Today’s Courier Herald Column:
President Obama will spend his Friday afternoon in Atlanta. Upon arrival, his itinerary suggests that his motorcade will proceed through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta. His destinations, however, will be anything but poverty stricken. The President is here to pick up his pre-St. Patrick’s Day pot of gold from two fundraisers hosted by entertainment entrepreneur Tyler Perry.
Perry is a homegrown actor/writer/producer and inspirational success story. Forbes Magazine claims he was 2011’s highest paid entertainer with income estimated at $130 Million for the year. That’s safely within the 1% territory.
Common people with a minimum $500 contribution will get to attend the first fundraiser at Tyler Perry’s studios in Southwest Atlanta. Those with a spare $35,000 or so will be allowed in to a later event to be held at Perry’s personal Buckhead home. It’s a cozy 30,000 square foot cottage nestled on 17 acres along the Chattahoochee river.
Perry’s success did not come easy, nor overnight. The 42 year old mogul spent most of his twenties broke and struggling to launch a play which he had written and continued to perfect over several years. His persistence is evidenced in his success.
And it’s fairly safe to say that Perry’s success was self-made. Perry recounts being abused as a child, and completed a GED program instead of high school. He changed his name from Emmitt to Tyler at age 16 so as to not have the same name as his father.
Everything about Perry’s accomplishments is a pure American success story. Hard work, determination, overcoming early adversity, risk taking, and then, financial success.
Tyler’s films include strong family and Christian themes, with plot lines that often depict internal family struggles but also paths to redemption. These themes and religious tones are suggested by some as a reason Perry’s films tend to have limited box office reach.
Perry as a backdrop to frame Obama’s campaign seems much more appropriate to the President’s original campaign. That was the one where a young inspiring Senator pledged to bring a new tone to Washington. He was going to reinvent political discourse and bring parties and the people together. There was hope. There was going to be change.
Then, “I won”.
That same candidate, now a President, will be escorted through some of Atlanta’s most impoverished inner city neighborhoods to raise money from those sympathetic to him. His motorcade is likely to drive down I-75 and skirt the Pittsburgh Community. Just south of downtown, the neighborhood saw its brief hope to climb out of poverty through gentrification and crash with the housing bust. Now, the community sees more than 50% of its homes vacant, with property values roughly ten cents on the dollar from where they traded just a few years ago.
It’s unlikely that the President will see any of Pittsburgh. For security reasons, he’ll likely move down the freeway at speeds that would generate a super-speeder ticket were he not escorted by the Georgia State Patrol and the Secret Service. Instead, he will see the well heeled. The 1%.
And they will donate money knowing that it will likely be used to attack other one-percenters. The money will not be used to unite, but to further divide. It will be used not to promote success stories like Perry’s, but to paint those who have been successful as those who aren’t doing enough. As those who don’t deserve the rewards of their efforts. As those who already pay 38% of all taxes collected who need to pay more because that is the “fair” solution to giving those who pay nothing even more from a bloated and growing government.
President Obama is not here to campaign. He is here to pick up checks. Despite some polls indicating a close race in Georgia for the November election, the election will not be won or lost in Georgia. As is now custom, battleground states such as Ohio, Florida, and Virginia will be the recipients of the donations made by Tyler Perry’s guests. Georgia’s strategic value is merely that of conduit for the wealthy who are sympathetic to the President to transfer their funds to a machine that will attack the wealthy who are not.