Presidential Panhandling

16 06 2009

I frequently get email messages from President Barack Obama.

That’s not what bothers me, even though I don’t remember asking to be included in his email distribution list. What bothers me is that most of the time he’s writing to ask for money.

The thing is, he and I aren’t even related. It would be one thing if he were, say, a cousin writing me on a semiweekly basis to ask for money. But we don’t know each other personally and I didn’t elect him. He doesn’t come into my cafe and we don’t hang out on the weekends. What’s more, I’m pretty sure he ran a campaign promising lots of extra money for low-income families (mine is one) and also for owners of small businesses (I have one).

So why the hell is he constantly begging me for money?

It started last year when he was asking for campaign money to defeat the nefarious John McCain. Every day or two, either he or David Plouffe, his campaign manager, would ask me for five or ten bucks. The requests were innocuous enough and usually went something like this:

From the very beginning, this campaign has been in your hands. Now more than ever, we’re counting on you to see it through. Watch the video Joe and I recorded and make a donation of $5 or more now. – Barack

As election day grew closer, they would promise an entry into a sweepstakes, of sorts, if I made a donation. An email from Barack’s CFO, Marianne Markowitz, read:

If you give today — any amount — you could be one of 5 first-time donors who will have a front row seat for the big Election Night event in Chicago with Barack. Make a donation of $5 or more right now!

When he won the election, I figured the emails would quit. But it turned out he needed help paying off the credit cards the Dems maxed out to hold their record-spending Democratic National Convention in my hometown of Denver. And when that happened, he didn’t want five or ten bucks. Now he wanted thirty. I got an email from David Plouffe shortly after Election Day that said:

They took out substantial loans to make it happen. The DNC didn’t hold back, and now, neither can we. We’re relying on grassroots supporters like you to come through for this movement once again. We’ll get to work transforming this country. But first, we need to take care of the DNC. Please make a donation of $30 or more today.

It didn’t sit too well with me that the amount for which Mr. Obama and Company were asking had gone up sharply, nor did I like the reason. Why wouldn’t they raise their money ahead of time and spend what they had? Do elections now go to the person who can not only raise the most money, but also borrow the most money?

Shortly before Christmas, they shifted tactics and tried to sell me Obama­™ merchandise to use for Christmas presents. The email read:

It’s been just over a month since Election Day, and we’re getting ready to change America. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it in a single day.  But thanks to supporters like you, change is coming. Make a donation of $35 and get a limited edition, full-color calendar featuring photos of President-elect Obama and his family from the campaign trail.

At least this time they were hawking something and not just begging for cash. But the fact that he was selling photos of himself was a little egotistical, and something just sounded funny about the whole idea. What would we say if other world leaders like Ahmedinijad, or Queen Elizabeth, or Kim Jong Il, started little home businesses selling photos of themselves? It just doesn’t seem quite right for the leader of a country. And alarmingly, we seemed to have set a new threshold of $35 per request now.

Well, I thought, surely after the inauguration is over, the president will be able to quit the virtual panhandling and get down to the business of “fixing” all the things he said were wrong with the country. Right?

Right. Well, until May. About a month ago, David Plouffe started hitting me up to donate to the president again. He was back to only asking for five bucks again, but this time they needed to buy some new advertising.

We knew healthcare reform would face fierce opposition — and it’s begun. As we speak, the same people behind the notorious “swiftboat” ads of 2004 are already pumping millions of dollars into deceptive television ads. Their plan is simple: torpedo healthcare reform before it sees the light of day by scaring the public and distorting the President’s approach. Please donate $5 or more by midnight Sunday to fight back against these phony attacks and take our message of reform to the American people.

I didn’t at all like the precedent being set here. Now, each time the public’s opinion needs to be shaped by advertising (or in this case, counter-advertising) we should all step up and throw some more cash into the kitty?

And worst of all, I still don’t see anything improving. I still have friends losing their jobs or unable to find work. I don’t see the stock market rebounding. Prices are still high at the gas pump. My gay friends are still upset that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hasn’t been repealed. Nothing I can see has been done to provide realistic, better-than-abortion alternatives to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Mostly I see people all across the political spectrum still waiting for something to happen.

How long will we wait?

And all the while, I keep getting begged for money by the man who assured us he would fix everything.

It’s ironic that the same operative word is still in play here — “change.” Before, the Obama Crew were promising change for America. Every commercial had the word “change” three or four times. Now, I go to my email box and find out that they’re no longer promising change FOR America — they’re asking for change FROM America. Literal change — nickels, quarters and dollars. (As Inigo said in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”) 

In the same way that people in the Wal-Mart parking lot constantly ask if I can spare some change, the presidential powerhouse has morphed into some horrible sort of executive panhandling franchise. The only differences between them and the people in the Wal-Mart parking lot are 1) They wear nicer clothes, 2) They ask for larger sums of money, and 3) They don’t really need the money.

Today came the straw that broke the camel’s back. This email was addressed from Barack personally. It read:

Last year, millions of Americans came together for a great purpose. Today, spiraling health care costs are pushing our families and businesses to the brink of ruin, while millions of Americans go without the care they desperately need. Fixing this broken system will be enormously difficult. And just like before, I cannot do it without your support. Will you donate whatever you can afford to support the campaign for real health care reform in 2009?

So let me get this straight, Mr. President. I’m already paying, via my tax dollars, a $400,000 annual salary for you to serve as President of the United States. You’ve gone to my elected officials to ask them to approve a budget of over three trillion dollars for you to do that job.

And that’s not enough? In order to execute your office successfully, you now need me to mail in “whatever I can afford?”

With all due respect, Mr. President, just where the hell do you think that money is going to come from? I work over 90 hours a week to try to support a family of six and run a successful business. I have a nonfunctional vehicle in need of about $4,000 in repairs. I would like to eventually be able to move to a house that has more than one bedroom and one bathroom.

So please pardon me if I express a large amount of personal distaste over the way you constantly email me to beg for money.

Say all you want about George W. Bush and his job performance, which I’m willing to concede was horrible at best, but I can’t help thinking that at least he never sent me an email that sounded like a panhandler’s tragic-plight sales pitch.

So please, Barack (as you like to sign your emails, to make me feel like we’re on a first-name, hey-dude-lend-me-some-cash basis), spare me the hype over the historicness of your presidency and get to work bringing about the change you promised instead of just begging for it.

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6 responses

16 06 2009
terri

Great post…have you checked to see if these are really from the obama and his people and not some pretending to be them by using their name etc scamming people out of their money thay really isn’t going to what the email says and to the people that sent it. I remember hearing something awhile back on cnn that the emails you are getting are scams. Any way I think it is nothing but someone scamming using obamas name to do it.

17 06 2009
Granny

Well said, Rob. We are, indeed getting “Change For the Worse”. Don’t miss Ante Penne’s new posting on her blog. You’ll love it!

17 06 2009
Granny

Correction : Ante Pasta Blog!

18 06 2009
Shawnna

Couldn’t have said it better (except for the former President George W. Bush part). All I see so far is a lot of change for the worse. I don’t need (or want) the government intruding into my (and my fellow Americans) life. This is just what is happening. Not the “change” that everyone had in mind, I’ll wager to say.

21 06 2009
Sharon

He told us all along it was about Hope and Change. What he meant was, “I hope you’ll keep giving me all your change.”

26 06 2009
pennepasta

I didn’t think I’d read the whole thing, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. If one were actually TRYING to foment revolution, it could hardly be worked with any greater degree of perfection than by our current commander-in-chief. I thought Bill was slick. I thought George was power hungry. They’re rank amateurs, by comparison. Good post.

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