Obama: Have Bailout Balls, Not Inaugural Balls

01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Robert Guttman Director, Center on Politics and Foreign Relations (CPFR), Johns Hopkins University

It seems almost obscene in these dire economic times we are living through every day to read and hear about expensive parties and other lavish events being planned around Obama's historic inauguration.

It is wonderful to come to the nation's capital to celebrate the new administration and to take part in the activities, including the inaugural itself if you are lucky enough to find a ticket.

But, let's face it -- it will seem somewhat tacky watching people in their expensive outfits paying outlandish amounts of money for hotel rooms and for their inaugural clothes -- gowns and tuxedos -- when every day we learn of more job cuts, 401Ks being diminished by the hour as the stock markets decline, and more massive bailouts, from the struggling auto industry to the financial sector to who knows what industry that will be asking for money tomorrow or the next day in order to survive.

Obama should say we are going to go the less luxurious road this time around concerning celebrations. He should say it is fine to celebrate but let's not let it get out of hand.

Bailout balls could be the answer. Take some of the $700 billion bailout money and devote it to the balls. There could be an AIG ball and an American Express ball and a Big Three Automakers ball. Let's put the bailout money to some good use where the ordinary taxpayer can see it doing some good -- people having fun with the money. Surely AIG , which seems to know how to throw parties even in these dire economic times, could provide their party giving skills.

At the Automakers Bailout ball, laid-off auto workers from Detroit and around the country could attend free of charge with the bailout money being used for their transportation and hotel expenses. And if the RNC can spend money for a vice-presidential candidate for a few months, the bailout money can help buy inaugural gowns and tuxedos for workers suffering through no fault of their own.

The auto executives can provide the evening's entertainment by providing free rides above the skies of Washington, D.C. in their private jets.

We could have a Sub-Prime Bailout Ball where mortgage bankers and other bankers can explain to the people who have lost their homes why this happened to them.

We could have a Bonus Bailout ball where all the executives entertain the laid-off workers and investors with depleted accounts by explaining why these CEOs deserve their bonuses their year. The keynote speaker could be the head of Merrill Lynch, who had to sell his company to Bank of America to stay afloat. His justification of his bonus in addition to his seven-figure salary would surely delight the crowd.

So, let us move ahead with these theme balls with the bailout money already provided these industries and actually see some positive benefits from our taxpayer dollars.

Dancing at the Sub-Prime Ball, The Automakers Big Three Ball and The Next Big Bailout Ball will keep us in touch with the economic reality of the day.

While we may not have to go this far, it would be a very good idea to tone down the rhetoric on the upcoming balls and lessen the costs and luxuries without doing away with the fun to be had celebrating the 44th president's inaugural.

After all, Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Pierce and Warren Harding did away with their inaugural balls for various reasons.

Bailout Balls -- change we can believe in!