Jane Chastain is a Southern California-based broadcaster, author and political commentator. Despite her present emphasis on politics, Jane always will be remembered as the nation's first female TV sportscaster, spending 17 years on the sports beat. Jane blogs at JaneChastain.com. She is a pilot who lives on a private runway.More ↓Less ↑
Americans often make fun of the English for their adoration and maintenance of the royal family. The Brits can be forgiven if they snicker over what is about to take place over here on Jan. 21, for the second inauguration of Barack Obama: the pomp and circumstance, the parade, the bands, the crowds, the balls and the money it takes to put on these extravagant events
It is one thing to hold such a celebration during normal times, but this is anything but a normal time. The nation is going through a rough patch. Still reeling from the worst recession since the Great Depression, more than 12 million Americans are out of work. More than 47 million are on food stamps. Layoffs are a way of life. Home foreclosures are on every street, and there is no relief in sight.
The nation is at war. Many of our best and brightest are still in harm’s way, and we’re talking about cutting the military’s budget.
Furthermore, much of the East Coast still is in shambles after Hurricane Sandy. Thousands lost everything they own and are living in temporary shelters.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the nation is teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff. The White House and Congress will not come together to save us and we are facing hefty tax increases.
Meanwhile, Washington is making plans to party hearty, and for what? It’s a meaningless exercise if ever there were one. Obama has been president for the last four years and will continue in that capacity. For all practical purposes, nothing changes.
The oath of office is good for four years. Therefore, Obama will be sworn in for another four years in a private ceremony on Jan. 20. Why can’t he be magnanimous and say, “Enough!” and save the country millions in much-needed cash?
To be sure, the swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol and the celebrations that go with it have become the norm that marks the beginning of each four-year term. It is an established “right” to be exercised by the victor and an excuse to party with supporters. It would take a mighty big man to call the whole thing off. There is no indication that Obama, though tall in stature, is that big of a man.
Nevertheless, the partying that will go on at such a time as this is unseemly, to say the least. It is enough to make conservatives and the true liberals among us sick to their stomachs.
It is interesting to me that liberal presidents, who want us to believe that they identify with the average Joe, are the ones who go overboard when it comes to living royally at the taxpayers’ expense. While George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan spent their vacation time at their modest ranches or at the official presidential retreat at Camp David, the Clintons and Obamas spent most of their down time at some of the most expensive sites on the planet.
Furthermore, last year $1.4 billion was spent on Obama and his family compared to a mere $57.8 million the Brits spent on the royals.
It’s time for Obama to heed his own rhetoric and follow the example of other presidents who tightened their belts during hard times.
Obama would not be the first president to cancel the inaugural balls. Woodrow Wilson nixed them in 1913, and Warren G. Harding did the same in 1921. Other presidents attended private parties that were “charity balls.” Calvin Coolidge opted for this arrangement in 1925, and Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt carried on this tradition through the Great Depression.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love visiting the Smithsonian and viewing the first ladies’ ball gowns. I do not wish to deprive them of this cherished tradition. However, I believe the second inauguration should be a private, simple ceremony. To do anything more is a waste of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
We foot the $1.23 million bill for the swearing-in ceremony directly and the $50 million or so that will be spent on the balls indirectly. Yes, the Obama inaugural fundraising team is shaking down corporations, institutions, unions and wealthy supporters for that money but, eventually, taxpayers will pick up that tab in the form of subsidies, grants, tax breaks and higher prices.
This is the bill that the country can ill afford.
Come on Obama. Man-up. Do the right thing. Show us how much you really care – just this once.