Our Campaigner in Chief has once again hit the town hall circuit, criss-crossing the country for a barbecue here and a backyard there. My opinion doesn’t count for much, but if he were so concerned about greenhouse gasses, he might consider abandoning Air Force One (does it really cost a million dollars a trip to take him for a spin?) and hunker down for the duration to work on real problems, like a faltering economy, massive debt and high unemployment.
But no, I understand the President’s compulsion to get out there and rally the vote. All politicians, not just Democrats, are suffering from the malaise of the masses finally having it up to here with career politicians. I might be the ultimate cynic, but I’m not the only one who thinks we’ve been had, if not royally screwed.
President Obama is in his element when he’s in campaign mode. Such junkets are usually a love fest between the adoring crowd and the leader of the free world. The participants are vetted and chosen, sometimes positioned in the crowd so that they will make the most impact visually. Remember, TV is important. Most of the time these events are invitation only, meaning anything other than a Democrat would have a snowball’s chance in hell of gaining entrée.
So I yawn, ho-hum. Yes, he is my president too, but so far I have been overloaded with information. The rhetoric is the same-old, same-old. To be honest, unless spectacularity isn’t screaming in the headlines, I’d rather dig in my garden.
But wait a minute. Just when I think the supply of softballs is unending, along comes a regular person like Velma Hart. This Democrat, who yes, believes in, and voted for Obama, had the unmitigated gall (or courage) to ask him perhaps the toughest set of questions he has been lobbed since taking the oath of office. More than a few media personalities and talking heads should take note.
As I watched the video, I was struck by Ms. Hart’s sincerity, her tenacity and her level-headed thinking. Here was someone, just like me, who harbored the same worries about her life and the lives of her family. She worries about going back to the days of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, just as I do. She posed the question “Is this the new normal?”
Well, Ms. Hart (and the rest of the country), welcome to my world. Your “new” normal has been my normal since 2001.
A strong comparison can be made between the state of Michigan and the rest of the country as a whole. We have here a state that has been bleeding jobs, and thus population. Michigan’s expenses far exceed what it makes in taxes, what with social services, bloated government, high prison population and legacy costs of benefits and retirement for state workers. Personal income tax and small business tax do nothing to lure business to make a home here. Cut spending? Ha, ha — the idea! It’s more exciting to teeter on the edge of insolvency. Besides, we can make do on stimulus money or hope for a bailout. The corruption in Detroit is not only embarrassing, but we’ve also seen, as the layers are peeled away little by little, that it also costs all of us untold millions.
The fun ride for the rest of the cash-strapped country is just beginning; here, it’s been in full swing for almost a decade. Had Velma beenliving here, she would have left years ago.
Business is declining, yet we work longer hours. We are petrified of a future with no Social Security or Medicare, so we save more. The unknown has us cutting down on improvements to home and business, freezing salaries, buying used cars instead of new. There are no more vacations on a whim like we could when we were younger and had money to burn. I use my time and airfare to visit family, and instead of renting a car, I mooch one from a relative. I grow my own food, do my own yard work, clean my own house, cut and color my own hair. I buy more of my groceries in bulk. If an item isn’t at least 50% off, I won’t buy it at all. We don’t eat out as often as we used to, and splurge on really good dinners on weekends only.
We can’t sell our house, because it’s worth about half what we paid for it. We’ve been thinking of renting out the extra bedrooms, but we may need them for when the kids might have to boomerang back to the nest. It took eight months for my son to find a part-time job after graduating from college, and who knows if the daughter can find employment in two years when she has her degree.
The Obama road show brought another pressing question in yesterday’s backyard barbecue in Iowa. David Greenspon wanted to know why the president was in favor of a tax increase for those making $250,000 or more. The answer? More double-speak about tax breaks and supposed incentives only a few are eligible for and a quick soft-shoe away from the issue.
Although we own our own business, we don’t make Mr. Greenspon’s kind of money, but I feel his pain. Our income doesn’t afford us the privilege of kicking back and relaxing. There are constant worries: increased state and federal taxes and health care costs. Any misstep and we are one shoe away from disaster. On the other end, we are not directly related to the auto industry, but if local unemployment remains high, our customer base dries up. Another industry has yet to move in and take the place of the Big Three.
Our “normal” is not one I had envisioned. Years of hard work and perseverance, of high ethics and a desire to do a good job have little chance of being rewarded these days. We have no guaranteed pension, just what we have saved, and it’s not enough to retire on. It’s not a joke when I state plainly that we will work until we drop dead.
The new normal is a roller-coaster ride of uncertainty.
Get used to it.