We Get Obama Instead of Jerry Lewis

Posted: Sep 01, 2011 12:01 AM
This time of year is traditionally about the start of school, the start of football and the end of summer. Labor Day is emblematic of the season, and with Labor Day comes the annual "Jerry Lewis Telethon" to raise money for muscular dystrophy research and treatment.

I need to confess at the outset that Jerry Lewis' comedy has brought me not much more than an occasional wry smile. I'll leave the belly laughs to the French, who are said to adore his slapstick antics.

I've long admired his work for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, comedy or no comedy. As a kid, I always watched the telethon and then dutifully shed a tear and phoned in to make my historic donation of $5 or so.

This year I hope Americans can find a way to simultaneously support muscular dystrophy research and to express their displeasure with the MDA for having let Lewis go. The organization's unceremonious and ungrateful treatment of Lewis has been shameful.

Admittedly, Lewis has serious health issues. But the best I can discern is that all he wanted to do at this year's telethon was to sing his trademark song at the conclusion, the one about finding hope in your heart.

It seems but a sour substitute to know that just a few days following Labor Day, many Americans will be tuning in to view President Barack Obama speak to the nation. He is supposed to be "singing" his own song of hope about boosting job growth and reinvigorating the American economy.

Look at it this way: The speech is bound to be funnier than even Lewis at the top of his game.

Think about it for a minute, and you'll realize there's only one policy avenue open to the president. He's going to have to announce initiatives that cost more government money. The man doesn't believe in cutting federal spending without raising taxes. So he can't very well offer any kind of job-creating tax cuts to businesses because that would create more federal debt. And Congress isn't going to allow him to raise taxes right now.

I'm not entirely sure why Obama blurted out that he'd soon have a new jobs program, only to put off the announcement of its details until after he finishes vacationing. That left his staff to scramble madly while he's away. They've doubtless been trying to fashion something made of smoke and mirrors, or something that just plain won't be acceptable to the public.

What's needed is a clear signal to the corporations that are making profits hand over fist that the president in a prospective second term isn't going to cause more harm than he already has; that his policies won't open the door to another round of recession, and that there won't be changes to the tax system that affect businesses adversely. If businesses hear that message, they'll likely do something they're not doing now: spend their ample reserves of cash.

And if the general public hears a parallel message that the White House and Congress have put forward a growth-based economic policy, then they, too, will start letting go of cash to make big or at least regular purchases of goods and services.

Regardless of how anyone wants next year's presidential election to turn out, we should all want Obama to have a workable plan for the economy. Americans are genuinely hurting and have been for some time.

Given the latest figures on America's gross domestic product, it wouldn't surprise me if we were slipping into another recession. And the Federal Reserve has just about exhausted all its tricks to spark the economy. Printing presses are still overheating from all the money that's been put into circulation.

So it's tough to feel optimistic about any new government strategy. That includes the preposterous "supercommittee" in Congress. It's supposed to convene later this year to see about ways to further reduce the federal deficit.

It always makes us wince to see people suffer, be they families that can't make ends meet, a president who appears to have few good ideas for a struggling nation, or an organization like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is about to cut off its nose to spite its face when Jerry Lewis doesn't appear this year.

Rest easy, Jerry. This year you can put your feet up on Labor Day and know that your many years of effort on behalf of muscular dystrophy sufferers won't be forgotten by millions of Americans. And you can even let loose with a few heartfelt laughs of your own a few days later. Just watch as President Obama tries again to pull a rabbit out his shallow top hat. It may be his last act, too.

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