will react when the inevitable fissures start appearing among Democrats. He’ll have to choose, and find some Republican allies at the same time as he prevents further Democratic erosion.

There is no reason to believe he’ll have the skill to do that. In fact there is no reason to believe he has the skill to do anything at all. Obama brings nothing to the office other that a thirst for reassuring praise.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Octomom Mortgage Rescue Plan

Obama's Mortgage Rescue plan is only going to make things worse. For every Octomom family that it rescues from greedy bankers, a dozen other families will find mortgages priced out of their reach. Since it imposes additional costs and risks on mortgage providers, fewer new mortgages will be offered.

Why would a bank - any bank - take the risk of offering a mortgage? Consider that our government provides finding for ACORN, which will now use civil disobedience tactics to prevent foreclosures. It is far safer to invest in Chinese coal plants. The Chinese economy is troubled too, but at least in China there is a government that is willing to support investors.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Octomom Stimulus Bill of 2009

Congressional bills that gather public attention are often given names to personalize them, so that we can put a person’s face to the injustice addressed by the bill. Hence we have the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Ryan White Care Act for AIDS funding, But so far the stimulus bill has just been, well just the “Stimulus Bill” or the “Stimulus Package” in the public mind, and this may be one reason why the public is less than enthusiastic.

To me, however, it should be named the Octomom Stimulus Bill of 2009, because if there is one person in America who personalizes all the subsidies and incentives that the bill contains, it is Nadya Suleman. You see, it’s all about “helping families” and Nadya’s little family is one in desperate need of truly heroic assistance. No doubt her current food stamp allotment is insufficient for their needs, and so the bill has increases for that. The federal Medicaid system and California’s Medi-Cal system are running deep deficits, and so additional funds are being appropriated so that the Neonatal ICU costs (running into the millions of dollars) for 8 premature births can be covered. Nadya lives off the disability payments for some of her other children, and they’ll be increased. Sadly, when you have 8 premature births, it is all too likely that at least a few of them will suffer from some disability, and so Nadya can look forward to better times ahead. Nadya lives off public assistance and her parents went bankrupt from a “bad real estate investment” – no doubt they were fleeced by some greedy bankers. So we can all be thankful that there are provisions in the Octomom Stimulus Bill of 2009 to help families just like these.

We have to “invest in our future” so there are copious finds for education, like increases in Pell grants. Nadya, of course, plans on living off “student loans” in the near term, and she’ll use college daycare facilities (also increased by the plan) while she is pursuing the rigorous and exacting demands of a degree in counseling. With 14 children she’ll no doubt do very well with the increases in the Child Tax credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

In the heydays of Stalin and Breshnev, the Soviet Union was peppered with posters of heroic labor in the form of huge, broad-shouldered men working in steel plants, striving mightily to meet the production goals of the latest Five Year Plan. Obama – no novice when it comes to iconography - should fill the nation with posters of Nadya. We want jobs, and this woman is perhaps the most heroic creator of jobs in our time. Think of the nurses and doctors caring for her newborns. Think of the daycare workers that California State University will have to hire at public expense. We’ll need more special ed teachers. She’ll need to employ lawyers to help her continue to game the subsidy system. Think of the increased demand for school construction and “infrastructure” that will be needed to house and transport her little brood.

Octomom is a hero of modern American labor.

At first glance, you would think all of this is a burden on the taxpayers. It isn’t. Right now we’re still in the flush years, when we can lower taxes, increase spending and blissfully ignore the fact that foreign creditors fund our daily living. The Octomom Stimulus bill is just the latest manifestation of this madness. There is a bubble in Treasury debt as sure as there was a housing bubble, and a dotcom bubble before that. Of course the Chinesee and Arabs will continue to buy our debt. They’ll always be happy to make the sorts of “investments in the future” that we dare not ask our own taxpayers to fund.

And why wouldn’t they? Loaning us money so we can fund the likes of Octomom is such a sound investment! Sure, there might be a net drain on the economy for the next decade or so while we nurse these children, care for them while mom is at school, and then pay counselors to deal with their neglect. But once this woman gets her state-subsidized degree in counseling, I’m sure she’ll be a productivity dynamo. I’m sure patients will be lining up at her office door and she’ll be making millions of dollars a year, so she can repay, through taxes, all those subsidies. You can tell from her personal insight and level-headedess that she’ll be in great demand as a counselor.

Never mind that Nadya’s own mom has one of these “soft” degrees as well: a degree in “Child and Adolescent Development.” We can all take comfort in the belief that increased funding for child development education is the best guarantee that our children will grow up to be mature, responsible, and productive adults like Nadya.

Completely absent from the Octomom Stimulus Bill of 2009 is any recognition that we can restore the health of our economy by making things and providing services that other nations will pay for. We’ll invest much more in education, which, increasingly in modern America means not investment in providing an engineering education, but rather in training some adults to console and counsel other unhappy adults. The Octomom Stimulus Bill is built on the bubbly delusion that the rest of the world will blindly invest in the spawning, cuddling, coddling, and counseling of future Americans.

Gosh . . . I feel so, so … stimulated!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Sight of an Angel

Sometimes a seemingly insignificant encounter leaves me oddly unsettled. For days afterwards, some nugget of feeling that it provokes still echoes around inside, as if it has some sharp edges that prevent it from settling within.

The other day as my wife, my daughter, and I walked out of a building, I heard my wife say hello to someone who was approaching us. When I looked at the women I quickly realized this wasn’t anyone I knew, and as I stopped to give them time to chat I became engrossed in something unusual that was happening at the same time.

The women had a small girl with her, and as the woman and my wife started talking, the little girl approached my daughter. And continued to approach. She was small, and a lot younger than my daughter, and she kept on approaching until her face was just a few inches from my daughter’s chest.

For an instant – just an instant - I was bemused inside, remembering the Seinfeld “close talker” episode about the unspoken social boundaries we maintain. But for just an instant, because then an extraordinary series of sharp, stabbing realizations took place.

The little girl was the woman’s daughter.

As she began to look up and speak to my daughter, I could tell from the sound of her voice and the odd shape of her teeth that she was suffering from some disability.

I felt an inner wave of sympathy for her mother, the frightening “there but for the grace of God” realization that all my happiness is contingent on the well-being of my children, and how fragile that well-being is.

I realize I’m staring at the little girl, and I know I should look away. I should not stare.

But I could not take my eyes off the little girl. There was such a hunger in her close approach to my daughter, and when she looked up at my daughters face I saw such an unmixed delight in the simple experience of talking to another. And seeing another. No, I could not look away, because when she started to smile up at my daughter it was like a sunburst. She was not suffering. No one who smiles like that, no one who speaks with such joy can be said to be suffering.

Later on I asked my wife about her, and I got the details. She’s going blind and she will die, and so I had a story that I could hang my feelings on. There was a reason for the sadness and fear that I felt. But I had no story that explained the other feeling - the feeling that I had witnessed some earthly manifestation of God’s transcendent light in her little smile.

My eyes will not see forever, and I will die someday. She didn’t know my daughter, yet she took such joy in finding my daughter’s face in the fading light of the world. I know my daughter, and I’m ashamed that familiarity has dulled the wondrous sight of her in my eyes.

Someday my light too will fade. Someday my eyes too will struggle to find my daughter’s face within the growing darkness. Let there be light.