March 5, 2008

Michelle Obama - A hand full of gimme and a mouth full of much obliged

beggingvasec.jpgThese men up north honey sure do make me tired
These men up north they surely do make me tired
They've got a mouth full of gimme, and a handful of much obliged

-- Ella Fitzgerald | Gulf Coast Blues

After hearing Michelle Obama's stump speech four times, New Yorker writer Lauren Collins offers this pearl:

"You're looking at a young couple that's just a few years out of debt," Obama said. "See, because, we went to those good schools, and we didn't have trust funds. I'm still waiting for Barack's trust fund. Especially after I heard that Dick Cheney was s'posed to be a relative or something. Give us something here!" -- Michelle Obama: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

"Give. Us. Something. Here!" -- The core Obama campaign slogan.

Can we get us something from the government? Yes we can!

Can we get us more from the government than we've gotten already? Yes we can!

Can we get us more of the same service that's given the country the USPS, the Social Security System, Medicare, and a tax code so complex it needs a semi-truck just to move it around town? Yes we can!


When I worked in book publishing in Boston, there was an old woman that haunted the sidewalk outside my office on Park Street. She stood there in all weathers working at her job. Her job was to ask every person that passed her on this busy downtown street, "Spare a quarter?"

She got a quarter out of about every fifth person. We once estimated she made about $75 a day, tax free. That worked out to a take homeless of $18,750 a year in 1983. Not bad when you considered that she had zero overhead.

Imagine that street worker transported to 2009 and endowed with the power not to ask but to demand a quarter from everybody who passed her to and from their way to work. This "on demand begging" boosts her up to $93,750 a year. In 1983 dollars. That makes her line of work look less like begging and more like a career. And that's what the Obama promises hold.

When a private citizen demands money from you it's called robbery or extortion. When the government does it, it is a tax. And lurking in the dark center of the Obama promise penumbra is a whole new class of taxes -- "fairness taxes." Taxes to make everything, once and for all, "fair." And once you get fairness taxes in, can reparations be far behind? Not at all.


So far criticisms of the Obama promise penumbra cite and stall at the feared "rollback" of the tax cuts. But to my mind that's only the beginning, the nose of the brontosaurus.

What's coming down the road right after the rollback is going to be a scary circus clown car stuffed to the grill with funny little fees, small little appropriations, wee adjustments, and a mess of other miniscule mischief aimed at making everything "fair." No single item will be large, but in aggregate your pocket will be plucked. Fairly.

"Fairness taxes" are the logical ideological extension of "government grants." But that does not mean that they will supplant such grants. Not at all.

"Fairness taxes" mean the empowerment of a thousand different victim and interest groups who have all been slighted and who will all be dipping their hands into your pockets all day, every day. Each hand will take out just a quarter. You can spare a quarter, can't you? You've got jars of them around the house, don't you? But can you spare the hundredth quarter? Quarter number 100,000? You will. In the same spirit of giving you have when you pay your taxes.

That's what happens when people who hope for spare change get to make their wishes into law. That's what happens when the "Spare a quarter?" crowd elects "Give. Us. Something. Here!"

To quote another bromide salesman at a tent revival, "Dig deep brothers and sisters. For the good work."

Posted by Vanderleun at March 5, 2008 8:54 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Somebody needs to commission a study on how many of these panhandlers there are from one year to the next.

And if the numbers ever dwindle, we should bring a bunch of experts on to the morning 6 o'clock news or the evening 10 o'clock news to wring their hands and give us some helpful advice about everyday things we can do to bring 'em back again. Perhaps we could establish a new government program to educate people about how a career in panhandling might be right for them. Some outreach to draw more panhandlers to certain street corners where they're in short supply.

Maybe we could offer the prospective panhandlers some tax brea-- oh, wait, nevermind on that one.

Posted by: Morgan K Freeberg at March 5, 2008 12:50 PM

The always perspicacious, but pseudonymous Spengler dissects Ms. Obama in this weeks column.

"Sing, O Muse, the Wrath of Michelle" by Spengler at on Mar 4, 2008:

The wrath of swift-footed Achilles, of which Homer called his muse to sing, nearly lost the Trojan War for the Greeks. The wrath of swift-tongued Michelle Obama well might lose the White House for her husband. ...

Barack Obama, I argued, evinces a preternatural sangfroid, for he is in America but not of it, a Third World anthropologist profiling Americans. But his wife's anger at America will out, for it is a profound rage amplified by guilt.

* * *

Princeton both humiliated her and corrupted her, Michelle Vaughn Robinson complains in an undergraduate prose that is all the more touching for its clumsiness. By condescending to the young black woman from a Chicago working-class family, the liberal university made Michelle feel like an outsider. Worse, by giving her a ticket to financial success, Princeton caused her to feel that she was selling out to the institutions she most despised.

Michelle's ambivalence towards Princeton, and by extension towards America, has the makings of a tragedy of the sort found in the novels of Theodore Dreiser or F Scott Fitzgerald, a fatal compromise in pursuit of status. Young Michelle felt she was betraying "lower class Blacks" by assimilating: ... Nonetheless, she was drawn moth-like to the flame of success ...

* * *

To the young Michelle's sense of hopelessness about the prospects for the black lower class, Princeton added something even worse, namely guilt over "striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates - acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation". Despite her black separatist sympathies, Michelle Vaughn Robinson succumbed to the temptations of which she wrote in her thesis and got a law degree from Harvard, earning around $400,000 a year in salary and corporate director fees by 2005.

Her "hopelessness", "frustration" and "disappointment" remain, exacerbated by guilt over her own success. That is not speculation, but a precis of her own account. One might speculate that the guilt became all the more poignant to the extent her success was unearned. Michelle Obama's employer, The University of Chicago Hospitals, paid her $121,910, a reasonable sum for the skill level evident in her thesis, but raised this to $316,952 shortly after her husband was elected US senator.

Unlike her husband, whose focus on his audience is unwavering, Michelle Obama remains at the mercy of the same internal conflict that she reported in her senior thesis. She is too bitter at the hopelessness of lower-class blacks to assimilate, but too attracted to money and privilege to reject white society. She hates the white institutions that made her prosperous, not only because they cannot solve the problems of the black lower class, but even more so because they made her feel guilty about her own success. ...

Posted by: Fat Man at March 5, 2008 5:26 PM

Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Lady Macbeth?

Posted by: Harry at March 5, 2008 6:16 PM

I am accepting reparations from the descendants of those who oppressed my ancestors in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Posted by: class factotum at March 6, 2008 7:15 AM

I remember that woman on Park Street! I worked at the State House at the time. Was walking up Park back to work after lunch. She asked me if I had a quarter. I told her I only had bills. Her classic response? "I can make change." I had to admire that kind of entrepreneurship - gave her 4 bits.

Posted by: Dunque at March 6, 2008 7:20 AM

So, folks are complaining about Hillary? Are they sick enough of the Clintons to want the Obamas?

Many are apparently, but wait until they get a load of the Missus. Michelle Obama is going to make us want to canonize Hillary:

Oh, golly, she and hubby had to pay back loans for going to Harvard and Princeton (or wherever)? How sad. Also how sad that our I-pod/cable TV/multiple-car family/McMansion lives have been so MISERABLE for decades now! Can't we please, PLEASE go back to the golden age of Levittown, black & white TVs and rotary phones? At least back then we had jobs for life and a pension . . . OOOPS! Unless you were "colored" that is. Heaven forfend if in the mystical, mythical golden age of "fairness" that a Michelle Obama, a woman -- and a black one at that -- should even dream of being a hospital administrator.

Can I puke now?

Oh, and by the way, Senator Obama DOES have one legislative accomplishment: a bill that commits .07 percent of U.S. GNP to "foreign aid." Supposedly, the imbeciles in both House passed it. Do the math: we have a $14 Trillion GNP, how much is .07 percent (as in seven tenths of one percent)? How many palaces, armored cars and Swiss bank accounts does that buy the likely (and often sole) recipients of that enormous largesse?

Can I puke again?

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at March 6, 2008 1:10 PM