Saturday, January 21, 2017

Inauguration Day

"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."

Donald Trump, Jan. 20, 2017

Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States yesterday.

Now there are 11 words I never expected to string together in a sentence.

I didn't get to see it happen. I was at work. But I always wish an incoming president well and withhold judgment until he has taken office and actually done something. I always hope the president succeeds, whether I voted for him or not. His success is my success.

And I really haven't had much of an opportunity to watch the highlights. I was at my part–time job this evening, just got home a short while ago, and I have seen a few highlights although probably not enough to get a true feeling for what the experience was like.

But I feel strangely optimistic tonight. It's an odd sensation for me because I really haven't felt that way much for many years now.

I lost my job around the time of the economic implosion in the fall of 2008. Technically, my job was a casualty of the George W. Bush era, but he was only president for a few months at the beginning of my period of unemployment. For more than 5½ years of the Barack Obama presidency, the best I could get was part–time work, and I struggled to make ends meet.

It was a bleak time in my life, and it was a time when I felt abandoned — by my government, by my church, by many of my friends, even by my family.

It was fashionable in the Obama years to say that the economy he inherited was the worst since the Great Depression. That, of course, was so devastating that Franklin D. Roosevelt felt it was necessary to create a New Deal for Americans. That was his mission in 1933 — to revive the American economy, to put America back to work.

It seemed to me in 2008 — and it still seems to me — that, in the worst economy since the Great Depression, it was Barack Obama's mission to forge a new New Deal — to make putting America back to work his top priority. Was there anything in his way? Democrats like to say that Republicans obstructed Obama's agenda, but that conveniently ignores the fact that they controlled both chambers of Congress in 2009 and 2010. They even had a "filibuster–proof majority" in the Senate.

Obama could have done something about the unemployment crisis, but he did not.

Instead he focused his political capital on the nomination of an Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court (a nomination that was never in doubt), a beer summit with a white police officer and a black college professor and the so–called Affordable Care Act.

That's when he lost me. Instead of helping Americans get their financial lives back on course, he came up with something that Americans could be compelled to buy with money they didn't have — and they could be punished financially if they failed to buy it. Is there a more draconian arrangement in American life?

Now the health insurance policy that I am obliged by law to buy costs me nearly $750 per month. That's a 54% increase over what I was paying each month in 2016. My rent just went up, too, by about $50 per month. That means I'm paying $300 more per month for those two things alone.

I just got a raise, which helps, but it's only $100 more per month. So I'm still $200 in the hole.

I can't afford it.

When I hear a president talking about remembering the forgotten, he's singing my song.

It may turn out to be more political hooey, but I'm hopeful, on this night, that it is not.

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