The forgotten lunch tab and what it says about personal responsibility in the age of Big Government

ABC reports that President Obama treated two service men and two local barbers to a high-fat Father’s Day lunch (high-fat, at least, for Obama), and then left without paying the tab:

Amid the bustle of President Obama’s surprise stop for barbecue Wednesday the White House apparently overlooked one key detail: the bill.

Celebrating Father’s Day early, the president had lunch with two service members and two local barbers at Kenny’s BBQ on Capitol Hill.

As the group chatted about fatherhood, the president enjoyed a steaming plate of pork ribs with hot sauce, collard greens, red beans and rice and cornbread.

The bill for the president and his four guests was $55.58, but was left unpaid at the point of sale, according to pool reports.

The White House corrected the oversight and settled up the tab by the end of the business day.

I don’t for one minute blame Obama for forgetting to pay the tab.  That’s not his job.  But it’s apparent that in the swirl of government employees constantly circling around him, no one felt that it was his or her responsibility.  Isn’t that whole scenario a perfect paradigm for government?  Obama, the service men, and the barbers were all happily dining on someone else’s tab — and then the person who was supposed to pay didn’t.

(It’s ironic, really, that this happened within a couple of days of Obama’s sudden obsession with paying the tab at a restaurant:

“I love listening to these guys give us lectures about debt and deficits. I inherited a trillion dollar deficit!” he said. Obama compared Republicans to a person who orders a steak dinner and martini and then, “just as you’re sitting down, they leave, and accuse you of running up the tab.”

I mean, isn’t this better than a film script?  Within a week of accusing the opposing political party of hypothetically stiffing the American people at a restaurant, Obama actually stiffs an American restaurant owner.)

Although not directly on point, to the extent we’re talking about personal responsibility, this whole scenario is analogous to Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a village to raise a child” shtick from the 1990s.  The expression is true, of course, if there’s a real village.  I live in a very tight neighborhood where I know all the kids and all the parents, and they all know each other.  If a kid does something wrong — drinking, drugs, etc. — he can be assured that his parents will know within a day or two.  The children know that every parent in the neighborhood is watching out for them.  The kids also watch out for each other.  We are a genuine, organically grown community, based upon proximity, shared values, and social connections.  We all look out for each other, because we all know each other, and we know what matters to the other families.

Hillary, though, wasn’t envisioning a network of small communities that take care of their own.  That world view smacks of conservative thinking.  Instead, she pretended that an impersonal, distant government was precisely equivalent to that village.  Her promise was that, if we paid enough in taxes to create the Nanny state, we would get the “village” without the effort of looking after our own. Almost daily stories out of England about horribly abused children who slipped through the cracked network of social services tells us just how well that “government village” works.

The Democrat desire to avoid personal responsibility goes all the way up the ladder to the top man, the guy in the White House.  Obama avoids personal responsibility like the plague and is beginning to get mocked for that, even by his own party.  But why are his compadres surprised?  The entire Democrat ethos is based upon eating the food and having someone else pay the bill — and then expressing surprise when the bill goes unpaid.

To skip to another scenario (this is the scenario equivalent of mixed metaphors), think back to the last CPR class you took.  I always forget the number of pumps and breaths (and understand that they’ve now simplified it down to a Bee Gees song).  What I do remember, though, is that the one thing you should never do is holler out a generic “Call 911!”  This makes everyone responsible for making that call and experience has shown that if everyone is responsible then no one is responsible.  Instead, you have to tag someone.  “YOU, the guy in the black shirt, call 911.”

The same principle of failing to invest specific people with responsibility — and thereby creating a responsibility vacuum — holds true when the government sucks responsibility away from people and distributes it into its vast machinery.  Suddenly, individuals aren’t responsible — and you can’t find the clerk with the cash when you need him.

My sister once worked with a secretary who felt put upon.  No matter what one asked her to do, she came back with a single answer:  “That’s not my job, man.”  Since she was working for a private company, she was fired as soon as the company felt that it had protected itself against a potential wrongful discharge lawsuit.  In the federal world, this same gal would not only have lifetime employment, she’d be teaching taxpayer-funded seminars on avoiding direct responsibility for anything.

It starts at the bottom, with Barack Obama’s minions in the restaurant saying “That’s not my job, man.”  And it ends at the top with Barack Obama, speaking of the American economy and saying, “Bush started it.  That’s not my job, man.”

Americans hunger to take on the job of creating work and wealth.  Isn’t it time to let them?

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  • pst314

    Book, I suspect the reason that the restaurant got stiffed the White House culture is increasingly dysfunctional.

    Obama famously has never done much of anything in the real world, doesn’t know how to do anything, and doesn’t want to learn. All he is interested in is status and power.*

    The attitudes and values of senior management always shape the culture of the organization; the White House would be no exception to this rule. Some staff will internalize his values. Others will become discouraged and unmotivated, and slack off. This is especially likely in a pressure cooker like the White House, where staff often have to work long hours just to keep things running more-or-less well.

    And bear in mind that Obama is not the only bad apple; he brought many people into his administration who are little more than hacks and reality-challenged ideologues.

    Furthermore, as Obama’s ignorance and incompetence become increasingly obvious, staff will become ever more demoralized, and unhappy people make mistakes.

    Given Obama’s ignorance and arrogant self-regard, I suspect that he is unable to recognize the signs of a sick organization. I wonder what revelations we will read about over the next several years.

  • bkivey

    I grew up on various Army bases, and I can tell you that, as one family member put it, ‘The eyes of Texas are upon you.’ As your Dad rose up the ranks, more and more scrutiny was paid to his offspring. Reports of bad behavior would reach home in hours, sometimes before you did. Once your parent reached senior management (officer or enlisted), the expectation was that at the very least you not do anything to embarrass your parent or the service.
    As for ‘That’s not my job, man.’, I’ve always told my employees that if I hear that, they won’t have to worry about anything being their job. That said, one does have to guard against ‘mission creep’, but that doesn’t sound like the case here.

  • bizcor

    that would be’s not my job man” I am here to transform the USA into a
    Socialist/Communist society. not to fix it at lest not what you would like it to be. I have made my milllions suffer punk lou lose. Not exactly what we expected. will mitt better I sincerely hope so. Keep you powder dry 

  • bizcor

    Apologies for the misspellings

  • Charles Martel

    What pst314 said. Spot on.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I agree with pst314 that there will be a tipping point at which the inner dysfunction and character flaws of the Obama administration cause it to turn on itself. I don’t know that they are there, yet, and there is still time for them to turn it around.

    It must hurt that even their own media is beginning to shuffle toward the dark corners, though.

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