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SPOTLIGHT
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Out of touch

Published on -6/14/2012, 9:00 AM

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Dining with the stars. Popping corks with the elite. Shooting hoops with superheroes. Being serenaded by pop superstars. Leaving with bags of cash.

Is it any wonder Americans have lost faith in their leaders in Washington?

President Barack Obama, diligently trying to prove he -- not opponent Mitt Romney -- is truly in touch with the bulk of American families, has taken an odd path to that goal.

His East Coast fundraising tour reads like the combined seating chart of the Oscars and Grammys, with shindigs sponsored by Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour -- featuring appearances by Mariah Carey, Dave Matthews, Jeremy Renner and George Clooney.

At the Parker/Broderick event, guests will shell out $40,000 a plate to rub shoulders with the president -- money that will be used to boost Obama's attempt at a second term. On the way, he shot baskets with the worst Batman ever, Clooney, and ex-Spider-Man Tobey Maguire. Bon Jovi caught a ride on Air Force One for his gig in front of Obama donors -- a long way from the docks; must not be down on his luck no more.

While Obama grips-and-grins for posterity with the stars, Romney dutifully chases the same dollars and the accompanying quid pro quo -- primarily from the super-wealthy who now have the ability to donate as much as they are willing to campaign super PACs. The Republican nominee will spend the weekend in Chicago's swanky Gold Coast neighborhood, insulated from the masses and collecting checks from the beautiful people.

"It's all the same. Only the faces change. Every day, it seems we're wasting away."

Neither candidate has done much to convince an often-desperate voter base that one man or the other has their best interests at heart. These days, governing is campaigning -- a constant polling of statements and beliefs and policies and photo-ops designed not to improve the country, but to improve a politician's standing in voters' eyes. Distraction is the strategy of choice over decisions.

Here's to the hopeful, probably naive, belief America's eyes are opening.

Cash funding either side of this dogmatic debate over America's future is so far removed from middle-class America it's difficult to overstate. Even past-their-prime performers such as Cher and Bon Jovi rake in more in a year than many Americans do in a lifetime. Toss in billionaire puppeteers such as George Soros, Donald Trump, the Marriott family and Kansas' own Koch brothers and it becomes evident that while money might not be the root of all evil, it certainly is the root of terrible governing.

"We got to hold on to what we got. It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not."

Every negative economic number imaginable -- from the housing sector to the trade deficit, from the federal budget deficit to unemployment rates -- remains at record or near-record highs. Policies spewing from the mouths of lawmakers on either side of the aisle are not aimed at fixing problems, but at driving the other side down and enriching their own. And, let's be honest, do we really think either the Kochs or Soros care how many months it takes someone to get their underwater home off the market? Or how difficult it is for a single mother to afford the ever-increasing cost of public school?

Parochialism and patronage rule the day, not policy.

It's become so difficult to get straight answers about what is really happening the split has divided the nation with its choice in media. Those tending right hear their facts from Rush, Sean and Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson. The left delights in the tingling leg of Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman and Jon Stewart.

So much is tainted by overt bias that solid, objective journalism becomes easy to dismiss. If you can't believe anyone, who can you believe?

Academics, themselves very often locked into their own "hold on to what you got" struggle, do little to help.

A Notre Dame professor offered this evaluation of Obama's junket to the Big Apple -- a spectacular that closed down subways at rush hour, which regular, average, middle-class New Yorkers probably thought was extremely understanding of their situation.

"Let's face it: (Stars) help raise the money that you need to wage a serious campaign," said Robert Schmuhl, a professor of American studies. "Most Americans today are involved in what we call the 'celebrity culture' anyway. They understand how it works."

Most Americans are aware of the "celebrity culture." Most Americans decidedly are not "involved in" it. Very helpful, professor.

Conservatives and liberals consistently accuse the other side of representing the elite over Joe and Jane Six-Pack. For once, both sides are absolutely right.

While the politicians and power brokers live without a care, the rest of us will keep livin' on a prayer.

Editorial by Ron Fields

rfields@dailynews.net

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