Obama and the unemployed – nothing new but hope

An Obama presidency means hope for the unemployed. So yeah us! But now what?

An Obama presidency means hope for the unemployed. So yeah us! But now what?

My wife asked me this morning if I would be writing about Barack Obama‘s inauguration. I hadn’t been planning on it, as everyone and their brother, sister, father, mother, son and daughter would be weighing in. Probably honorary family members and pets too. One of my cats, for example, is planning a three-part exposé on this historical moment, including an interview with Barney, one of the outgoing First Dogs. What did I really have to add to the discussion? Her answer was both obvious and appropriate…

My point of view.

Like everyone else, I have one. But unlike everyone else, mine is unique. (And me do ok sometimes expression it too.) Thank you to my smart and beautiful wife for pointing this out; I’ll let you beat me at Scrabble again (but only once more, then it’s so on!).

At 11:45 a.m. I switched to CNN, hoping to catch all the important stuff but miss most of the mindless commentary. Mission accomplished – Obama was making his way onto the stage and Wolf Blitzer to the bathroom. In my sweaty gym clothes, alone in my living room but with the rest of the world, I watched.

The moment was brilliant, cathartic, and more followed. The first few striking notes from Itzhak Perlman‘s violin actually made me cry. Obama’s opening words made my eyes well up again. It was really happening – the end of a dark era and the beginning of a brighter one. Obama moved through his speech with practiced eloquence, sampling JFK and MLK, hitting all the right notes. I listened to my president, for the first time in months. I believed him and believed in him. I was proud of him. And I had hope again for my country.

Obama finished his remarks and sat down. I listened for a minute and then wandered into the kitchen to get some lunch, mulling over two questions…

  • Does anyone else feel bad for that poet following Obama?
  • What does an Obama presidency mean for the unemployed?

No one follows that speech at that moment. It’s impossible, for anyone. Her poem was probably exceptional. But the enraptured masses were savoring their highs. The home audience needed a commercial break. Nobody was listening.

An Obama presidency probably means very little for the unemployed in a practical sense, at least in the short-run. Today, we’re filled with pride and patriotism, and unemployed. Tomorrow, our feelings will dissipate a bit, and we’ll still be unemployed. Next week, the same. Few jobs will be available, and we’ll still be in competition for them with way too many other applicants.

What we do have now is hope for a coming change. This hope may infuse companies in the coming weeks, boosting outlooks and improving the job market in some small way. It will give job seekers a better outlook. This change may mean New Deal-style public works programs, government incentives or fiscal policy moves that free up corporate America to hire again. It will take months or years to show results.

The country faces many challenges beyond unemployment – the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the housing crisis, the banking crisis and others. All demand immediate attention too. The jobless masses may have to get in line and wait our turn, all the while keeping up the search. At least we have hope now, to cushion the economic fall.

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One Comment

  1. Andrew wrote:

    Hope is important because at least 60% of the current economic crisis (at least with respect to the credit crisis — which now appears to be just one component) is psychological. If lenders believe things will change, they will lend, and business will be conducted.

    As an aside, it’s very touching that you were getting choked up over pre-recorded music. I’m going to take a look at my CD collection tonight and see what else will make you cry.

    Friday, January 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

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