I missed president Obama’s press conference. Probably because it took place during the 2.5 hours of family time we have (including dinner) before the kids go to bed, and because afterwards I was either too busy catching up on reading and/or writing, or too tired to remember to turn it on. (To give you an idea how busy, it took a full 24 hours or more to get from the idea for this post to actually writing it.)
Thankfully, the blogosphere brought me up to speed this morning, so I know what I missed. And, thanks to Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, I know I missed a moment that would surely have had me yelling, “Are you kidding me!?” at the television screen.
The strangest question from President Obama’s press conference last night came by way of NBC News’ Chuck Todd. Twelve hours later, I’m still not sure what he was thinking.
“Some have compared this financial crisis to a war, and in times of war, past presidents have called for some form of sacrifice. […]
“Why, given this new era of responsibility that you’re asking for, why haven’t you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?”
When the president responded by pointing all of the many ways in which Americans are alreadysacrificing in the midst of an economic crisis, Todd wasn’t satisfied. In a follow up, the NBC White House correspondent asked why Obama has called on “specific” sacrifices from Americans. And again, the president explained, “[T]he American people are making a host of sacrifices in their individual lives.”
The transcript doesn’t quite do it justice, though. Let’s go to video. shall we?
And there you have reason #1,674,395 why I could never be president of the United States. Because my initial response to that question would be, “You’re kidding me, right?” That would be my external response. My internal response would be “What the fuck is the matter with you?”
I know of no other appropriate response to anyone who doesn’t know, or has managed not to know, how many different ways Americans are sacrificing in this economy, in ways both large and small.
- The 5.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits have already and will almost certainly continue to sacrifice. (That’s up from 4.8 million in January, by the way.
- They’ll sacrifice even more if the trend of employers challenging unemployment benefits continues.
- Some Americans are sacrificing their fertility — getting vasectomies, because they’re losing their jobs and health insurance, or fear they soon will.
- Some Americans are sacrificing their ambitions — that is, going to the school of their choice, because of concerns about the economy, tuition costs, and the availability of financial aid.
- Some Americans are sacrificing their homes, even though they’ve paid their rent on time.
- Some Americans have sacrificed their savings, security, and retirement to a freewheeling financial sector and a system that couldn’t be bothered with oversight and accountability if it got in the way of profit.
- Young and old Americans are sacrificing; the latter by continuing to work because they can no longer afford to retire, and the former by going without work due to having to compete with older workers.
- Some Americans are sacrificing by going abroad to find affordable health care, if comfort and convenience count, rather than sacrificing their health.
- Some Americans are sacrificing their jobs, including 1,400 postal workers.
More Americans that previously thought have sacrificed having a job, with an unemployment rate that’s probably around 9.5% now.
- Some Americans are sacrificing by taking lower paying jobs in order to have work at all.
- African Americans are sacrificing livelihoods, as they are laid off at a higher rate than their white counterparts.
African American men in particular are
sacrificingsacrificed in this job market.
- Some Americans are sacrificing Starbucks, by making more coffee at home.
- More and more Americans are afraid they’ll have to sacrifice their standard of living. Permanently.
- Americans who still have paychecks are sacrificing more of them, as prices continue to rise.
- American educators are
sacrificingsacrificed in massive layoffs, in school districts all over the country.
- In February 30% more American homeowners sacrificed or came closer to sacrificing their homes. (Including some residents of Sesame Street.
- Between vanishing jobs and rising consumer prices, more Americans are sacrificing their credit ratings. (What was that about getting people spending again? Maybe getting people working again should come first.)
- Some Americans are sacrificing in plain sight, the economic downturn having shined a spotlight on hidden homelessness. We can’t help but see them, sleeping in cars and sometimes in storage units, now that shelters have waiting lists and routinely have to turn people away.
- Cities are sacrificing public space for the shantytowns erected by the increasing numbers of homeless.
- Even as shantytowns go up, 1 in 9 homes stand vacant in neighborhoods across the country, passing on sacrifice in the form of lower property values, blight, increased crime, etc.
- Their children — 1 in 50 of them, to be exact — are sacrificing too. And, being homeless, they’ll sacrifice even more … Developmentally, that is.
- Some American workers are
sacrificingsacrificed, as employers resort to layoffs just small enough to fly under the radar, and avoid federal laws requiring they warn workers about upcoming layoffs.
- The poor and people of color may sacrifice more, as the job shortage, the rising cost of education, and the shortage of public welfare push more of them towards military service.
- Some 31.8 million Americans now receiving food stamps are trying to avoid sacrificing (any more) meals.
- We’re all sacrificing by paying more for health care, to cover the uninsured. Especially since health care costs now top $8,000 per person.
- Some Americans are potentially sacrificing their health by skipping medications, in order to save money.
- Just when health care gets more expensive, Americans forced into unpaid furloughs are sacrificing, just to keep their jobs and keep their coworkers from being laid off.
That’s just a sampling of American “sacrifice,” culled from headlines going all the way back to January 2009. A more comprehensive complication would require reaching all the way back into 2008 and possibly 2007.
And, yes, to be fair, the rich have sacrificed too. Millionaires have seen their assets shrink, leaving them pretty pissed off at their financial advisors. Even Forbes’ “rich list” reveals the world has lost a few hundred billionaires. Even the guy at the top of the new heap, Bill Gates, is worth a mere $40 billion, down $18 billion. And Warren Buffet, number two on the “rich list” is down $25 billion, to just $37 billion.
So, sacrifices have been made all around, though the sacrifices listed above were made by people without hundreds of billions to fall back on. Plus they were made even in the midst of a bank bailout costing over $4 trillion, and bonuses paid to 80% of Wall Street.
Oh, and one more thing.
Like I said. I can’t think of a more appropriate response than “Are you fucking kidding me? But that’s one of many, many, many reasons why Obama is president and I’m not.