Thingish Things

“The Big Things?”

Written By: Liz Feld - Feb• 18•11

The Blackberry Alarmclock welcomes guest columnist Liz Feld. Ms. Feld, the former mayor of Larchmont, NY, served as a public affairs specialist at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and as a press officer for Vice President George H.W. Bush. She served as Senior Vice President of Communications for Nickelodeon, and as Director of News Information at ABC News.

Let me get something out of the way right up front.  I believe President Obama cares deeply about this country and about its future. And as with any other President, I believe as Americans we should hope he moves the country forward — notwithstanding any policy differences — as long as he serves as our President and Commander in Chief.  In fact, if Sarah Palin is the GOP nominee I may hope even more that he succeeds.

But the President’s foray yesterday into the Wisconsin legislative feud over collective bargaining rights for public employees cannot be viewed as moving the country forward.

What is the President of the United States doing coming to the defense of public school teachers who staged a “sick out” .. now in its second day, thanks in no small part to the blessing of the President …. to protest their Governor? What is the President doing accusing a Republican (but we’ll get to that later) Governor of “vilifying” public sector unions, because that Governor,  and a majority of elected legislators, have asked these employees to do what every other private sector employee has to do: contribute to his/her pension?

While Rome is burning … well, not Rome but half of the Middle East …. President Obama is opining in an interview with a local midwest television station that “public employees are people, too. They are our neighbors and our friends.”

Well, of course they are. But so are the tens of thousands of people who are unemployed in Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and all across the country. And two years into his tenure, the President still has no jobs plan.

Wisconsin is broke. New York is broke. New Jersey is broke.  But the President hasn’t said a word about Governor Cuomo’s call for the “special interests” to back off their demands for ever-richer contracts.  And nothing from the President when Cuomo said education funds should not continue to subsidize the “education bureaucracy” while student performance suffers.     Not a word when Mayor Bloomberg — and now Governor Cuomo  — talk about the need to end the century-old teachers’ union practice of “Last In First Out” when layoffs come.   Maybe the public employees in NY aren’t “our friends and neighbors.”

Conceptually, Governor Cuomo has said nearly all of the same things — the right things — the Governor of Wisconsin has said. He has called for the same essential reforms. As in Wisconsin, the NYS teachers’ union — and special interest groups – are waging a big campaign to stop Governor Cuomo from getting anywhere close to where he wants and needs to be to get NY on sound fiscal footing. While they haven’t staged a sick out yet, just wait until budget day comes in Albany.

Make no mistake about it. President Obama’s comments yesterday were all about 2012.  For the first time since 1984, Wisconsin is in play for the Republicans.  No need to weigh in on behalf of his “friends and neighbors” in  New York, for victory is assured for him in New York next November.

For the second day in a row, thousands of parents in Wisconsin had to take a day off from work to take care of their kids because their public school teachers “called in sick.”  Where’s Ronald Reagan when you need him? I think every one of those teachers should be fired; think 1981, when the President gave the striking air traffic controllers an ultimatum to get back to work or be fired. And what of the example being set by the Wisconsin Democratic legislators who also “no-showed” yesterday for the vote on collective bargaining legislation? They were hiding in plain sight in a hotel … no doubt collecting their per diems. Just three months ago these folks were elected to do the people’s business. I wonder when the last time was the hard working people of Wisconsin had a chance to hang out in a hotel all day in protest.

All of the talk from the President about “shared sacrifice during these tough times” is just that: talk.  During his nationally televised press conference on Tuesday, President Obama chastised reporters for pressing him about the lack of substantive budget cuts in the areas of entitlements and defense. They asked him what happened to the recommendations made by his own Deficit Reduction Commission — recommendations that included raising the retirement age (we have to), means-testing Medicare (we must), eliminating certain tax deductions (that, too) — and he punted. After complaining that MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and other members of the press were too “impatient” for progress, the President said he’s “waiting to hear from the Republicans in this process.”  He’ll yield his time to the Republicans in Congress and the Teachers’ Union in Wisconsin.

Americans need a President who is willing to lead. During his State of the Union, President Obama sounded like one. In talking about the American spirit, he said ” … We do big things.” He called this “our Sputnik moment.”  A “big thing” would be demanding that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense spending be part of any budget discussion.   A “big thing” is not fanning the flames in Wisconsin.

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One Comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by budgetofficer02, Bill O'Reilly. Bill O'Reilly said: Liz Feld: What Happened to President Obama's "Big Things?" – via @Shareaholic […]

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