Work and Days

Everybody But You

The Forgotten American (Americanus oblitus)

Listening to the give-and-take entitlement bidding war between Hillary and Barack, I thought there must have been a number of Americans—tens of millions in fact?—whom they have more or less forgotten. Who are they?

The forgotten American day in and day out pays off his monthly mortgage—$1000, $1500, $2000 a month perhaps. That his house went up in value was no reason to take out a second for a new car or kitchen or to max out the charge cards or to trade up to a home he could not afford, power, or maintain. He was happy his equity went up and upset it went down, but he planned on paying his mortgage either way. When he got the flyer in the mail promising a “fixed” 1.9% interest rate he threw it away with the male enhancement and no-pain diet ads, knowing that anything too good to believe is too good to believe, and that his 5.8% fixed 30-year mortgage wasn’t all that bad anyway.

The forgotten American may have empathy for those who took out no-down payment loans, balloon payments, and interest only plans, but would never do so herself. She’s more worried about putting away $500 a month or so away for her kids’ college, since she assumes there is no scholarship waiting for her own, and doesn’t want them to go into any more debt than is absolutely necessary. So she passes on the bigger home, the Vegas vacation, and the SUV to ensure her children graduate without crippling loans.

The forgotten American has worries about Iraq, and while he claims he doesn’t think it is now a good idea, he admits at one time he did. He wants out and is tired of Iraq, but after we’ve come this far hates the idea of losing the war more than he does the war itself.

He doesn’t like Guantanamo, wire taps, and all the other security measures, but for all the rhetoric also doesn’t feel he or anyone else he knows has had his liberties abridged. He cares about charges the innocent might be unjustly targeted, but notices the last six years that in any given month someone from a mosque, a Middle East charity, or a community center is indicted or on trial for disseminating jihadist literature, raising money for terrorist groups, or recording anti-American radical Islamic propaganda—and he makes the connection between that activity and the sort of landscape that allowed the perpetrators of 9/11 to operate so successfully inside the United States.

The forgotten American likes it when we are liked abroad, but doesn’t much care if we’re not—since those who burn our flags, storm our embassies and damn us on television live in societies of the sort that few others want to visit, much less live in. We assume that the shaking fist on TV is not as representative as the near million who cross our border illegally to have what we take for granted.

The forgotten American has no grudge against Muslims, and wishes the Middle East well. But he doesn’t have much guilt over paying $100 a barrel oil, or the tens of billions in handouts to Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan. And when he sees the young bearded Muslim male shout ‘Death to America!” whether in Pakistan, Iran, or Egypt, or the paid intellectual on CNN rant about Americans from dictatorial Jordan or theocratic Saudi Arabia, he either turns the channel or the TV off altogether.

The forgotten American doesn’t know much about Harvard or Princeton, or private school for her kids, or prep schools she never went to, or jobs that pay over $300,000 a year, or million-dollar homes. But she is pretty happy to be an American and the chance to have a comfortable house, car, good food, security, and a clean, safe, and good community. As far as her own country’s past goes, she knows it was not perfect, but still good enough—and far better than the alternative, then or now. She doesn’t just see a past America of racists and sexists, but one far more complex whose toil and sacrifice built the roads and bridges she uses, the house she lives in, and the airport and train station she travels from.

The forgotten American gave up a long time ago on Hollywood—he doesn’t watch the Oscars or see the new movies, or know the names of the latest actors. A Sean Penn, or George Clooney or Tim Robbins is a blur, a vague memory that very wealthy people who fret over hairlines and wrinkles also feel bad that their politics aren’t listened to.

He likes a little action, mystery, and comedy in his TV fare and film, but he accepts that ultimately the villain is going to be a white guy, the more southern, pink, obese, and Christian the better. The American corporation—remember Hollywood is not run by corporations that cut costs and charge high prices, but rather by noble artists who “collaborate” and have neat logos and clever trademarks that pop up on the screen with cool music—usually has robbed or killed the heroine, or made medicine that crippled the third-world noble infant or weapons that killed the innocent and idealistic reporter, student, or social worker. He accepts generals are bad, and naïve privates good; that the robber and hustler in film are far better, not to say more interesting, than the fat balding wimp behind the desk. Teachers are heroic, never lazy, but they work in schools that are underfunded, yet full of Einsteins, Mozarts, and Shakespeares that remain undiscovered because of racism and sexism. And the forgotten American knows that in every film, in every episode that he watches now there is a conspiracy of some shady government entity or corporation that is out to “get” the whistleblower, the reporter, the writer, or soccer mom.

The forgotten American worries about health care and wishes everyone were covered somehow. But for now when her son turned 23 she helped him take out a catastrophic policy, and when he forgets to make the $200 a month payment, she ensures that it is paid.

She knows that she can scarcely, as it is, balance work, housekeeping, and kids—and would not be able to at all if just once she weakened, and smoked a joint before work, drank during the day, or popped pills at the office. She is sorry that others do and wants them to get help—and accepts that her government, or society, or parents, or some –ism or -ology, or she herself in the abstract will be blamed for others indulging in what she would not.

The forgotten American always pays his FICA and Medicare taxes, but assumes he may not get the Social Security payout that he’s been promised, and that more will go to those who either did not pay into the system or paid very little or saved not at all for their old age. He doesn’t know much about the stock market, but manages to save or have deducted $200-500 a month to put in a 401K or SEP account, counting on no one but himself, and assuming the government cares more about those who didn’t do what he did than those who did.

The forgotten American knows that if Obama is elected she and her husband will pay $4000 or $5000 more in income tax, and that or more when the Social Security cap on income is raised or abolished, and her children far more when they inherit what she’s already paid tax on once. But she doesn’t think the extra money will go to pay down the deficit, or make government run the country more effectively, or make the additional recipient of her redistributed money either better off or happier for it.

The forgotten American has respect for the illegal alien from south of the border who hammers shingles, and lays cement and is out cutting grass when too many strapping young suburbanites are still asleep from a long Friday night of video games and mall cruising. But he also knows that the mindset that says it is fine to break the law and enter a country illegally that is not your own, is not sustainable for the host, and establishes a precedent for the transgressor that all subsequent laws and regulations and protocols are similarly to be followed when helpful—and not at all when inconvenient.

The forgotten American listens to Hillary and Barack and thinks all these promises are nice and well and good, but figures that they expect someone like herself to pay for all those programs for all those who chose to live life differently than she did—for whom in most cases there was as much or more chances than she had. She wants to pay taxes and help, but shrugs that those who receive think it’s never enough—resentment, not gratitude is their more appropriate response for government help. And she assumes that Hillary and Barak, given what they make, don’t much care whether they pay a few thousand dollars more in their own taxes, and that they, like a John Edwards or John Kerry or Al Gore or Ted Kennedy, are rich enough to feel everyone else’s pain but her own.

I don’t know how many forgotten Americans there are out, but I have a feeling the answer may well determine the next election.

The Forgotten Issues

Consider: $100 a barrel oil/$4 a gallon gas; $25 a bushel for March spring wheat; $1.50 Euro; 1 trillion dollars of government bonds in Chinese hands. These are symptoms of a alternate reality that the candidates of both parties are not debating: the world in the last twenty years has copied U.S. economic practices, gotten very good at it, and now wants what we have and is planning to take it. So everything from fuel to food is up for global sale and billions abroad have the money now to bid on it. People abroad who used to work in stupid fashion, now work smartly—and in some cases harder, and longer, and more effectively than do we.

The U.S. will either rise to the challenge, improve our educational system, relearn the work ethic, encourage discipline, and unleash our talents and creativity and praise those who succeed—or fade, blaming others, ourselves, our parents, our ancestors for our current decline, trying to legislate what we can’t produce or fix, fearing rather than welcoming the challenge.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq?

Sen. Obama did not understand that al Qaeda in Iraq is there and it was started by Zarqawi who was there in Iraq before we arrived. The problem is that Obama has not studied the war or the nature of Pakistan’s Waziristan, so he continues to make these astounding assertions—anytime he speaks off the cuff, in reaction to charges he is too vague, strange things can happen.

It doesn’t compute

Obama was rightly chagrined by Hillary’s attacks on his kindergarten essays, but now he’s claiming that living in Indonesia at that age constitutes foreign affairs experience or at least sensitivity to different cultures. Hillary has bragged, by the same token, about her First Lady experience but now disowns NAFTA—everything bad Bill’s; everything good hers.

She’s right out of Sophocles now—eirôneia: every theme she’s long embraced—identity politics, multiculturalism, big-ticket entitlements, media favoritism, and race/class/gender pandering—has been trumped by the smoother, younger and more “authentic” Barack Obama. Now she’s complaining about the left-wing media bias!

Even her loose canon Bill is out loosened by his Michelle, who has been under wraps (?) much more than Bill has—lest she prove to be a Teresa Kerry. But then it’s a long campaign and whenever Michelle speaks, her eyes flash and she goes into the “I’m addressing another guilt-ridden white elite audience who must be reminded what they owe me for what I’ve suffered” mode. Serving up charismatic contempt for such people is all fine and good (I enjoy watching it), but it won’t work in East Los Angeles or Akron.

Obamamania now is based on our collective infantilism that we all want to be liked, to feel good, and so the country can find an easy fix to racial tension and unfair depiction here and abroad by taking 500mg 2x daily of a dashing, eloquent African-American novel candidate who offers ourselves painless absolution and turns the tables on our multicultural critics abroad. He is a vast void and anyone can put anything they want into him—ACLU liberal, across the aisle healer, kind moderate, you name it. He is a mirror and reflects what anyone wishes to see.

More on Obama

Obama is elegant and poised, but he has never run a campaign against a vigorous opponent or addressed hostile audiences or faced a mean press, or debated hard-core effective conservatives. So we don’t know how he’d react to the strain. Thus I don’t how he’d react if Sen. Clinton asked him the following tough questions that are legitimate concerns—other than to decry “guilt by association” and “McCarthyism”.

Why Sen. Obama do you belong to a church whose very platform and principles would mean that your own mother could never have really been welcomed? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why Sen. Obama would the racist Louis Farrakhan speak for two hours in praise of your candidacy? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why would your wife not once, but twice say that she’s never had pride in the United States until your ran for President? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why would that called General Petraeus a betrayer endorse you? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why would you have accepted donations from Bill Ayers who said that he had not done enough terrorist bombing against the United States in his youth? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why Sen. Obama are so many of your advisors—Ms. Power, or Mr. Malley, or Mr. Brzezinski–so critical of Israel, and so sympathetic to the Palestinians? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

But why, Sen. Obama, are there so many of these minor and irrelevant points that continue to be raised?

The answer is simply that Obama is a man of the hard left, and thus one must always worry about extremists or extremist themes that drift in and out of that general landscape. It won’t do to tsk, tsk Farrakhan anymore than it would a conservative to do the same with David Duke. The only difference between the late Timothy McVeigh and Bill Ayers was a question of magnitude and efficacy—not evil intent. Both targeted US governmental facilities with bombs. No politician would have visited a McVeigh (who likewise prided himself a pundit) to sound out his ideas or pay a cordial visit.

The net result is that Obama’s entire past coterie of associates should be reexamined. He should have daily tutorials on the major countries involved in the war on terror and the problems with each—and drop the talk about his foreign experience as a toddler in Indonesia.

The Colonels’ War

I have written often in the past about the role of the colonels in Iraq and why they should be promoted when up for general, since they are a singular generation with exceptional experience.

Despite the agony and ordeal of the US Army the last five years, we have witnessed a gifted cohort of officers below the rank of general essentially reverse the course of the entire war. The experience they have gained is invaluable and as a nation we can only pray that they are retained, and rewarded for their courage and brilliance. At some point, as was true in 1940-1, there has to been a generational change in the military, in which a David Petreus, not a Tommy Franks, is the model that guides our forces this next half century.
Nothing will bemore important than the news from the next round of military promotions, especially the type of colonel that is promoted and the reasons why. We are at a crossroads. Twenty-years from now we need 4-stars protecting us who once were colonels that saved Anbar.