How Obama Could Restore Hope and (Diaper) Change
The Obamas get a lot of advice, much of it free and most of it worth the price. Yet I doubt that anyone, not even an MSNBC host, has suggested that what the White House needs is this: the American equivalent of a royal birth.
The first parents are perfectly content with the two daughters they have, but really, isn’t it time that the perfect family thinks about someone else for a change?
We need a lift and a diversion, and President Barack Obama could use some of the same. One of your persistent problems, Mr. President, is that you don’t come across as warm and likable, except to your own family. So why not enlarge the circle? We missed out on the births of Sasha and Malia. Throw us -- and yourself -- a bone by producing No. 3.
There’s nothing else on the horizon to boost the economy or bump your favorables above 50 percent: The immigration bill won’t do it, nor will the looming fights over the debt ceiling. The U.S. Congress, slow to help Hurricane Sandy victims, isn’t going to appropriate a dime to rescue Detroit. So forget about Capitol Hill and concentrate on things closer to home. It’s 250 years too late for you to be the father of your country, but it’s not too late to become a father for the sake of your country.
With the coming of Baby No. 3, your human side would burst through. New fathers are automatically likable, and you’d have a built-in excuse for not dining with members of Congress -- an exercise in futility by the next morning anyway. You’re dining with an infant and have the pureed-pea stains to prove it.
If Washington is anything like London, you’d get a much better crowd following you than the usual rag-tag group carrying “The End is Near” signs and placards calling for your impeachment.
The encampment outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London is a cross between a county fair and a garage sale of off-Broadway costumes. To gin up sales, betting giant Ladbrokes Plc sent a gaggle of men dressed in extra-large onesies bearing the logo “Born to Rule” (fresher than the ubiquitous “Be nice to me; I’ll be choosing your nursing home”).
Listen up, Las Vegas: Ladbrokes told the Daily Mail that the gambling shop made 25,000 pounds ($38,000) on bets on exactly when the bundle of joy would emerge. While the rest of the U.K. was pushing the baby out along with Kate, the bookies hoped the little royal would take its good, sweet time. It turned out to be a boy, though bets on whether the heir would be a prince or a princess (both now, by law, are equal in succeeding to the throne) carried 50-50 odds, which, as Ladbrokes pointed out, was going to cost the company a fortune either way.
And the U.S. needs a boost to the economy almost as much as the U.K. does, with its sad 0.6 percent growth in the second quarter. Economists estimate that the birth of the royal newcomer will add at least $300 million to the depressed British economy by moving related merchandise, creating a mini baby boom and bringing tourists and media to London.
Traditional media could get the biggest bump of all. An expectant father might pace the floor for 12 hours. Television and newspaper reporters from around the world paced in front of the hospital for two weeks after buying expensive plane tickets and hotel rooms with prices jacked up for the big moment. The new kids on the block such as Netflix and Hulu, with their binge-watched series, can’t compete with breaking news over breaking water and the drama over whether Kate was “too posh to push” and would opt for a Caesarean.
In general, a new baby is an economic blessing of the micro sort as well -- almost as good as a new house for stimulating spending on consumer durables.
Most folks won’t buy the $20,900 Cinderella-carriage-shaped crib Beyonce and Jay-Z acquired for Blue Ivy, but parents do tend to splurge on the nursery. Then there’s the family-and-friends ripple effect. No one is a Scrooge in a store filled with blue and pink blankies, sleepers and the $600 Bugaboo stroller.
Except, that is, for Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, which sent Kate and William the traditional state-sanctioned gift basket given to all Finnish mothers-to-be consisting of diaper-rash cream, a pacifier and a packet of condoms. Fill in your own joke.
On the macro level, copycat pregnancies could help a birth rate so in decline that we are barely replacing ourselves. The population drain in Detroit is a big factor in its bankruptcy. A small baby boom might be more help than anything that’s going to come out of Chapter 9 or a penny-pinching Congress.
Obama could provide American fathers with a teachable moment and take two weeks of paternity leave (paid in England; unpaid here), as William is doing. This would have the side benefit of giving Obama a vacation the right wouldn’t dare blast him for. His example could offset the terrible setback given to tired parents everywhere after Yahoo Inc. President Marissa Mayer did a great disservice to hard-fought-for maternity leave when she pronounced herself such a hotshot that she wouldn’t need it.
Turn on the television, Mr. President, as all of England rejoices over the birth of a royal little boy. Not since your speech at Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High in 2008 would you enjoy similar adulation. It could all be yours from sea to shining sea. You would get the bonus treat of knowing House Speaker John Boehner would have to send a gift.
(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist.)
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