Random Ephemera

5 Things People Hate About the President (Which Are Bullshit)

If you spend even a modicum of time on the Internet, you will discover that the President is very, very much disliked by a very large group of people. I don't mean Barack Obama, by the way. I just mean the President.

Since America in general has the collective attention span and memory of a goldfish that has run out of Adderall, it's easy to look at the ridiculous collection of increasingly weak puns on Obama's name (Obamafail? Seriously?) and assume that this is particular to the current sitting executive. Those of us with access to Google can find you any number of equally lame charges directed at George W. Bush from his day.

The fact is that the President is a big target no matter what majestic butt cheeks warm the chair in the Oval Office. Much of what people dislike about the President is well-founded, but even more of it is just ignorant bullshit masquerading as righteous indignation. Things like...

5. The Cost of the President's Vacation One of the best stories that the news media love is to trumpet the cost of a presidential vacation. Here's Fox News frothing with rage over the Obamas' $16 million Hawaiian holiday with Oprah Winfrey in Maui, followed by trips to Africa. If you're not sporting an outrage-boner yet, consider that George W. Bush and his wife spent at least four times that on goodwill missions to Africa and $20 million flying to their Texas ranch.

That seems like an ungodly amount to spend on a vacation, but those numbers are highly misleading. Here's a breakdown on presidential travel standards that makes for some fun reading, but I'll sum it up for you. If the President is on official business, then, yes, the taxpayers pick up the tab. If he's on vacation, as much as any President is ever really on vacation, then the chief pays for everything except for travel. That last bit is the most important.

The President and First Lady always fly military aircraft for security purposes, and always within guidelines set by the Secret Service and the Air Force. Those guidelines are not determined by the President and he has no control over their costs. If the travel is for personal or unofficial reasons, the President must pay the equivalent of an airline ticket price as reimbursement for the ride. There's a complicated formula that divvies it up if travel is a combination of state business and personal pleasure, but in the end, the "million" part of the price of travel is nothing the President can do anything about.

Stories like those are meant to spark a nice, wet round of "You should be working on the economy instead of wasting millions of dollars on travel!" Funny thing about the President and the economy...

4. The Economy If you're like me, you've spent the Great Recession feeling like someone shot you in the unmentionables and cackling madmen have been trying to stop the bleeding with every dollar in your wallet. Or maybe you're a well-off person who suddenly can afford only one gold-dusted panda fur coat unlike that bastard Johansson in marketing, who has two. I'm not here to judge, unless you're part of the second group, in which case I hope someone replaces your underwear with fire ants. Back on topic: Why can't the President fix the economy?

Being mad at the President over the economy is kind of like being pissed off at a frozen iPhone and dealing with it by throwing rocks at Steve Jobs's grave. Most presidents can't do much about the economy at all. First of all, when it comes to the economy, the way we measure it means that it takes months or years to understand what is even going on at any given moment. Sure, we get a jobs report every month, but the next month it's going to be immediately updated or changed to reflect a more in-depth review of the data.

Take a look at unemployment under Bush and then Obama over here. Everything literally looks fine until one day you're suddenly dropping 100,000 jobs a month. Then, while everyone's running around like Chicken Little, things start getting better...then a little worse...then a lot better...then a little meh...and so on.

What exactly is a President supposed to do with the economy in a capitalist system? He can raise the minimum wage for federal employees, maybe install a new Federal Reserve chairman if the previous one feels like leaving (most Presidents inherit a Fed chair rather than appoint a new one), but aside from that, there is little he can do even indirectly.

The best thing the government can really accomplish in this regard is to measure it, hope to see a positive trend and try to figure out why that happened. On the other hand, if you're talking about the Russian economy, the President can apparently get a lot more done.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner