According to the Associated Press, “President Barack Obama is hailing his meeting with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and policeman James Crowley as a “friendly, thoughtful conversation.” The awkward “toast photo,” released by the White House, shows Obama, Crowley and Gates clinking large beer glasses together. There are no smiles and no eye contact between the three participants.
Earlier in the week, Obama said that hopefully the Gates-Crowley episode “ends up being what’s called a teachable moment.” It is a matter of opinion as to who might learn the most from such a moment. Crowley never changed his story for a second, nor did he apologize for his behavior. Gates is paid by Harvard to play the racism card and isn’t going to change his tune. I guess the real winner in the “teachable moment” contest is Obama. Two “teachable moments” stand out for our great leader.
Teachable Moment #1. Obama learned that it is unwise to create a distraction during the critical two weeks prior to a legislative deadline. The Gates/Crowley incident would have been forgotten two weeks ago if Obama hadn’t thrown his hat in the ring. Now Obama has wrecked his self-imposed deadline to get a version of a health care bill through both houses of congress prior to the summer recess. The bill will be delayed while house members return to their districts for a month. During that time they’re going to get a nasty earful of complaints about government run health care from their constituents. The final health care bill that will be signed into law months from now will most likely be disjointed, confusing, inefficient and costly, but it won’t even closely resemble the all encompassing socialization of medicine that Obama had hoped for. Ironically, Professor Henry Louis Gates might go down in history not for his work in racial studies, but for saving our country from socialized medicine.
Teachable Moment #2. Obama might have learned that it is good to have the facts straight before he opens his mouth. Saying that officer Crowley and the Cambridge Police Department “Acted Stupidly” has alienated Obama in the law enforcement community among cops of all colors and political persuasions. I’m not sure that Obama will learn teachable moment #2 because facts didn’t get Obama to the presidency. Broad brush utopian statements like “I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart” and “We are going to cut costs in health care by not paying for things that don’t make us healthy” are Obama’s bread and butter. Remember, the devil is in the details, and Obama doesn’t pay any attention to details.
Cash for Clunkers: Moving on to the “cash for clunkers” program, this law was “sold” as an environmental bill, but in some cases an old car can be scrapped for a new car that gets just three more miles per gallon. Cash for clunkers represents another example of government going where it should not. The program has nothing to do with fuel efficiency or the environment, but has everything to do with supporting the automobile industry at taxpayer expense. It appears that cash for clunkers, which was somewhat of an afterthought tied to a must-pass bill to approve funding for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, might have morphed into the governments most confusing stimulus package. The program is 136 pages long and many dealers made paperwork errors and will have to eat the $4,500 they rebated to customers. In four days the $1 billion allocated for the program was used up and some in congress are trying to find another $2 billion for the program. It isn’t surprising that the program has sold cars. For the past year we have scrapped more cars in the US than we have produced, so inventories have been shrinking.
Doing the math, if we take the $1 billion allocated to the cash for clunkers program and divide it by the $4,500 cash rebate, it allows for 222,222 cars to be sold. Divide that by the 16,000 auto dealers in the United States and each dealership can sell roughly 14 cars before the program runs out of money. Auto dealers must be happy about a four day period in which they have sold approximately $4.4 billion worth of cars. This weekend, for the first time in months, the new car salesman down at Acme motors will be slapping steaks (instead of hot dogs) on his back yard grill. Nevertheless, no more money should be allocated to this program.