I have been trying to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt. He inherited some difficult, perhaps unsolvable problems, and took office amidst impossible expectations at the behest of a notoriously fickle electorate willing to deify or crucify their candidates on a whim. Our president is in a tough spot, and up to now I felt it appropriate to cut him a bit of slack.
An elderly woman sits by an old wood stove, shivering, clutching a cracked cup of tea. She takes solace in her grim retirement from her only companion, her cat, who watches quietly as the woman rocks in her chair, alone and forgotten, dreading the landlord’s knock at the door.
A long-suffering, underpaid civil servant or a private sector retiree?
The recession has devoured much of our attention this year, but relief has finally arrived with the escalation of partisan bickering over just what House Speaker Pelosi knew or did not know about waterboarding and the enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the CIA at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The press releases and news conferences on Capitol Hill have provided a distraction from some truly unsettling events on the world front, ominous because they have progressed inexorably for years and may soon come to fruition.
When good behavior comes from a place where you least expect it, that good behavior should be reinforced in hopes that it will become something other than an aberration. We slighted our government by not commending it for something it did correctly last year. Frankly, there are very few instances where we can point to our public officials and say “Nice job.” This was one of those instances, and not only did we drop the ball by not giving credit where it was surely due, but we condemned the incident and our officials in favor of defending individuals who entered our country unbidden and broke our laws.
My commute to the office each morning is brief, allowing just enough time to listen to the headlines. I am largely unacquainted with talk radio, a media genre popular with those who are stuck in their vehicles for hours on end, so when Michael Savage was mentioned in a recent news article, I did not know who he was.
I was appalled, but not surprised, at last week’s reports that Citigroup has been requesting permission from Treasury Secretary Geithner to pay out millions in bonuses. Enlivened, but not yet saved by a $45 billion taxpayer-provided lifeline, Citigroup is reportedly still undercapitalized by as much as $10 billion. Undaunted by the dim assessment of its financial health, Citigroup has taken issue with the government’s figures, as it suggests that the time has come not to reward its employees for their hard work, but to pay them extra so they don’t leave their jobs for something that pays even better.
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
There is a contradiction in the way Americans view themselves and their country that has become all too obvious as we cope with this recession. The by-the-bootstraps mythology that suffuses our popular culture and dominates our portrayal of our nation to the rest of the world has been replaced by illusions of naiveté and helplessness.
Six weeks of stock market gains have shifted recession rhetoric to a tone of cautious optimism. Even financial icons Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are sounding optimistic, suggesting that they will return their TARP handouts in a veiled effort to free themselves from government restraints.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary released April 17, 2009, paints a different picture.