In 1957, Milovan Djilas, published the book “The New Class”. Djilas had been the Vice-President of Communist Yugoslavia under Communist President/Dictator Tito, with whom he had fought the Nazi’s during WW II. He had been a high ranking official under Tito ‘s Presidency and then Tito made him his Vice-President in 1953. However, Djilas, became disillusioned with the “rise” of a “new elite” class in Yugoslavia under the Communist regime. Tito removed him from office for this. Nevertheless Djilas continued his opposition to the “new class” and in 1956 openly supported the Hungarian revolution against the communist regime there. He was imprisoned immediately, but by then he had already smuggled out a manuscript of his book, “The New Class”.
The book was an open condemnation of the communist system, which Djilas came to realize that in practice it was contrary to the believe by Socialist/Marxists that the power would reside on the populace and that government officials would break with the past corruption and elitism of monarchies in Europe and failed capitalism. Djilas admitted that the communist system instead of giving more power to the people, in practice was making the State (the government) more and more powerful and that government officials were living an “elite” superior life on the backs of the population. The book was an international sensation and under pressure of the Soviet Union, Djilas was sentenced to another 7 years in a Yugoslavian gulag.
Djilas explained how the consolidation of power of the “new class” would result eventually in economic decline, because the “new class” pursued centralized control and self interests at the expense of other social classes, i.e the general population working class.
Milovan Djilas was not the first communist to become disillusioned with the Socialist/Marxist doctrine. Djilas idea that the bureocracy, i.e the government officials in a Socialist/Marxist system eventually become a new class. Bakunim had many debates on this issue with Karl Marx in the late 1800’s. After the Russian revolution some anarchists like Kropotkin and Makhno expressed the same ideas and concerns. Others in the former Soviet Union followed that way of thinking. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, Djilas concerns about the formation of the “New Class” with government officials enjoying perks and standards of living far removed from what the general population were promised and expected became the norm of socialist regimes throughout the world.
As we all saw during the second half of the 20th century, while in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Castro’s Cuba and Mao’s China, and now in the early 21st century, Chavez in Venezuela, the mass population standard of living declined, while government officials in charge lavished themselves with benefits and luxuries.
The relevant question here is what does this have to do with our country?
Well, we have heard President Obama, Vice-President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, First Lady Michelle Obama and others in the Obama administration lecture us how we all need to “share our wealth”, how the evil CEO’s ride on executive private jets, how companies hold lavish meetings in Las Vegas while workers suffer unemployment, home foreclosures and economic ruin. They also chastise the American people for needless driving of gas guzzling SUV’s, need to conserve energy, (become green). Class warfare is highlighted making a big divide between the hard working small businessman and those who may not be at that level of the economic ladder.
Well, let’s look at how the “big government” and social philosophy of the Obama Administration fares in a Milovan Djilas world. Were Milovan Djilas alive today, would he view the Obama Administration and the bureaucracy that he has built in just 18 months in office (federal government employees have increased by 250,000 since he took over), as the “New Class”?
As those of you who have read the Obamacare bill, you know that our healthcare will never be the way it was, yet, a healthy President Obama took 6 doctors ( isn’t he a very healthy young President who just turned 49 years old?) with him for his 3 day trip to the G-20 meeting in London. He also took with him another 500 staffers, including 200 Secret Service agents. What an entourage.
Obama also had 35 vehicles with him, mostly big gas guzzling SUV’s. He had 12 teleprompters and of course, notwithstanding the fact that the “beast”, that is the specially equipped SUV that is the most heavily armored vehicle in the world, short of an M-1 Abrams tank, he also had Marine One helicopter airlifted. Several other similar helicopters were also airlifted so that they could confuse any potential attacker as to what helicopter was the President riding in. This took several C-17 military transports at great expense to an already stressed and deficit running federal budget.
While the president of the US deserves and needs heavy security, the number of people, vehicles and aircraft was unprecedented and in particular after Obama Lectured corporations and their executives for lavish and excess on travel on executive jets to luxury resorts.
Dale McFeatters a commentator and writer for Scripps Howard News Service wrote in London about Obama’s trip; “An Entourage Surpassing the Queens”. He also wrote: “President Obama showed up at the G-20 summit in London with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink – but he did bring the White House chef and kitchen staff”.
Now let’s talk about the news of the day, First Lady Michelle Obama trip to Marbella, Spain.
Quoting an article on Sundays NY Time (August 8, 2010) web edition (maybe also in the print edition) by Peter Baker and Raphael Minder.
“ There is nothing like a little Mediterranean beach vacation to unwind. Unless you happen to travel with dozens of Secret Service agents, trailed by photographers and dogged by controversy”.
“Mrs. Obama and friends have been staying at the five-star Hotel Villa Padierna near Marbella, where at least 30 rooms were reserved for the entourage, including those for security. The hotel is one of Spain’s more luxurious establishments, with rooms ranging from $500-a-night to a $6,600 suite with 24-hour butler service".
Even Obama’s supporters have questioned “the wisdom" of such a lavish vacation, which involves at least some taxpayer money, in a time of austerity.
While Michelle was enjoying with her children and friends a lavish luxurious resort vacation in a foreign country, the US Labor Department reported the loss of another 131,000 jobs.
A New York Daily News (another liberal NY newspaper) columnist said of the trip: “A modern-day Marie Antoinette".
The US is in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, the unemployment rate is stock close to 10% and the American people are having a tough time finding jobs. Taking such a lavish vacation which is partially paid by taxpayers money, while the President himself have called for the American people to be cognizant of these austere times, Michelle’s trip is a sign of arrogance and/or entitlement as the “New Class”. It follows the Milovan Djilas pattern.
While the First Lady reimburses the government the equivalent of a first class fare for her and her daughters, to the tune of about $7500.00, the actual cost of operating just the plane is over $160,000.00 Then there is the costs of the rooms for her entourage and Secret Service protection. Obama Administration officials claim that Michelle had to take some of her staff with her to help her with a courtesy visit to the Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía on the island of Majorca on Sunday before flying home to Washington.
As the First Lady, Michelle is entitled to travel in an official government plane, usually an Air Force plane. The Secret Service has responsibility for the protection of the First Lady and they typically decide the level of security required for each trip of those protected by the service.
As to Laura Bush, former First Lady, the NY times article stated:
“Laura Bush took vacations without her husband each year of George W. Bush’s presidency, traveling with her Secret Service detail on a government plane to meet friends for camping in national parks. But that never generated as much furor, in part because vacationing in the United States is not as politically delicate for American leaders and their families as doing so in foreign countries".
“It’s always very difficult to lead a private life when you’re a public person,” said Anita McBride, who was Mrs. Bush’s chief of staff. “No one would deny any of our hard-working public officials an opportunity for a vacation. Everybody needs that. But I think the more expensive or lavish a trip might be perceived, the more criticism you invite".
Previous First Ladies travelled overseas, mostly accompanying their husband Presidents. Recent First Ladies, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush did travel alone, but usually with foreign policy purposes, not necessarily on vacation and their groups and places where they stayed were not at the level selected by Michelle Obama in Marbella, Spain.
Michelle Obama’s lack of sensitive to the ply of the American workers deserves criticism. The excuses that she needed a vacation to console a depressed friend over some personal problems or that one of her daughters wanted to visit Spain lacks credibility.
Why select such a lavish place when she could have selected many US resort locations all over the country who are suffering severe financial problems? Such a selection would have been viewed more favorably and help keep the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in Spain in the US economy. It also should be pointed out that many of the people in the hospitality industry are members of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), which has also been the strongest supporter of Obama and his administration. While the SEIU leadership has not raised the issue, I am sure the membership are not happy with the First Lady giving them the proverbial “cold shoulder”, in particular when many of the members have lost their jobs during the recession.
The bottom line is that the First Lady’s lavish vacation smacks of elitist behavior, i.e., “The New Class”.
The First Lady’s selection of a lavish vacation is a contradiction of the way her and her husband were portrayed by the mainstream media as being a couple of humble origins, from the South side of Chicago and always in touch with the common and ordinary folks. Unfortunately, the change of behavior started since Obama took office. Michelle Obama set up a large number of staffers, including a chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, two special assistants, a Director and press secretary, a scheduling director, a deputy director for policy and projects, two deputy directors and deputy social secretaries, a deputy director of scheduling and events coordinator, a deputy director of advance and trip director, a special aide and personal assistant, a special assistant for scheduling and traveling aide, an associate director of correspondence, an executive assistant to the chief of staff, a staff assistant to the social secretary, and a deputy associate director of correspondence.
When comparing Michelle Obama’s personal staff numbers and costs, vs. Laura Bush here are the numbers.
Michelle Obama has 16 paid staff costing the American taxpayers $1,256,700.
Laura Bush had 10 paid staff costing the American taxpayers $764,900.
This is a difference of 6 more staffers for Michelle (60% more) and $491,800.00 (64%) more.
Then we can get into the discussion of prominent Obama Administration and Democrat Congress members.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House demanded a large plane to travel from Washington, DC to her San Francisco district. Her excuse, she wanted a non-stop fly rather than the smaller available plane which requires one stop.
Congressman Charlie Rangel is facing ethics violations, like not reporting income from a villa in the Dominican Republic or having 4 rent-control apartments in NY while legally he can only have one.
Senator of Connecticut Chris Dodd ( Chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee) got a special deal from Countrywide for a loan. He was deemed a “friend of Angelo”, the then chairman and CEO of Countrywide.
Senator John Kerry was recently caught keeping his new $7 million yacht in Rhode Island to save about $500,000 in taxes that he would be required to pay in Massachusetts, his State. Under pressure he finally decided that it was best to pay.
I am sure that many of my readers can cite examples of corrupt Republicans, but what we have here is the new sense of entitlement, arrogance and hypocrisy from a President who campaigned to eliminate corruption in government and “Change” the way Washington politicians operate.
We have hypocrisy from Speaker and Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi, who vowed to have the most ethical Administration, yet scandals continue.
The Obama Administration and the Democrat Congress represent the “NEW CLASS”. They are asking the American people to “share the wealth”, but they are not willing to reduce their lavish behavior and share “austerity” like the rest of us.