At a time when we were hearing that more than 500,000 Americans lost their jobs in December, First Lady Laura Bush (photo below, left) unveiled a set of newly purchased White House dinner plates on Wednesday with a price tag in excess of $490,000. It certainly looks as if she’s giving the finger to the working class on her way out the door.
How many meals would half a million bucks buy at our local Lighthouse Ministries? I bet it would keep the down-and-out population in Lakeland and vicinity fed for years. How many teachers could Polk County School Board hire with that kind of loot? How many scholarships would it provide for deserving students? I could go on and on – but I’m sure you get the picture.
As if to rub our noses in this wanton extravagance, the set of dinnerware is officially known as “the George W. Bush state china.” (I wouldn’t eat off a plate with that name if I were starving to death. But I don’t suppose anyone is planning to invite me to.)
O.K. So the money didn’t come from our taxes. It was paid for by a privately funded trust of the White House Historical Association, which also purchased a second, less formal set for everyday use. But I don’t care who footed the bill, I see it as an insult to a nation that is in dire economic distress. With state and municipal governments slashing budgets and dozens of businesses going belly up, this kind of conspicuous consumption is as outrageous as the opulent lifestyle of Louis the Sixteenth and Marie-Antoinette (photo above, right) in the face of starving sans culottes.
At least the First Lady, who is apparently not as tone deaf as her husband, had the grace to explain that when the dinnerware project was initiated “the economy was in much better shape than it is now.” But who stopped her from canceling the project when the country slid into the worst Recession in 75 years?