Elitism and Empathy in American Presidents: Who Cares for the Suffering Children?

by William John Cox
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
May 3, 2010


by Helen Werner Cox, used with permission

© All rights reserved.

Who cares that millions of children are suffering and dying around the world, in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Gaza, Sudan, the Congo, Colombia, and Mexico, and in the United States?

Why are American voters only given the choice of voting for members of the political, social and economic elite to be their president, rather than for leaders who care for and identify with the needs of ordinary people?

Do presidential candidates supplant their empathy with loyalty to the ruling elites, or do the elites only select pliable candidates with an absence of empathy?

Elitism and the Seizure of Political Power

Webster’s defines elites as “a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence.”

Elitism was exemplified by the royals of Europe who sat on the thrones of England, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Russia and other countries. They intermarried and for hundreds of years controlled the lives of their subjects, while occasionally sending them to die in family squabbles with their cousins.

The royal’s concern for those they ruled was famously illustrated by Queen Marie Antoinette who, when told that the peasants had no bread, exclaimed, “Then, let them eat cake!” The hoi polloi returned the favor during the French Revolution by cutting off her head, along with that of her husband, King Louis XVI.

Although the American Revolution was fought to establish a government of the people, the will of the people has often been subverted by wealth and influence. Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The real truth of the matter is … that a financial element … has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Johnson.” Most critically, over the past 30 years, an ever-more-powerful elite has seized complete control of the U.S. presidency.

Earning millions of dollars a year from salaries, bonuses, investments and fraud, the individuals and their families who control major financial institutions, foundations and corporations are the new royalty and, like the kings and queens of old, they have little care or concern for anyone other than themselves, their own, and their profits.

With little allegiance to the United States or its people, these elites seek a “New World Order” within which to exercise their power, and they meet secretly on Hilton Head Island and in the Bohemian Grove to network and they conspire at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg Group to complete their arrangements.

Since 1980, all U.S. presidents, including the current incumbent, have shared an allegiance to the ruling elite, and they have governed with policies that favor the rich and powerful over the poor and disadvantaged.

Three Decades of Elite Presidents

The cast of subservient presidents was led by Ronald Reagan, a “B-grade” movie actor, who was an articulate spokesman for the controlling elite. He not only had the ability to perform the script written by his corporate sponsors, but he had profited handsomely from the association. Reagan lived on Rancho Del Cielo overlooking the Pacific Ocean and vacationed in Palm Springs with his wealthy friends. As president, he elevated greed to a national creed by pursuing politics in “which people still can get rich.”

Reagan not only redecorated the White House, ordered new china, and threw glittering parties, he provided tax incentives to corporations to move high-paying jobs out of the U.S., and he organized the transfer of the tax burden to the workers and the fruits of the national bounty to the bosses. In doing so, he made millionaires out of 1.3 million devotees by 1988, including more than a 100,000 decamillionaires.

Reagan cut the personal tax bracket of his wealthy friends from 70% to 28%, and he transformed America from a creditor to a debtor nation, encouraged the creation of massive debt to finance corporate takeovers, mergers, acquisitions and leveraged buyouts, and he promoted wild speculation in the stock and financial markets.

Retiring in senility to fashionable Bel Air, Reagan was succeeded by his vice-president, George H. W. Bush (Sr.), another product of the ruling elite. Both of Bush’s grandfathers earned millions from the First World War as founding members of the “military-industrial complex,” and his father, Senator Prescott Bush was a wealthy banker, who profited from the Second World War by helping Hitler fund his war machine.

Bush Sr. married the daughter of a wealthy publisher, who was a descendant of President Franklin Pierce. Following World War II, Bush Sr. served as a CIA asset in establishing a petroleum company that funneled money and supplies to CIA operations in the Caribbean and Central America. Sponsored by the CIA and supported by Presidents Nixon and Ford, he became a Congressman, Delegate to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Director of the CIA, before becoming Reagan’s vice president.

As vice president, Bush Sr. had presided over Reagan’s deregulation and government reduction programs. As president, he inherited the massive deficits provided by Reagan’s “voodoo economics” and the savings and loan collapse caused by his own deregulation efforts. Bush Sr. became increasingly unpopular with republicans when he was forced to raise taxes and with democrats when he failed to reduce the unemployment and poverty resulting from an economic recession and corporate reorganizations.

Bipartisan disenchantment with Bush Sr. resulted in the election of William “Bill” Clinton in 1992, who was from a family of small business owners in Arkansas. Clinton attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University on an academic scholarship and University College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, before obtaining a law degree from Yale University (where he met his wife, Hillary Rodham).

Clinton had been fascinated with politics from a young age and, following his return to Arkansas to teach law, he was elected as the state’s attorney general and to multiple terms as governor. Clinton was a “New Democrat,” who believed in the “Third Way” of governing whereby he advocated free trade, welfare reform, smaller government and financial deregulation. He and his wife made political and professional liaisons with law firms that represented corporate interests and with financial and investment companies doing business in Arkansas.

Although he positioned himself as a “centralist,” Clinton’s failures, particularly health care reform, were on the left, while his successes, such as welfare reform, free trade agreements and financial deregulation, were on the right. Most telling, in light of future events, including the “Great Recession of 2008,” was his support of the Financial Services Modernization act of 1999, which eliminated essential restrictions on the integration of banking, insurance and stock trading.

Since leaving office in 2001, Clinton has earned more than $109 million, including a $15 million advance for My Life, primarily from his speaking engagements. Among the groups paying him up to $450,000 for a one-hour speech are AEG London, Goldman Sachs, and the Chamber of Commerce. He told one audience, “I never had a nickel to my name until I got out of the White house, and now I’m a millionaire, the most favored person for the Washington Republicans.” Senator Hillary Clinton has also profited from corporate sponsors, among which Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have been her most generous benefactors.

With the inauguration of George W. Bush (Jr.), the ruling elite placed its own crown prince on the throne. Not only descended from political royalty, Bush Jr.’s intellectual limitations and business failures made him the most pliable of all recent presidents. He harmed workers and benefitted businesses by eliminating regulations in areas such as on-the-job injuries and overtime compensation, he refused to enforce the regulations he couldn’t change, or he emasculated the enforcement agencies, such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Coming into office, Bush promised that he would sign a tax cut every year. He almost succeeded. With a great fanfare, he signed major tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and a smaller one in 2002. Bush very quietly signed a major revision of corporate tax law in 2004 that provided billions of additional tax breaks to corporations. In 2008, he signed extensions of tax cuts that were set to expire, and he slipped another $120 billion of “tax relief” into the financial rescue bill.

In combination, these laws lowered the marginal tax rate for high-income household, eliminated estate taxes, and reduced taxation of stock dividends and capital gains. The tax burden of the super rich fell by one third, allowing the amount “earned” by the top 1% of total U.S. personal incomes to more than double from 9.97% in 1979 to 23.5% in 2007. The top 3% of households raked in almost half of the national income!

The Obama Administration

In October 2008, Senator Obama endorsed and voted in the Senate for the economic bailout package prepared in secret by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and outgoing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and signed by President Bush. Thus, even before commencing his term in office, Senator Obama rewarded a cadre of corrupt international bankers, while failing to include any rescue efforts for the hard-working American people who were facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness or hunger as a result of the bankers’ fraud.

Why would Senator Obama fail to demand consideration for the poor and downtrodden in the bailout bill? One answer can be found by an examination of the political contributions he was receiving at the time. Top securities and investment firms were Obama’s fourth largest source of funds, contributing $7.9 million, even more than for his republican opponent. Of these, Goldman Sachs was responsible for almost one million dollars, closely followed by Citigroup and JPMorgan.

It is increasingly difficult to find any differences between the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Even though he has increased enforcement of some labor regulations, President Obama has failed to push passage of the Employee Free Choice Act for workers. In all other respects, ranging from enforcement of environmental regulations and approving offshore drilling, to his reappointment of Ben Bernanke as the Federal Reserve Chairman and Robert Gates as the Secretary of Defense, Obama has encouraged continued massive profits and bonuses for Wall Street, followed harmful environmental policies, including allowing off-shore drilling, supported renewal of police-state legislation, and expanded the profitable wars of the military-industrial complex.

Obama’s much touted health care reform bill is proving to be a bonanza for the health care, pharmaceutical and insurance companies. It provided few benefits for working people, while forcing them to buy expensive health insurance from the very companies which are victimizing them.

Rather than marshaling the resources of the government to directly help the people, Obama continues to throw away hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars on the U.S. wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Every day, children are being horribly injured and are dying in these countries as a result of the militaristic policies he pursues on behalf of the ruling elite, while denying the suffering children of his own country the food, education and relief the wasted money would otherwise provide.

Commander-in-Chief Obama has appointed a military assassin to command U.S. troops in Afghanistan and has silently endorsed war crimes, including a confirmed report that his Special Forces murdered three gagged and bound women, two of whom were pregnant. The soldiers cut into the women’s bodies to remove evidence of their slaughter, and tried to blame the carnage on their innocent victims.

In other night raids, Obama’s assassins executed eight handcuffed boys, the youngest of whom was 11 years old, and machine gunned another family, including two youths and an infant, on the roof of their home as they tried to escape what they believed to be robbers breaking in. In each case, the military initially claimed that “insurgents” were killed during firefight operations, before admitting their “error.” Meanwhile, President Obama has remained silent on these and a multitude of continuing war crimes committed under his command.

Presidential-elect Obama also failed to condemn Israel’s military attack against the civilian population of Gaza during December 2008 in which hundreds of children were slaughtered, and he has remained silent while Israel has denied humanitarian aid for its Gaza victims. The White House “stood with Israel” and voted against the UN Human Rights Commission report that found Israel to be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Today, in the U.S., one out of every six adults is unemployed or underemployed, and one third were without work at some point in 2009. One of every four children in the United States lives in poverty. Yet, the nation is still without a dedicated jobs program.

With one in six children living in a household suffering from food insecurity, the nation is still without a targeted food program. President Obama has promised to eliminate hunger in America by 2015 and to create millions of jobs through his overall economic recovery program; however, all across America, tonight, there are millions of children going to bed hungry with little “hope” for their future.

President Obama promised hope and change for the United States. He is certainly one of the most articulate presidents ever; however, is he merely mouthing words, or does he have real feelings for others?

The Presence or Absence of Empathy

Empathy is a capacity for understanding and sympathizing with the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another person. An empathic person does not have to be poor or to have personally suffered to “feel the pain” of another person; however, empathy does require real feelings and not just an expression of concern.

Franklin Roosevelt was born into a family of wealth and privilege; however, he quickly demonstrated upon being elected president that he truly cared for the well-being of the poor and disadvantaged. He immediately established job and relief programs and directed public spending to put money into the pockets of workers, rather than profits onto the balance sheets of corporations.

Roosevelt did not cater to the ruling elite. Rather, he said “the transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance, or gift is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the American people.” FDR believed in an essential human right to be free from want, in order to enjoy a healthy peacetime life, and to be free from the fear caused by military armaments.

For Roosevelt, empathy was not a rhetorical device; it was a deeply felt identification with those with the least power and those who suffered the most.

Like Roosevelt, George W. Bush (Jr.) was also raised in great wealth and privilege, and he held himself out as a “compassionate conservative.” However, it was no secret that Bush was anything but. He once bragged to an audience of wealthy New Yorkers, “This is an impressive crowd. The haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”

Bush may have spoken these words: “Those who are poor, those who suffer, those who have lost hope are not strangers in our midst; they’re our fellow citizens.” However, when a citizen dared to criticize him during a promotional event for his “faith-based” programs, he snarled, “Who cares what you think?”

Ernest Partridge writes that the “‘absence of empathy’ is ‘the one characteristic that connects’ most of the immoral and misbegotten tenets of Bushism: that dogmatic mix of market absolutism, libertarianism, corporatism and simple greed that falsely describes itself as ‘conservatism,’ and which I choose to call ‘regressivism.’ ‘Absence of empathy’ is the essence of evil which, if unchecked and unreversed, is certain to bring about the demise of the American republic as we know it, just as it led to the advent of the Third Reich.”

One has to ask: has the United States evolved an electoral system that deprives its presidents of empathy, or are presidental candidates selected because they have an absence of that quality?

Is President Obama a Member of the Ruling Elite?

President Obama was not raised with wealth, but by a single mother who, at one time, had to draw upon food stamps. However, he was privileged to receive an upper-class education. He received a scholarship to the exclusive Punahou School at age 10, where he spent the next eight years on the lush hillside campus preparing for college. Following graduation, Obama received scholarships to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles and Columbia University in New York City.

After taking a break to work as a community organizer, Obama received a scholarship to attend Harvard Law School, where he served as editor and president of the law review journal, and he clerked for two prestigious law firms in Chicago during his summer vacations.

Upon graduation in 1991, Obama returned to Chicago where he was employed by the University of Chicago Law School as a visiting fellow in order to complete his book, Dreams from My Father.

In 1992, Obama married Michelle Robinson, who was a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Their two daughters have attended the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and, after they moved into the White House, the children were enrolled in the private Sidwell Friends School.

Like Clinton, Barack Obama relied upon scholarships to raise himself by education from modest circumstances, but can it be said that his experiences resulted in empathy for other underprivileged children who do not qualify for such assistance, or who do not have the family or community support to take advantage of available opportunities? Does he blame these children for their own failures?

In September 2009, President Obama recorded a message to American students, and the Department of Education suggested that teachers have their students “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president” and “to make students accountable to their goals.” The government also recommended that, after listening to the speech, students should discuss what “the President wants us to do.” Obama laid his expectations upon the students, but he failed to mention what they could expect from him.

After a year in office, the evidence is convincing that Obama is willing to make politically advantageous deals on behalf of his corporate sponsors and, in doing so, fail to serve the interests of the voters who elected him, and their children.

The world has seen that President Obama is also willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent civilians, including children, to achieve the objectives of the ruling elite. These lives are simply “collateral damage” in the wars being fought around the globe against “terrorism,” “drugs” and in support of Israel’s program of apartheid in Palestine.

One must conclude that, irrespective of his race, creed, or culture, President Obama is much more a part of the international ruling elite, than the ordinary people of America, who seized upon his message of hope and change and elected him as their president. Sadly, it appears his soul was already spoken for.

Who Cares for the Suffering Children?

Children continue to suffer and die around the world and in the United States because the presidents placed in the White House by the ruling elite have no empathy for those who suffer from the policies they pursue, or the critical problems they ignore, all in response to the dictates of their masters.

By adhering to the “ethics of the marketplace,” by allowing the politics of greed, the culture of militarism, and the pursuit of an empire to dictate his administration’s policies, President Obama has betrayed the American people who believed and trusted in him.

If the President of the United States fails or refuses to take action on behalf of children, the most vulnerable victims of the unlawful wars he continues to fight on behalf of the ruling elites, or the corrupt policies he pursues for their benefit, who shall speak for the children?

Who cares for the suffering and dying children, the homeless, those without hope, those abandoned or ignored by the politics of power, the little ones who cry themselves to sleep each night, cold, hungry and alone? The lights may be on in the White House, but is there anyone at home?

William John Cox is a retired prosecutor and public interest lawyer, author and political activist. His 2004 book, “You’re Not Stupid! Get the Truth: A Brief on the Bush Presidency” is reviewed at http://www.yourenotstupid.com, and he is currently working on a fact-based fictional political philosophy.

The drawing of “Who Cares for the Suffering Children” is by Helen Werner Cox, who was trained as a classical painter at Boston University. She is nearing retirement as a nationally-certified library media teacher, who has made extensive use of art in her literacy programs. Credit for photographs used as models include: French Association Friends of Afghans and Afghanistan; Gaza1.wordpress.com; Helen_01 on photobucket; Andy Graham, the hobo traveler; starving_child-sudan21 on wordpress.com; and Marrilee Boyack.


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7 thoughts on “Elitism and Empathy in American Presidents: Who Cares for the Suffering Children?

  1. Sadly, our presidents are a reflection of us. Most Americans don’t care about the homeless or about the suffering children, so our presidents don’t care either. If Americans overwhelmingly put pressure on our politicians to help the poor things would change. Fact is, programs and services for the poor are budget cut because most Americans don’t want to pay higher taxes to help someone else. Don’t believe me? Talk to people. I talk to ppl all the time about homelessness and poverty ’cause it’s my cause. And it’s the rare American who says, yes, we should do more to help the homeless. Most ppl I meet ask the question, how can we prevent poor people from taking advantage of the system? (Meanwhile, billionaires take advantage of the system by getting huge tax breaks that cost our country a lot more money…)
    Want to find out how many Americans have empathy and compassion for the less fortunate? Pretend to be one of the less fortunate. I mean, go out and pretend to be a homeless person and just see how people treat you…

    • I guess it depends on where you live. In my town, there are many caring people who volunteer to help those who are less fortunate. The churches have stepped up too, taking in people who need shelter during the wintertime.

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