published Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Cook: The one speech you won't hear

Columnist’s note: President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak this afternoon at Amazon. Odds are, his speech is already written. If not, I humbly offer this one in its stead.

My fellow Americans,

Good afternoon. Thank you for having me in Chattanooga.

Some of you are surprised I’m here. A liberal president in a state as Republican as this? Look around. I have few friends here. Did your U.S. senators even bother to come today? Did your governor or Representative Fleischmann?

So why did I?

I came because Chattanooga is the exception to the rule. I came because Chattanooga has something most places around this country covet.

Chattanooga has jobs and innovation, creativity and excitement. At a time when poverty is becoming commonplace, when four out of five Americans will taste the bitter cup of economic insecurity at some point in their lives, I both love and fear what your city offers.

I love it because it’s reminiscent of the America that once was.

But I fear we may never return to those days again.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been traveling the country, talking about jobs and the economy. Mainly, it’s theater and spectacle. Like a magician, I juggle one illusion after another, trying to prop up your faith with press-conference words and flowery, vigorous speeches about a broken system that’s supposed to serve you, the people.

I’m not going to do that today. Our hearts are beginning to crack and our ears are growing deaf. My choir has heard me preach enough; today I am in the lion’s den.

Today, let’s tell the truth.

The reality of the American Dream is that it’s becoming an American nightmare.

Look at where I am today: Amazon’s distribution center. I’m supposed to praise this as a place to rebuild the middle class?

It’s preposterous to come here, a place that hires temp workers. And if you’re not a

temp worker, you’re earning $13 an hour full time. That’s less than $30,000 a year: a full-time job that delivers a paycheck-to-paycheck life.

There is no security in that. You can’t plan for your kid’s college. You can’t go on vacation. It’s not a bargain for the middle class. Maybe for Jeff Bezos, but not the middle class.

Amazon swallows up Mom and Pop small businesses. Amazon is a warehouse with a call center; small business is folks you know behind the scratched counter. Amazon exists everywhere and nowhere, produces nothing of substance, creates nothing of societal value.

But America was built on Mom and Pop, the small business and the home-grown economy. Will they ever return?

Driving here from the airport, I saw crowds of protesters. I wasn’t surprised. My only surprise is that there are so few. Each day, I look out from the Oval Office and wonder: Why is everyone not taking to the streets? Why is Washington not being overrun?

This economy, based on competition and money lust, values profit before people. We’ve given it god-like powers; it can make people sick, kick them out of their homes, out-source their paychecks and livelihoods.

Each day, Cain kills Abel, and we nod acceptingly, and call it Wall Street.

I’ve traveled all across this country. You know the character trait that’s so hard to find? Joy. There is no joy left. America is leaning toward Mudville; no longer mighty, too many striking out.

We’ve come to believe the lie that our work should not elevate, enlighten or strengthen our souls. We don’t whistle while we work; we sigh. We don’t have careers, we have jobs … sometimes two or three of them. As economist David Korten points out: We’ve fallen into the beartrap lie that people are here to serve the economy, not the other way around.

Fifty years ago next month, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the famous March on Washington when he asked us to look inside ourselves, at our American conscience, and decide: What kind of America do we want?

My presidency has been an embarrassment to Dr. King’s legacy. I have been a failed leader. I have authored drone strikes that killed overseas civilians. I have presided over the breaking dam of national poverty. I have turned a blind eye to the militarism that infects our national budget. I have danced with the oligarchy and toasted the mighty powers and principalities despite pledging to the exact opposite to get this job.

I’ve joined in the circus that sequesters our ethics and morality in the name of far lesser things.

But this question from King still hangs in the air, waiting for us to give a proper answer.

The truth is: Our economy won’t get fixed until we do.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
nucanuck said...

Bravo David. It pains me to agree with you, but President Obama has given me a heavy heart. Maybe it was never possible to reform the financial excesses and rein in Wall Street. Maybe the Joint Chiefs of Staff really dictate the US military posture and a President must operate within narrow parameters. Whatever the case, Americans are beyond ready to aspire to higher ideals than the bad deals that we are being served.

Having lived outside the country for six years now, I am seeing the US with more clarity now. There is a national unhappiness, a general malaise that isn't specifically focused yet. I can't help but compare what I see here in Canada with what I see in the US. The number of issues that divide America bitterly...hateful name calling...ethnic and religious hatred...low ethical standards all the way to the top...that's not the America I grew up in.

Those wanting to blame Obama are missing the point. Obama is not the problem and sadly he is not the answer. Obama is part of our journey in trying to find our way to a stable society. We needed a strong leader and Obama is not that strong leader. I suspect that we have further to fall before we can come together and remake America into a fair and honest country again.

In the meantime we are headed for a mean time.

July 30, 2013 at 1:27 a.m.
librul said...

A Magnum Opus, David. Honest! Brilliant! Thank you!

July 30, 2013 at 7:01 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

As long as the military and corporatists (they are not capitalists, they're fascists) are in charge of the politicians of both parties, they'll be more military actions, more control of your money, and more big brother.

Do not support the military; do not support politicians; do not buy into the flag and patriotism of imperialism and profits on the dead and wounded, both Americans and casualties of an out-of-control military junta.

Buy on the grey and black markets. Barter, become as self-sufficient as you can, turn off the fear-mongering 24 hour news channels, stop your children from becoming cannon fodder for military and politician's portfolios, don't depend on any government doing the right thing. Stop wasting your money on religious propaganda that does little but demands blind obedience to imaginary gods and the rantings of their self-described prophets.

Love your country, but despise and fight the government that binds you in mental chains of servitude.

Take care of your own. Educate yourself and your children, not with a government approved curriculum, but with the knowledge and philosophies of Socrates, Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Frederick Douglass, Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Karl Popper, Carl Sagan, Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Edward Abbey.

Get off Facebook, Twitter, and other mind-numbing time-wasters and develop your own abilities to think your own thoughts, live your own life, and not contribute to any government that treats you like chattel.

The best response to Obama's visit would be no one on the parade route. Everyone would be too busy living their own lives, taking care of themselves and each other, and not needing any politician, general, or bureaucrat to waste their time and resources or tell them how to live.

July 30, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
klifnotes said...

Over the decades, planet Earth has morphed into one gigantic U.S. military base. It did not come from one particular political party. The American people, regardless of any party affiliation are to blame. As they continue to argue over the most mundane and insignificant issues, or non-issues, America has become a country that now makes war for financial means, rather than ridding the earth of tyrants and brutal, oppressive regimes. America has become the terrorist nation that beats all other would be terrorist nations, that threatens them into going along or risk getting bombed back to the stone ages/how is it that such a nation that always touted its values, compassion to one that seemingly has lost its moral compass? .:

Planet Earth as a U.S. Military Base

It could be any week on that great U.S. military base we know as Planet Earth and here's the remarkable thing: there's always news. Something's always happening somewhere, usually on more than one continent, as befits the largest, most destructive, most technologically advanced (and in many ways least successful) military on the planet. In our time, the U.S. military has been sent into numerous wars, failed to win a single one, and created plenty of blowback. But hey, who has to win a specific war when it's "wartime" all the time?

These last weeks were the American military equivalent of a no-news period. Nothing really happened. I mean, yes, there was the war in Afghanistan, the usual round of night raids, dead civilians, and insider attacks. Nothing worth spending much time on, other than whether the U.S. might, in frustration over Afghan President Hamid Karzai, exercise the "zero option" after 2014 and leave -- or not. And yes, there was that drone attack last week in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan that killed three "militants" (or so we're told), despite the complaints of the country's new government. (I mean, what say should it have in the matter?)

July 30, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

littlejohnnyrossi wrote: " JonRoss said...

"An echo of the bitter ignorance spouted by college professors who have never had a real job and who are rewarded generously with tax money squeezed from the sweat and blood of people. . ."

Mr. Cook never declared bankruptcy several times as you have, littlejohnnyrossi. You stole from those who worked and performed services for you. You stole from taxpayers who paid taxes so you could slide on your obligations.

Like many of your ilk, you talk out of both sides of your drooling, misshapen mouth, claiming victimhood for your own lack of scruples.

Crawl back into your sewer. Until you pay back your obligations you remain an immoral, unwashed hypocrite.

July 30, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
johncorbett said...

yawwn... david cook, metrosexual of the year

July 30, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

JonRoss said...

"Dayton, you forgot "slack jawed" in your description of me. You usually use that and I felt deprived this time. And no, I did not steal the Lindberg (sic) baby."

I've never used the term slacked-jawed to refer to you, but I can see that's how you appear to yourself in the mirror.

However, I did omit the term "cowardly" — simply an oversight

I'm sure you didn't steal the Lindbergh baby, but did you bankrupt against him?

Yesterday you, littlejohnnyrossi, wrote:

I am damn near bankrupt because I sent my kids to independent schools, but they received a great education."

Would this be your third or fourth bankruptcy? It's nice to know you can send your kids to private schools while those you went bankrupt against all those times lost their jobs, homes, and money.

Typical behavior from a blowhard racist and tea-bagger loudmouth. Uses government welfare through the courts, steals from those he cheated, then whines and cries about everybody else.

In another post yesterday you wrote: "The great unanswered question, to which most of this plague can be blamed is :

"Whose yo daddy ?""

The same could be asked of you. What was the male population of Chattanooga nine months before you were born?

July 30, 2013 at 6:59 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

JonRoss said...

"You got me pegged Dayton."

That is the first honest and true statement you've ever posted.

July 30, 2013 at 7:12 p.m.
soakya said...

In the lion's den, now that's funny.You have got to be joking. Let me say first of all I'm no supporter of the president he has been a complete failure but he's preaching to the choir here in TN and Chattanooga. The leaders here line up for the federal dollars whiling criticizing Washington for wasteful spending.

Let me attempt to summarize a few stats over the past 6 years.

You do realize the unemployment rate is greater than 10% in 48 out of the 95 counties and TN overall rate of 8.5 is .9% than the national rate of 7.6. Also the annual unemployment for 2007 for Hamilton county was 4.1% and 4.9 for TN. What recovery are you republicans talking about?

In 2006-07 we see a sharp incline in population which continues to climb until 2012. In the same time period we see a rise in the number of unemployed and a decline in the actual number of employees. Since 2007 the number of unemployed has increased by 5,550 and the number employed has fallen by 5,440. Per Capita income grew at a faster pace from 2001-2007. Per capita income grew by 26% or $7,971 dollars during 2001-07 compared to 4% or $1,829 dollars from 2007-2011. From 2007-12 the employed to civilian labor force ratio rate fell by 3.32 %. Today, more than 2 years after Volkswagen opened their doors Hamilton County has fewer workers and more unemployed and slower growth in per capita income. The debt over the same 6 years has ballooned to over 200 million.

Tennessee looks almost identical to Hamilton County. In 2007 TN had 9,400 more people working than in 2012. A massive 101,100 Tennessean’s joined the unemployment line since 2007 and we have added $1,061,526,000 in net bonded debt. Since 2007 the employed to civilian labor force ratio has declined by 3.1%. Per capita income also grew at a faster pace from 2001-07, $6904 dollars or 26% compared to $4487 dollars or 13% from 2007-12. The only thing that has taken place is a shuffling of jobs from one industry to another and from one county to the other and from one state to another state.

Wake up TN

July 30, 2013 at 9:37 p.m.
RichardAdams said...

Wow, thanks for this moving alternative to the message the President instead delivered. This speech would have really made a lot of sense to deliver, a calculated insult to every American. What the hell do you expect? Of course the president is going to BS us, that's nothing new, but at least offer an alternative that has some sort of message besides "America is in the toilet, It's because of all of you, and I hate Obama"? I don't like the guy either and I'm a democrat, but had I invested 15 minutes into creating an alternative speech, I would have at least made it partially probable and offer my take on a good solution to our economic situation. Basically you expressed a single useless idea, "Your all useless, and if you don't stop being useless America is going to get worse.", and couldn't even include 200 characters to give some solution? Seriously I was ready to read this, and at the least be ideologically provoked enough to give an angry response to a dumb political idea, but instead I just read a depressed lament about the how useless every American is. The most juvenile part is this was somehow supposed to be something Obama was going to say. Honestly I'm going to destroy any validity my comment had prior to this, but after reading this I somehow hate you on a personal level. I'm sorry, but you genuinely failed with such grandeur that I don't just hate things you think, I don't just hate things you do, but honestly I hate your physical being. I apologize once more, but your article was so stupid now I have wasted almost as much space and effort as you, and I guess that's why I hate you.

July 31, 2013 at 1:21 a.m.
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