If you can’t say something nice

In politics, the old rationalization goes, if everyone’s unhappy, you must be doing something right.

For all of our sakes, let’s hope President Obama doesn’t subscribe to that bit of conventional wisdom when it comes to the wide disdain for his FY 2011 budget proposal. Otherwise, he’ll think his budget is written on stone tablets.

The reason almost everyone has a bone to pick with his fiscal instincts is not because he’s doing everything right; it’s because his budget is nothing but a mess of conflicting fiscal directions that, even The New York Times reports, will create a deficit so large the nation’s taxpayers “like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.”

Spend trillions. Tax billions. Create an unprecedented and unsustainable deficit. And then, if the stars align perfectly years after President Obama is long gone, a future president will gather the crumbs under the federal spending table and put a few away to pay down our national OD — “Obama Debt.”

The nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union says Obama’s budget is loaded with “recycled program cuts,” “tax hikes masquerading as spending cuts” and “spending hikes masquerading as tax cuts.”

And yet, this is the same guy who’s zipping around the country trying to convince Americans that we must make hard choices on spending. And to make matters worse, from a purely parochial perspective, he’s using my hometown as the butt of an applause line.

“When times are tough, you tighten your belts,” he said in New Hampshire last week. “You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.”

I’m not sure what the president has against Las Vegas, but given that this was his second such slap at our economy since he became president, it’s hard not to take it personally.

I’d ask only that when the president visits Las Vegas soon, he takes the time to visit with the people he hurts when he makes such comments. Drive up Sahara Avenue and see the empty car lots. Visit a bankrupt strip mall, or two or 10. See the naked steel girders of hotels and regional malls halted mid-construction.

And if he really wants a full dose of why he should shut the hell up and stop hindering the recovery in Las Vegas, he might try visiting with a teacher or two at any school in the valley. Ask her how many of her kids participate in the subsidized lunch program. It’s a staggering number.

Look, Mr. President who tells us to cut back while he plans to spend this country into a massive deficit, Las Vegas is at ground zero of this recession. Our official unemployment rate is 13.2 percent; the effective rate is more than 20 percent. And more than 12 percent of our households are classified as “food insecure.”

We’ll get out of it. I promise you that.

In the meanwhile, Mr. President, if you can’t help us, could you at least not hurt us?

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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