Sunday, October 26, 2008

Conversation With an Obama Volunteer

I wish this account were an “Only in The People’s Republic of Palo Alto” story, but it probably isn’t. It happened this Sunday afternoon, nine days before the election. I was walking up University Avenue and encountered three young ladies on a street-corner. Normally I don’t engage political activists, but this time I made a rare exception. I’m not completely sure why, but it may have had something to do with the fact that these three young ladies were dressed like my favorite Olympians – the women’s beach volleyball teams. Not quite as tall, and at the very most half my age. This is my best recollection of the 5 minute encounter:
Obama Volunteer (OV): Want to help Obama become President? Any questions we can answer?
Anton Wahlman (AW): I do have a question. Can you explain how Obama differs from Jimmy Carter on one or several issues?
OV: Carter who?
AW: Jimmy. Our country’s 39th President.
OV: Oh, I have no idea. We were all born in 1990!
AW: But surely you have studied history?
OV: We sure have. That was back when America was oppressing the African-Americans, right?
AW: Probably not, but what I had in mind were things such as unemployment rate, interest rates and inflation.
OV: The unemployment rate has never been higher than now; haven’t you seen the news about the crisis on Wall Street?
AW: The last reported figure was 6.1%. 30 years ago it was close to 10%. Is Obama going to do anything different from Jimmy Carter?
OV: Carter was probably very old. Obama is just so cool. He will make it so entertaining. What else did you ask again?
AW: Interest rates and inflation.
OV: I’m not sure either of those is that important. They may have been important before, but this election is about change. Besides, I’ve never heard of an inflation problem.
AW: Well, we haven’t had much inflation in the last 25 years, but it went well above 10% some 30 years ago.
OV: So what does that have to do with the change Obama is proposing?
AW: The point is that if he is going to spend all the money he is promising, and if he isn’t going to raise taxes on 95% of the people, and the other 5% move their money abroad, he eventually has to print the money. And that means record inflation.
OV: Not under Obama it won’t. That’s what change is all about.
AW: That defies gravity. Are you saying that the world will levitate once Obama is sworn in on January 20?
OV: Inflation is more in the head of people if they talk about it on TV. I think Obama is so smart that if he prints a trillion dollars, he just won’t tell anyone. So inflation won’t show up. That’s the new politics will have in the future. Don’t you see I’ve got “Change” painted around my belly-button?
AW: Amazing. So what about interest rates? Under Carter I seem to recall they hit 18% or more.
OV: Who uses them?
AW: Uses what?
OV: Those interest rates.
AW: Well, let’s see – the biggest credit purchase tends to be buying a house.
OV: Dude, we live in the Stanford dorms.
OV #2: And if you need money, mom and dad will send us some. I think we should just abolish interest rates anyway. Besides, weren’t they the cause of the financial crisis?
OV #3: Our political science Professor pointed out that interest rates are only a tool to exploit the poor and the African-Americans. They should just do away with them. So that Carter stuff you’re talking about, it wouldn’t apply. Anything else we can answer?
AW: I think I just got my confirmation. But wait! I just wanted to ask about what you think of foreign policy after 9/11, whether Obama will make sure no terrorists walk across the border from Mexico?
OV: 9/11, that’s such a long time ago. Is it relevant anymore?
AW: 9/11 was in 2001, seven years ago.
OV: Exactly. I was starting Junior High around that time. Getting away from 9/11 is part of change.
AW: So are you drawing any conclusions of what happened on 9/11?
OV: I dunno. I guess we were a bit late to install reinforced cockpits.
AW: That’s it? What about Islamic extremism? Do you think they want to kill us, or not?
OV: They won’t now! Obama is basically President of the whole world. Everyone loves him.
AW: Alright, have a nice day girls. One day, you too will grow up. In the meantime, read some history, take Economics 101 and perhaps even 201.