Financial Floortime – Meeting the Country Where it’s “At”

My younger brother Ezra was diagnosed with autism when I was five years old. Because the neurological disorder puts a damper on socialization, I’ve actively searched for ways to connect with him on an interpersonal level since I was little. Trough trial and error, research, and experience, my family learned about a technique for building relationships with special needs kids called the “floortime” method. It’s the idea that, in order to connect with a child, you have to “meet the child where he’s at.”

Over the past few days, President Obama’s proposed budget has incurred some tough criticism from the left – and justifiably so.

The budget suggests rolling back half of a $700 million community service grant program, cutting a significant portion of funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (which, according to the Program’s mission statement, is intended “to assist low income households, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs”), and upping interest rates on students’ college loans.

This budget (or at least its discrepancy with past budgets proposed by Democratic administrations) has been portrayed as an unprecendented onslaught of policies that sympathize with neo-conservative ideals. Liberal pundits have expressed disgust. Members of the president’s own party have pinned him as a Judas-esque figure – a traitor to both his political allies and his own personal narrative.

Through lenses of morality and ideology, they all seem right. This proposal doesn’t align with Obama’s past promises, nor is it in tune with the song of his über-publicized family history that he’s been singing for so many years. But to fully understand the gravity of this budget’s implications, it’s important to recognize one principal idea: he’s trying to win reelection.

Barack Obama is me, America is my little brother Ezra, and this moment is floortime.

The president has identified where Americans are “at” – economically, socially, and culturally – and he’s attempting to meet us there.

From a strictly political perspective, Obama is trying to court conservative democrats, liberal republicans, and middle-of-the-road independents who have been alienated by the dominant party system as a result of America’s polarizing political culture. With a increasingly rapid rate of voters registering as independents, it is clear to the president that he must not associate himself with the country’s already-inflamed political dichotomy, but rather must make an ostensible effort to support compromise.

From a strictly retaliatory perspective, Obama is trying to uncover the nature of the right’s inherent hypocrisy. The proposal is a dare for the Republicans to blink: look, he’s telling them, I’m cutting the programs that you have deemed superfluous. Obama is showing the American electorate that even when he heeds the Republicans’ demands, they still reject his proposals. He’s trying to expose their conscious obstruction of progress.

And from a strictly symbolic perspective, Obama is trying to plead and reason with the American voter. He’s trying to show the average voter that everyone is hurting – and, therefore, he must sacrifice causes that he knows are important – programs that he personally benefited from. There a lot that’s wrong with this method of association, but the president is making it look as though he’s bringing the White House some proletariat anguish.

The president is gauging America’s interests and responding accordingly, though sometimes overly-politically. It’s okay to disagree with his decisions (I do) and it’s healthy to doubt his motives (I do that, too), but amidst any questions of morality we may have, we must remember: Barack Obama is trying to get reelected.


6 thoughts on “Financial Floortime – Meeting the Country Where it’s “At”

    • Perhaps, but the purpose of this post wasn’t to praise him. It was to try to understand exactly why he would deviate so far off “script.” It may sound somewhat optimistic, or even reassuring, but I was trying to convey the complexity of these budget decisions – as opposed to the sheer idiocy that the left wing media is pointing to. I don’t think that the president it idiotic, I think he’s a politician. (Not that those two things are mutually exclusive).

      • That’s fair, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call him idiotic either. I think the budget process is indeed very complex but the President’s “script” (at least for the moment) does not look after the people anymore.

  1. Your evaluation makes sense, and I can’t exactly disagree with you, but isn’t there a question of being too political, too eager to win votes that causes a decline in one’s moral action? By the president’s decision to slash those two programs, he has lost some credibility with me–to say nothing of personal disappointment and sadness. Perhaps in the future we can discuss acting politically vs. acting for the best of our citizens who don’t want to be shnorers but need help.
    A question: Might not the president and his advisors be overanalyzing the voting populace? His actions seem so cold blooded at times.
    Actually, I’m going to continue to think about your carefully researched commentary and probably make more comments. Thank you for bringing this up.

    • I’d say that you may be right, but the fact is that America is conservative right now. He might be acting too politically, but that’s the game. Second term (if he gets it), he’ll probably shift way more left if he wants his vision to be implemented, more center if he wants to be remembered as a better president.

  2. It is indeed primarily political. But Republicans will call his bluff for one big reason.
    It doesn’t fix anything. It cuts a lot of superfluous stuff, yeah, but ignored the elephants and relies on tricky (and really quite useless) statistics to abet his choices. But he misses one big thing. As the economist Fredrick Bastiat would say, President Obama is ignoring the unseen consequences and focusing only on the direct consequences.

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