Friday, January 23, 2009

Baby boomer Obama

My brother just wrote an email suggesting that Obama was not a baby boomer and that he will distinguish himself from his predecessors because he is of Generation X, not a selfish baby boomer. Well, Obama is technically a baby boomer, if you believe that hooey. I think astrology is more useful as an indicator of human behavior. What sign is he?

[I have an old girlfriend who just told me she is Aquarius with Scorpio rising. Well, she certainly made this Scorpio rise, but that had more to do with her birthday suit than her birthday.]

Anyone who looks at Bill Klinton and George W. Bush and sees them as alike because of their relative nearness in age is not a serious onlooker of history.

And if we're going to use hyphenated prefixes to describe Obama's particular flavor of American, then let's not stop at African. We must describe him as half-African-American. I don't know what the other half is and it does not seem to matter to most people. Even though the African parent spent less than a day with him after he had left Obama's mother, and it was his non-African mother and grandparents who raised him, his father's line gets top billing. How patrimonial!

We bother to distinguish between French and Italian and Irish and German Americans (although we do rightly tend to lump English, Scots and Welsh into the group British-Americans). We don't call all white people Euro-Americans. No one would mistake a Russian accent for a Mexican one (although we probably would not pick up Alsatian as Robert Redford does at the end of "Three Days of the Condor" when he confronts hit man Max Von Sydow). And yet we are to believe that all Africans are the same; Kenyans, Tunisians, Hutu and Tutsi They seem to distinguish each other somehow, sometimes cleaving the difference with a machete, but they all look alike to us (except those descendants of Boers, like Teresa Heinz Kerry; she's white! How dare she call herself African-American just because she actually came to America from South Africa).

I remember my niece excitedly talking about the international students at her college and how some of them were African-Americans (not blacks and not Africans -- "African-Americans from other countries!"). Look, if we really intend to remark upon a person because of the color of his skin, and I see no reason to, let's refer then to his skin color and not the continent where some of his descendants came from. And let's be more accurate about it. Barack and Michelle are not the same color, and neither is black.

I am not impressed with Barack Obama. He voted present more often than not in his short and undistinguished career. When and if he actually does something, I shall judge him on that basis and not on his relative age or skin color.

As for his wife, she received a $195K raise after her husband became a US Senator, probably solely because of his new position. Obama obliged by granting her employer $millions in earmarks. She went on to spend most of her time on the campaign trail and could not have done much real work for them as "VP of community affairs". Not a problem, she had already done her job (or I should say, Barack did it for her) by securing the money. Her raise in pay was a kickback. Nice kickback. Perfectly legal, too. And it turns out that, now that she has moved on to Washington and resigned her position, the hospital has decided that it really does not need a "VP of community affairs" after all and is not going to replace her, not even with someone willing to work for less than $317K.

With her, I'm impressed, but not in a nice way -- and I think it has nothing to do with her skin color, nor her relative age.

But these are our overlords. They live by their own rules. They are better than us, or they think they are. Obama's pick for Treasury Sec'y used to work at the International Monetary Fund -- what better qualifications for overlord? He had to be reminded by the IRS to pay his self-employment taxes (Social Security and Medicare) for 2003 and 2004. And he did pay them... late. Even though the IMF had promptly reimbursed him for those payments, making him sign a paper promising to use the money to pay his taxes -- he forgot somehow and pocketed the money. This is the guy we want in charge of the Federal fisc? A guy who forgets what money was supposed to go where? A guy who thinks paying his taxes is optional? This is the guy we want solving the Social Security crisis, a guy who forgets that Social Security is funded by taxes?

And, after the IRS reminded him of his 2003 and 2004 obligations, did he go back and pay his 2001 and 2002 obligations? He did not. Those were beyond the statute of limitations. He still owed the taxes, but could not be legally compelled to pay them. So he didn't (even though, he had been reimbursed by the IMF and signed the same notice saying that he understood what the reimbursements were for). He has paid them now, of course. Paid them while he was being vetted for the Treasury job. But would he have paid them otherwise? What reason do we have to believe he would? Under oath, speaking to Congress, he refused to answer the question. Well, at least he had the decency not to lie under oath. That's a step up from past Democratic administrations.

Shouldn't the same rules apply to all? And shouldn't the rules apply more strictly to those who seek to administer them?

But have no fear, Obama has signed a paper saying that he expects his administration to uphold high ethical standards. Of course, that is probably just lip service to soothe those who need such soothing, who hear words and feel no need to watch to see if actions match. He said the right thing. That's what matters, right?

And so, Obama promises to go beyond partisanship -- this after he trashed the previous administration and the opposition party in order to get elected. Oh yeah. The Congressional Republicans probably won't remember any of that. And they're mostly old baby boomers anyway.

1 comment:

der8700 said...

Well-written piece. But Obama is not a Boomer nor an Xer. As many nationally influential voices have repeatedly noted, Obama is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you'll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (New York Times, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) are specifically referring to Obama, born in 1961, as part of Generation Jones.