A Man Named Rick

This morning, I met a man named Rick.

Rick, a 57-year-old unemployed construction worker, was sitting in his truck outside our local post office, asking passersby for work. Rick, it should be stressed, was not a panhandler or a bum. He was a veteran who had worked steadily for forty years, and he was not asking for or taking handouts. He wanted work, "any work," as he told me, and he was willing to work cheap. Having lost his job and then his home, Rick has exhausted his unemployment benefits. He now sleeps in the back of his truck at night and searches for work by day, terribly afraid that he will become stranded without gas money.

There are millions of men and women like Rick, and their unemployment benefits will soon be running out, if they have not already done so, despite an unprecedented extension of benefits of up to two years. There are millions who will soon be marooned like Rick, living in their cars, in makeshift camps, or in homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, our president has spent fifteen months talking about job creation as "job number one" -- that is, job number one after health-care reform, cap-and-trade, expansion of union influence, trial lawyer-friendly legislation, banking and insurance regulation, and a host of other job-killing intrusions of government into the free market.

Everything this president does, it seems, is intended to discourage job-creation, even as he spouts the childish mantra of "green job"-creation. The obvious solution to the problem of job-creation -- obvious, at least, to all but a handful of economists -- is to cut corporate tax rates and to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. These measures would spur job-creation by American businesses large and small, and unlike government stimulus measures, they would stimulate permanent, full-time jobs. Yet we have heard nothing from President Obama of either of these fundamental job-creation measures. Instead, not a week passes without the introduction of more legislation designed to heap more regulation and taxation on businesses -- the latest being Senator Dodd's proposal to create a financial consumer protection agency. Just what America needs to spur job creation!

It is obscene to hear the president boasting about how many jobs he has created or saved when, in fact, jobs continue to disappear, and while decent men like Rick sit outside in the cold, asking only for a chance to work. When I asked how I could contact him, Rick took out a yellow fast-food napkin and carefully wrote out his full name, phone number, and the pitiable words "any work" at the bottom. 

Rick's napkin, with those two sad words staring me in the face, sits on my kitchen table. I may have a few hours of handyman work for him to do this week, enough to pay for a half-tank of gas and some food, but what Rick really needs is a permanent, full-time job, and as a man nearing 60 whose only experience is in construction, he is not likely to find one soon. Even when the economy does improve, the country is facing a "jobless recovery," according to most economists. Yet as millions like Rick are losing hope, our president -- our callous, self-absorbed president, who shows no obvious sign of compassion for Rick and those like him -- goes about his "historic task" of passing health care reform. Perhaps this president is too busy thinking of himself and his historic legislation to spend time thinking about Rick.

As Rick told me how he had lost everything and how desperate he was, his lip quivered, and I saw an expression of raw fear spreading across his face. This decent, gentle man had fallen so quickly and so far, and meanwhile, our unfeeling president struts about Washington, cheerleading for every sort of job-killing measure and spouting the same pointless rhetoric about green jobs. I doubt if this president has ever really seen men like Rick -- really seen them as anything other than raw material for organizing, and later for votes -- and I doubt that he would feel much compassion if he did. Such people are objects to be used by him for his own goals.

Obama is so removed from what is taking place in America that the continuing job losses, mounting each month to new highs, do not appear to faze him. Never has America had a president so uncaring and unfeeling in the face of the suffering of millions. The only time our president shows any emotion, in fact, is when it doesn't get his own way. This cruel, callous, selfish man looks out on America and fails to see the legions of invisible men and women sleeping in their cars and subsisting on a few hours of odd jobs a week. All that he sees, I believe, is the illusory dreamwork of his "historic" legislation.

If I were Rick, I would feel great anger and bitterness toward the government that has failed him. I would ask why Democrats in Washington continue to press for further regulation and taxation of business: for job-killing carbon regulation, for increased taxes to fund health care reform, for regulation of banking, energy, and every other vital sector of the economy. If I were Rick, I would feel an unspeakable rage directed at the smug and unfeeling members of this administration and this Congress who are so busy crafting a socialist wonderland that they fail to see the actual suffering of their countrymen.

But I doubt if Rick feels any of this. I suspect that he is too busy asking in his tender and courteous tone of voice for the chance to perform work, any sort of work. It is men like Rick that this administration, in its vast arrogance and aloofness, fail to perceive. But the experience of Rick and millions like him will, I suspect, haunt American politics for decades to come. When Rick and his peers understand what Obama has done to them, they will not forget the cruel hypocrisy of a government that talks about job-creation and simultaneously does all it can to impede the creation of jobs in the private sector. Someday Rick and his peers will exact their revenge at the polls, and once the job-killing regulators and tax collectors are voted out of office, it will be a long time before they are invited back.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published many books and articles on American culture and politics.
This morning, I met a man named Rick.

Rick, a 57-year-old unemployed construction worker, was sitting in his truck outside our local post office, asking passersby for work. Rick, it should be stressed, was not a panhandler or a bum. He was a veteran who had worked steadily for forty years, and he was not asking for or taking handouts. He wanted work, "any work," as he told me, and he was willing to work cheap. Having lost his job and then his home, Rick has exhausted his unemployment benefits. He now sleeps in the back of his truck at night and searches for work by day, terribly afraid that he will become stranded without gas money.

There are millions of men and women like Rick, and their unemployment benefits will soon be running out, if they have not already done so, despite an unprecedented extension of benefits of up to two years. There are millions who will soon be marooned like Rick, living in their cars, in makeshift camps, or in homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, our president has spent fifteen months talking about job creation as "job number one" -- that is, job number one after health-care reform, cap-and-trade, expansion of union influence, trial lawyer-friendly legislation, banking and insurance regulation, and a host of other job-killing intrusions of government into the free market.

Everything this president does, it seems, is intended to discourage job-creation, even as he spouts the childish mantra of "green job"-creation. The obvious solution to the problem of job-creation -- obvious, at least, to all but a handful of economists -- is to cut corporate tax rates and to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. These measures would spur job-creation by American businesses large and small, and unlike government stimulus measures, they would stimulate permanent, full-time jobs. Yet we have heard nothing from President Obama of either of these fundamental job-creation measures. Instead, not a week passes without the introduction of more legislation designed to heap more regulation and taxation on businesses -- the latest being Senator Dodd's proposal to create a financial consumer protection agency. Just what America needs to spur job creation!

It is obscene to hear the president boasting about how many jobs he has created or saved when, in fact, jobs continue to disappear, and while decent men like Rick sit outside in the cold, asking only for a chance to work. When I asked how I could contact him, Rick took out a yellow fast-food napkin and carefully wrote out his full name, phone number, and the pitiable words "any work" at the bottom. 

Rick's napkin, with those two sad words staring me in the face, sits on my kitchen table. I may have a few hours of handyman work for him to do this week, enough to pay for a half-tank of gas and some food, but what Rick really needs is a permanent, full-time job, and as a man nearing 60 whose only experience is in construction, he is not likely to find one soon. Even when the economy does improve, the country is facing a "jobless recovery," according to most economists. Yet as millions like Rick are losing hope, our president -- our callous, self-absorbed president, who shows no obvious sign of compassion for Rick and those like him -- goes about his "historic task" of passing health care reform. Perhaps this president is too busy thinking of himself and his historic legislation to spend time thinking about Rick.

As Rick told me how he had lost everything and how desperate he was, his lip quivered, and I saw an expression of raw fear spreading across his face. This decent, gentle man had fallen so quickly and so far, and meanwhile, our unfeeling president struts about Washington, cheerleading for every sort of job-killing measure and spouting the same pointless rhetoric about green jobs. I doubt if this president has ever really seen men like Rick -- really seen them as anything other than raw material for organizing, and later for votes -- and I doubt that he would feel much compassion if he did. Such people are objects to be used by him for his own goals.

Obama is so removed from what is taking place in America that the continuing job losses, mounting each month to new highs, do not appear to faze him. Never has America had a president so uncaring and unfeeling in the face of the suffering of millions. The only time our president shows any emotion, in fact, is when it doesn't get his own way. This cruel, callous, selfish man looks out on America and fails to see the legions of invisible men and women sleeping in their cars and subsisting on a few hours of odd jobs a week. All that he sees, I believe, is the illusory dreamwork of his "historic" legislation.

If I were Rick, I would feel great anger and bitterness toward the government that has failed him. I would ask why Democrats in Washington continue to press for further regulation and taxation of business: for job-killing carbon regulation, for increased taxes to fund health care reform, for regulation of banking, energy, and every other vital sector of the economy. If I were Rick, I would feel an unspeakable rage directed at the smug and unfeeling members of this administration and this Congress who are so busy crafting a socialist wonderland that they fail to see the actual suffering of their countrymen.

But I doubt if Rick feels any of this. I suspect that he is too busy asking in his tender and courteous tone of voice for the chance to perform work, any sort of work. It is men like Rick that this administration, in its vast arrogance and aloofness, fail to perceive. But the experience of Rick and millions like him will, I suspect, haunt American politics for decades to come. When Rick and his peers understand what Obama has done to them, they will not forget the cruel hypocrisy of a government that talks about job-creation and simultaneously does all it can to impede the creation of jobs in the private sector. Someday Rick and his peers will exact their revenge at the polls, and once the job-killing regulators and tax collectors are voted out of office, it will be a long time before they are invited back.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published many books and articles on American culture and politics.