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The Unmaking Of A Presidency

“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” Barack Obama – 2008

“So these investments — in things like education and research and health care — they haven’t been made as some grand scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. . . .” Barack Obama – 2012

Thus does the Obama Presidency start with intellectual farce and devolve all the way down to self parody. Spreading the wealth around is, “…good for everybody,” up until the point when it isn’t, when hammering job creators creates fewer jobs and you end up with 38 consecutive months of unemployment over 8 percent and over 46 million people living in poverty; more than at any other time in over 50 years of keeping such estimates.

What to do? Well, if you fashion yourself a “progressive,” which is to say your understanding of the social contract peaked with the strong-armed collectivist theories of the early 20th century which held that entire populations can be carved up by class and led by the nose at the behest of societal puppet masters, your playbook is necessarily limited. Plus you’re running out of countries to screw up, what with West European collectivist model states running out of money and East European states running away from the collectivist model. Still, there are only so many variations of the “I’m from the government and I’m here to manage your life” theme, so if you’re Barack Obama, you keep trying the same thing and change the marketing. “I’m not spreading the wealth around,…I’m just, uh, raising taxes to invest in education, research, infrastructure, free false teeth, and manzanita plants because when you invest in things like that, it’s good for everybody.” Or something like that.

You’ve heard of the manzanita plant, haven’t you? Specifically, the Franciscan manzanita? You just bought one. They are found in the San Francisco area. Determined little suckers they are too. According to the Manzanita Nursery, these plants, “…cope not only with drought; they are also challenged by wind, sand, clay, steep slopes, fog, sea spray, deep shade, fire, deer, and unrelenting sun.” Yet they keep enduring, like a grey-haired hippie with tenure. You can purchase your very own Franciscan manzanita for about 15 bucks at any number of local nurseries. That is, unless you’re the government, in which case it’ll cost you about a quarter of a million dollars. How’s that, you ask? Seems a large Franciscan manzanita was residing in a highway median. According to the Federal Register, “The plant’s location was directly in the footprint of a roadway improvement project designed to upgrade the seismic and structural integrity of the south access to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Clearly it wouldn’t do to just rip the thing up and toss it, because it’s considered “wild,” and wild Franciscan manzanitas (defined as those that are found in places other than people’s yards and botanical gardens), were thought to be extinct. So new life was breathed into the President’s program of creating or saving as many bureaucrats as possible when a “Memorandum of Agreement Regarding Planning, Development, and Implementation of the Conservation Plan for Franciscan Manzanita,” was written. The MOARPDICPFM called for the expenditure of $79,470 for:

…the establishment, nurturing, and monitoring of the Mother Plant in its new location for a period not to exceed ten (10) years following relocation and two (2) years for salvaged rooted layers and cuttings according to the activities outlined in the Conservation Plan.

Additionally, the plan called for the transfer of, “…$25,605.00 to the Trust to fund the costs of reporting requirements [emphasis mine] of the initial 10-year period as outlined in the Conservation Plan.” Oh yes, and the cost of actually digging the thing up, trucking it elsewhere and replanting it? A cool $100,000.

And as they say on the commercial, But Wait! There’s More!  The MOARPDICPFM also requires $7,025 for initial genetic and chromosomal testing of the Mother Plant; a contract for guidance from a qualified Manzanita expert; funding of up to $5,000 for 3 botanical gardens, “to nurture salvaged rooted layers;” and $1,500 for long-term seed storage. In 2009, the US median household income [pdf file] was $49,777, which is about one quarter of the total cost of “translocating” a single $15 plant from a highway median in San Francisco. Perhaps in this instance, it really was “bush’s fault.”

The appropriately named “Mother Plant” is now in the witness protection program, or as the Federal Register puts it: 

As noted …, the Presidio Trust and NPS have made continuous efforts not to reveal the location of Arctostaphylos franciscana. They are concerned that public knowledge of the A. franciscana location would attract large numbers of plant enthusiasts who may damage the A. franciscana and compact the soil.

I think I should like to visit the infernal thing. Not to compact the soil, mind you, but to admire it and take a simple photograph of a plant that is worth over four times the average income of the people who purchased it.

Now, if only we could convince the President that it is the American taxpayer who is nearing extinction, that when you have the top 1 percent paying almost 40 percent of the bill, and the top 10 percent paying almost 70 percent of the bill, you have in fact redistributed the wealth. And to what end, I might ask? To spend over $200,000 to relocate a shrub? If members of the productive class stood, “directly in the footprint of a roadway improvement project,” perhaps they could get in on the fun. The problem of course is that America’s job producers already have the footprints of government all over their collective anatomy. Far from changing the marketing, the President who so readily bows to foreign despots should take yet another bow to American taxpayers who, in turn, should leave their collective footprint on the royal hindquarters and boot him back to Chicago in November. And he can take the damned plant with him.