About That Car Obama Promised You . . . .

27 03 2013

Is there any corner of life into which politics has not managed to wedge itself? God forbid there be any remaining refuge for those seeking a vacation from all the D.C. nonsense. These days, you’re not even safe playing Words with Friends on your iPhone. (Well, you would be if you weren’t a cheapskate like me and you’d shelled out for the 99-cent ad-free version.) Interrupting my Scrabble joy are little advertisements like this: “New Obama policy lets you skip a mortgage payment!”

They remind me of those ads on the radio that try to convince you there’s some government program that hands out new car for free (shades of the stimulus package’s Cash for Clunkers, I suppose) or pay 20 years of back taxes without incurring a penalty. The cheesiest ones employ the clipped, professorial voice of an Obama impersonator who, judging from the poor likeness, moonlights as an Elvis double on the weekends. “I’m President Obama,” he announces grandly, “and I want to give every American a new Kia!” The savvier ads are designed to sound like a real public service announcement, a no-nonsense informational spiel about a refinancing program guaranteed to save you thousands of dollars . . . just send in your Social Security number and one-time payment of $150 now! Other television ads play off the constant right-wing drumbeat about Obama “devaluing the dollar” — that would be the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing, in the lingo of those who probably know enough not to fall for such scams — and splay large-print announcements across the screen: “The Fed Wants You to Have This Money!” Tea Partiers intimately aware of Ron Paul’s quixotic quest to eliminate the Fed and return to the gold standard (“Audit the Fed!” he cries, unaware that it’s one of the most carefully examined agencies in the government) will not sagely: Of course the Fed wants to give away free money. That’s just part of its mission to spend the U.S. into Weimar Republic-style inflation.

I’m sure this type of thing has been around for years, at least since the narrator was aping Bill Clinton’s drawl, but now it just plays into the conservative meme about Obama giving away stuff — what Mitt Romney referred to as “gifts” — to those low-income Democrats to win their votes. (Funny, in most developed nations, health care is a right, not a gift. But in the United States, our Constitution is much more focused on laying out the rights the government can’t take away or trample on — speech, guns, religions — and less on the “positive” rights the government is obligated to provide in exchange for paying taxes or simply being a living, breathing human being.) The ads recall the racist “Obamaphone” story that popped up during the election. Right-wing websites like the Drudge Report turned a Reagan-era program that subsidizes telephone service (and, under the expanded Obama version, pays for cell phones) for the poor. A video circulated of a woman — she was African-American, naturally — saying she was voting for Obama because he gave her a phone. The Tea Party was all over that: Just look at those stupid minorities, those low-information voters gladly leading us down the road to socialist Hell in exchange for a few perks. Heaven forbid we expect our politicians to actually help the people who elect them; I suppose it’s better to hand out tax breaks to millionaires than give away goodies like free health care to those undeserving poor. No good deed goes unpunished; try to help your constituents and you’re branded a socialist intent on destroying private enterprise and extending the “hammock” of the social safety net to the able-bodied. The mild income redistribution that Obama has engineered via health care reform, which essentially taxes the rich to provide insurance to the poor, and higher tax rates is twisted into a shower of Treasury-funded largesse cynically crafted to win elections.

At any rate, the gullible types who fall for such ads do so because they genuinely believe Obama is the sort of president who gives away free stuff to people irresponsible enough to want to skip a mortgage payment — that 47 percent of the country who will “never take responsibility for their lives.” The grain of truth in this philosophy — yes, Democrats do “give away” more things than Republicans, because they don’t see everyone who needs such things as lazy moochers and because they believe government is good for more than just getting out of the way — explodes into a giant con in which the president really takes to the airwaves to lavish more benefits on his constituents. You have to think such ads are targeted at conservatives, the same people who believe the banners on sites like Newsmax for amazing cancer-flushing pills and the investments in gold bullion necessary for when civilization collapses. These are the real low-information voters. Is there something about the sort of people willing to believe that the president is a Marxist Muslim from Kenya that makes them more inclined to believe junk like that? Undoubtedly. That’s why conservative commentator Dick Morris shares his e-mail list with Newsmax advertisers — he gets a kickback from every dime those people send to the super PACs or gold-coin-peddlers, and the hucksters get access to an audience already primed to accept the ridiculous. If you think the president is a liar trying to scam the American people, and if you think that the UN is masterminding a nefarious plot to destroy our golf courses (all that grass is an environmental disaster, you know) and institute Sharia law, of course you can be convinced that Obama is running some sort of mortgage deal for slackers.

Ironically, however, the actual slackers most likely to take advantage of such transparently fake schemes are the very people who don’t consider themselves slackers at all. They’re the industrious 53 percent, the upstanding portion of the country that wasn’t duped into voting for Obama by free cell phones or “amnesty” for “illegals.” Nope, the duping of the conservative class came later, via radio, iPhone and website. Leave aside the elderly and vulnerable people — not everyone desperate enough to leap at even a pie-in-the-sky chance is a right-winger — who might actually be harmed by such ads: Just think of the Dittoheads and Bill O’Reilly fans who happily take everything they see on Fox News, even the sketchy “101 Ways to Beat Obamacare” and “Become a Millionaire in Three Easy Steps” ads, as Gospel. Do they consider themselves hypocrites for taking advantage of the “government” refinancing programs they see in the ads? Maybe some if them think they’re beating Obama at his own game, taking for the red states the gifts aimed at his Democratic base. But most of them probably don’t think twice. They know that Obama is determined to bankrupt the country, but they’ll gladly participate in the looting. When the U.S. comes crashing down around Obama’s big ears, they’ll be just fine: After all, they’ve got that stash of gold bullion to fall back on.

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