Saturday, November 1, 2008

Government Goodies and Barack Obama’s Aunt: A Voter’s Questions

There are many voters in my neighbourhood who believe that Barack Obama will pass out more “goodies”, such as government programs, entitlement grants such as food stamps and WIC and housing subsidies. Many of these voters are below or close to the poverty line. And many are voting for John McCain.

I am speaking of inner city Orthodox Jewish voters. Although we understand the pride of our African American neighbours, we do not intend to support their candidate.

Why would a struggling member of the working poor, who gets food stamps or an earned income credit support a candidate who is supposedly “big business”.

A lot of the logic for McCain supporters in Brooklyn stems from an honest look at the big picture. Any type of subsidy is being paid for by somebody. I heard a story about a rich man who used to help poor families with everything from school clothes to yeshiva tuition to food on the high holidays. He gave staggering sums to institutions and individuals. One day, the sad news spread that his business had taken a nose dive and he had no more money to give. It was a vivid lesson that the prosperity of the poor depends upon the well being of the wealthy.

The American people are like the wealthy man whose story I heard. We all took a big shock on Wall Street a short while ago. The struggling working class in Brooklyn wants their bosses to prosper and they want those who extend charity to them to prosper. A further contraction in the stock market could dry up the funds used to pay for a lot of programs that are helping struggling families. Even though most people think of themselves first, at election time, we think of the big picture. Promises are cheap at election time. How are they paid for?

When I pick up a book in my public library, sometimes I see that it was donated by my representative in state or city government. Sometimes I go to a concert with my children paid for by someone in government who hopes I will remember them. I have personally benefitted from favours done by government representatives who have a public service desk as a permanent position in their office. These kindnesses have more than once swayed my vote. It is another line on the civic report card that I give each legislator. I have no doubt that Barack Obama understands this mentality very well. I have heard that the oil of many kindnesses greases the wheels of Chicago politics. Calling in favours brings in a lot of votes. That’s life.

The latest story about Barack Obama to hit the front page is that his aunt, Zeituni Onyango is living in America illegally. Many of us here in Brooklyn have foreign relatives. There are plenty of illegals here. It doesn’t shock anyone. The disapproval of Obama’s aunt being here illegally is strong, but not for the reasons you might expect.

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