Billy Davis Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

Thanks but no thanks to Sen. Obama’s deal on shiny new pickup

Dear Senator Obama,

In June, when you clinched the Democratic primary, you told your supporters in Minnesota:

If we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.

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Your campaign is advancing toward Election Day on the premise of a promise: you will move heaven and earth to make my life better.   

Some detractors say your political success is due to your rhetorical skills, but I give you more credit than that. I believe you’ve shrewdly tapped into the concerns of Americans frustrated with $4-a-gallon gasoline, wary of a wobbly economy, and concerned that the price of milk, bread and eggs keep inching upwards.

My family and friends are feeling the economic pinch, too. The per-gallon price of propane is higher than ever, and my health insurance will cost me $50 more a month beginning next week.

And then comes along The Man Who Would Save US.

When I hear your speeches and read your ambitious plans, I feel like I’m standing on a car lot where a salesman is assuring me I need to buy a shiny ’08 GMC Z71 pickup.

“Billy,” the salesman tells me, “let me be the person who replaces that worn-out Nissan Pathfinder you’re driving – is that thing 10 years old? – with something more reliable. Now take this key and let’s drive this pretty truck down the road.”  

“Before I drive it, I really want to know what it will cost me,” I protest, key in hand.

“Man, I’m gonna make sure you get what you need – at the price you can afford,” the salesman replies.

Your campaign promises are a lot like that truck. I really like the look and smell of that truck, but can I really afford what you’re selling?

On your campaign Web site your plans for education, healthcare, Social Security and other issues are peppered with the words “increase,” “invest,” “fully fund,” “establish,” “implement,” and “expand.”

There are currently two million federal employees presumably working for us taxpayers. If just one million of those employees work every day to make our lives better – not just deliver the mail – then they will spend two billion hours this year on the clock.

According to your logic, that one-million man workforce, bolstered by billions of dollars in taxpayers’ earnings, has failed to make our country the “last, best hope on earth.” With all the unsolved problems we have, I guess they’re just waiting for the right boss in the White House, right?

I won’t pretend to claim that America is always a quiet ride in a Cadillac, but America is not feeble like a VW bug on four flat tires.

To hear you and other Democrats describe our great country, we are all victims of something – a victim of the insurance companies, the oil companies, the lobbyists, the NRA, and especially a victim of those greedy, job-cutting, homophobic, freedom-hating Republicans.

In 1984, Mario Cuomo, speaking at the Democratic Convention, described America under President Reagan:

…More than 55,000 bankruptcies. Two years of massive unemployment. Two hundred thousand farmers and ranchers forced off the land. More homeless than at any time since the Great Depression. More hungry, more poor, and a nearly $200 billion deficit . . . a mortgage on our children’s futures that can only be paid in pain and that could eventually bring this nation to its knees. . . .

The Democrats’ talking points haven’t changed much since then. When you spoke in 2004 at the Democratic Convention, you talked about union workers “losing their jobs at the Maytag plant” because their jobs are moving to Mexico. You described a woman in St. Louis “who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.”

Speaking as a person who was once laid off, lay-offs happen.

Speaking as a person burdened with student loans, college can be expensive.  

But I am not a victim of anything or anyone, Senator.

My wife Shannon and I are living on my income so she can raise our son, Jackson, who will turn a year old next month. The gas prices and grocery bills have made us second-guess our decision, but we’re determined that 50 years of feminism won’t trump 5,000 years of civilization, so Shannon’s staying home.

That was our choice, and we are living with the consequences each month when the bills arrive. We have a budget and stick to it. We try to stay disciplined. We don’t use the debit cards for lunch or the credit card for stuff that makes us happy for a little while.

Your party believes a villainous right-wing plot stands between my hopes and dreams, and those villains work every day in Congress, the White House and the governor’s office to destroy this great country.

Sorry, but I don’t believe that. Sure there are villains in public office, and there are victims of the villains’ misdeeds. But my hard times and misfortunes are just part of life – minus anyone to blame.

No expansion of a government program will remedy the fact that, in life, bad things happen to good people.  

So I’m going to have to pass up on the truck for now, Senator. It’s shiny and nice, but it doesn’t fit my budget. I kicked the tires and thought about the price, but it really leaves me with a knot in my stomach.

Of course you realize that means I’m going to pass up on you, too.

Better luck with the next guy.