Now, I know that Randy Newman is some kind of darned liberal, and (based on media reports I’ve seen) was quite recently in possession of a very fine case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. I don’t like him for his politics, but I do genuinely enjoy his artful and ironic way with a song. And all I know is that his song Mr. President (written around 1974, but with something of an aura of 1934) has never been a more relevant and sharply-aimed arrow than it is at this very moment. Today, President Barack Obama, in the face of so much incredulity — on both sides of the aisle, mind you — and in the face of so much frustration on the part of average Americans, continues to pursue his ideological goal of getting the hands of the federal government firmly around the U.S. health-care system. On this particular day he is doing it by means of a televised “summit” with Democrats and Republicans from Congress, as if all of the issues have not had more than their due airing over the past 13 months and more; as if he has just not had sufficient time to make his arguments. He persists in this vein while the U.S economy continues to descend in its death spiral, with real working Americans (and once working Americans) continuing to suffer in ever greater numbers, and with no real recovery even in sight. (Indeed, with the numbers on housing from yesterday, it should be clear even to the most willfully blind that the underlying problems are not getting better, but only much worse.) As his erstwhile supporter Professor Cornel West recently asked President Obama very pointedly, “How deep is your love for poor and working people?” The evidence continues to mount that this president does not feel a whole lot of such love, and in fact might rather be one of the most oblivious and perhaps genuinely cold human beings ever to occupy the office. He certainly is not showing such love. The absence of a demonstration of real and urgent and practical concern on his part for the economic carnage spreading through the country has been truly astounding to me, although the press has largely left that story alone. Were the current president a Republican, on the other hand, we would be hearing nothing from the media except stories on the hardship and anguish of so many people out of work for a year and more, of so many families who have lost and are losing their homes, of spiraling poverty and want and hopelessness in this awful economy which deteriorates further by the day. The question would daily be posed on the nightly news: What is the President doing? Neither President Obama nor any Washington politician can in fact wave a wand and fix all of this, but they can certainly at least put other concerns aside and focus their efforts on practical measures that can be taken to encourage the private sector to create jobs. Because that is the only way ultimately out of this mess, and any effort in any other direction at this point is a distraction, and money spent on other domestic objectives only adds to the debt and the long term drag on the economy to no good end. Government can at the very least stop doing more harm.
President Obama, however, seems to have come into office secretly believing that this was nothing more than a cyclical downturn; i.e., a typical recession that merely gave him and fellow liberal Democrats an opportunity to pursue long-term ideological goals in the name of supposed stimuli and supposed fixes of supposed structural problems in the economy. He seems to have believed that the economy would come back after a little while no matter what was done, and that his administration could then claim credit for the recovery. This was blindingly stupid on his part, of-course. But much worse than merely stupid, it was heartless. President Obama may not have much actual love for the average working American, but at least he might show some pity.
And hence this song. I looked but was unable to find, on YouTube, any clip of Randy Newman performing the composition. Here, then, is a talented amateur (whose own politics I know nothing about) and his ukulele, performing the tune whose sentiments I send out in all sincerity today to the Commander-in-Chief: Mr. President, Have Pity On The Working Man.
We’ve taken all you’ve given
But it’s gettin’ hard to make a livin’
Mr. President have pity on the working man
We’re not asking you to love us
You may place yourself high above us
Mr. President have pity on the working man
Song available on Mr. Newman’s fine long-playing record, Good Old Boys or on mp3 at this link: Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)