Billy Davis Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hope easily sold, harder to pay for

Dear Senator Obama,

“We’re coming together because of what this country can be,” you proclaim on your Web site. “In the face of war, we believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, we believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that has shut us out, that’s told us to settle, that’s divided us for too long, we believe we can be one people reaching for what’s possible.”

Hope is what you’re selling. Lots of people are buying what you’re selling because it sounds so deliciously good.

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In the face of $10 buying a gallon of milk, eggs and bread, and $3 worth of gas to go home to work and back, hope sure comes in handy. But exactly what bill will you sign that legislates hope?

Since the federal government dispenses hope through legislation, and since I help pay the cost of that legislation, how much more of my paycheck do you need?  In addition to the hope the federal government already distributes through the Department of Education, Department of Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice and Department of Labor?

In just the Department of Human Services there is the Administration for Children and Families, Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. And within just the Administration for Children and Families there’s the Office of Head Start; Office of Family Assistance; Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation; etc. on ad nauseam.

Still unmentioned are the Administration’s regional offices in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. In Boston-based Region 1, which serves six states, that regional office boasts on its Web site that it doles out 84 grants to Head Start (27,551 children), 37 grants to Early Head Start (2,790 infants, toddler and pregnant women,) and 53 grants for 3,000 runaway and homeless children. But nine million federal employees working out of 500,000 buildings – your opponent’s daughter rattled off those numbers Monday – is apparently not enough.

To improve education you plan to expand Early Head Start and Head Start, expand after-school programs, expand summer learning programs, give grant funds to states to start universal pre-school, and create a $4,000 tax credit for college-bound students.

To improve job opportunities you will create a Green Job Corps, which will link disadvantaged youth with environmentally friendly jobs. To make sure Americans can get to work you want to double the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program. You will increase the minimum wage, give a $500 tax credit for low- and middle-income workers, invest $1 billion over five years in a new jobs program, and require that employers guarantee their workers seven paid sick days per year.

You also specifically mention a rural state like Mississippi in your plan. To help rural communities you plan to “invest in rural small businesses and fight to expand high-speed Internet access.”

That sure is welcome news in Mississippi, though I’m not sure how you’ll have time to invest in mom-and-pop businesses while serving as President. And dial-up is sure annoying – it drives my wife crazy – but when the dollar’s value is shrinking, Social Security is withering away, and radical Islamists are plotting to destroy Western civilization, do you really have time to fight for a high-speed connection to a home in Courtland, Miss.?

Political observers expect you to win Mississippi today, adding more delegates to your march toward the Democrat nomination for President. I wish you well. You seem smart and articulate, and unlike your primary opponent, you have not risen in politics by stepping on the bodies of your friends and enemies.

But your view of the role of the federal government is flat wrong. America’s hope is not found in a federal government that takes money from my paycheck, filters that money through departments, agencies, administrations, and offices, then demands more of my paycheck – you call it an “investment” – when your latest federal program and 500 federal employees fail to teach a child in Kansas City his ABC’s.  

America is great because of the American who works a job, and the employer who agrees to hire that employee and hand the employee a paycheck despite paying a matching Social Security and Medicare tax, along with federal and state unemployment tax, all while trying to keep the lights on. How many federal employees go to bed at night worrying about meeting payroll next week?

If you’re elected President, you would really help my family’s grocery budget if you would allow me to buy milk from my neighbor’s Jersey cow and allow my neighbor to buy eggs from my Rhode Island Reds.

All you have to do is get the Department of Agriculture off my back. I hear they can be hell to deal with.