“Knuckleheads”

“Knucklehead”? Michelle Obama’s meanness delights the Right, again revealing this White House’s baffling contempt toward young people

March 8, 2014

Speaking on the Tonight Show, First Lady Michelle Obama declared that a lot of young people don’t have health insurance because “young people think they’re invincible” at the same time they get hurt a lot because, “the truth is, young people are knuckleheads. You know?”, and some other crap not worth repeating.

This White House—including Michelle Obama—has been a gushing fountain of lies, invective, and primitive bigotry vilifying America’s young people as violent, rapist, murderous, bullying, fat, irresponsible, and now deluded and stupid. The frequency and venality with which President and Mrs. Obama disparage the young makes one think they must hate the very young people who elected them to the presidency, overruling over-40 voters who despise Obama despite his constant pandering to them. A review of the First Lady’s often-cruel myths about young people from her 2012 book tour is appended below, and the presidents’ relentless youth bashing has been detailed in previous columns.

For the record, Ms. Obama, if deadly and injurious risk taking is the standard, your middle-aged generation is the “knuckleheads.” Extensive research shows it is actually parents, not young people, who display the worst delusions of invincibility. Middle-agers’ rates of violent death have soared to levels above those of ages 18-34, led by rampant self-destructive behaviors such as drug abuse that claims 25,000 lives, and firearms violence that takes 11,000 lives among ages 40-64 every year—all contributing to their vastly elevated crime and imprisonment rates. Middle-aged obesity dwarfs any problem among the young.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s artificial caps on the health insurance premiums older insurees pay, young people have to pay higher insurance premiums to subsidize the knuckleheaded, self-destructive risks of Michelle and Barack Obama’s much richer older generation.

Hopefully, the First Lady and president don’t demean their own daughters the way they treat America’s young people. Let’s review what bad parents the Obamas have been to America’s young people by pointing out what stellar parents they undoubtedly are to their own daughters.

If Sasha and Malia were injured because of dangerous environments and physical cruelties adults subjected them to, the First Lady would pursue the sternest personal and legal remedies available, not call the girls “knuckleheads.” If their daughters found themselves too poor to afford health insurance, the First Lady and President would see that they got it, not accuse them “thinking they’re invincible.”

Rest assured that if the First Mom and Dad thought others were putting Sasha and Malia in danger, they would act vigorously to put a stop to it—not accuse their daughters of making “bad decisions” and lacking “personal responsibility,” as the president has lectured young black men victimized by childhood disadvantage and racism. If their daughters failed in school, were held back from opportunities they deserved, because adults allowed them to suffer in debilitating and unhealthy conditions or discriminated against them because of racism, you can bet the president and First Lady would speak out and act forcefully against the unacceptable conditions and bigotry—not admonish Sasha and Malia to “overcome” racism with “good decisions.”

Heading a government that spends well over $1 trillion per year to subsidize the well-being of the elderly, President Obama has won only sporadic, small-scale initiatives for the young. He accomplished small reductions in soaring college costs, re-upped the Americorps employment program, enabled some generally better-off young to stay on parents’ health insurance policies until age 26, and supports the Dream Act for immigrant youth and reducing the arbitrary age for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

However welcome, these pale in comparison to the huge subsidies Obama vigorously champions for the old, and are further diminished by the president’s utter failure to propose major efforts to reduce child and youth poverty, restore slashed services to the young, and forcefully confront domestic violence victimizing children and teens. These are the true source of young people’s dangers, not delusions and stupidity.

Instead of venting sarcasm, lies, name-calling, and moral lectures against young people, Mr. and Mrs. Obama, try advancing serious measures that reduce the rampant poverty and domestic violence imposed on young people by adults that greatly increases the risks of suicide, murder, violent victimization, sexual abuse, accidents, school failure, and other preventable ills. That’s the kind of genuine safety concerns national leaders should be advancing if they want to be good parents for the country’s young.

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Michelle Obama’s gloomy book tour

Mike Males, 6/20/2012

First Lady Michelle Obama’s sunny disposition plus her new home gardening book, American Grown, should equal a benign, uplifting book tour. Not so. Her message is grim: modern life is fearsome, young people are getting worse.
“It’s a different world,” she lamented on the Daily Show. “… With modern life, things are changing… Too-busy parents don’t have time to cook, activity is being eliminated from our schools,” “the average kid is spending 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen,” and “many kids are living in communities where their parents don’t feel safe having them run outside.”

So, we need gardens for the same reason conservatives say we need guns? Because modern dysfunction, led by degenerating young people’s crises from stoutness to street mayhem, threatens Americans as never before?

The First Lady’s image of healthy, too-busy parents reared in saner bygone times battling today’s unhealthy culture is puzzling. Neighborhoods aren’t more dangerous, kids aren’t using media in lieu of exercising, and older generations got fatter faster and earlier than younger ones. One would think the First Lady, as a representative of the White House and advocate for healthier living, would be debunking fears of modern times and public life.

“While my parents never thought twice about sending us out to play, parents in many neighborhoods today worry about letting their kids venture too far out of their sight,” she insists in American Grown. In reality, Chicago Police Department reports show the city Michelle Obama grew up in during the late 1960s and ‘70s had much higher rates of violence—including rape, robbery, and an average of 800 murders per year—than Chicago today, where violence and property crime stand at or near record lows, especially murders (now averaging 450 per year).

That certain neighborhoods remain dangerous is nothing new. But standard FBI, victimization, and health indexes consistently show American communities today are safer from crime, violence, and every type of violent death than at any time in at least 50 years, and perhaps ever. Improving health and safety has been led by young people, a point a progressive administration would normally celebrate.

Why is the First Lady trying to convince Americans that we live in a newly dangerous world in which parents, unlike those of the past, let kids get fat because they’re afraid to let them venture outdoors? The “nostalgia myth” that the innocent, idyllic America of the past has degenerated into modern chaos and peril promotes conservative reaction, not more gardening and jogging.

Obesity is a problem, but it pales beside the drunken driving, heavy smoking, barbiturate abuse, youth prostitution, lynching, and other deadly epidemics past generations perpetrated and suffered. Nostalgia is not warranted.
Equally puzzling, the First Lady’s statement that modern youth spend 7.5 hours a day using media is from a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study that actually concluded: “Contrary to the public perception that media use displaces physical activity, those young people who are the heaviest media users report spending similar amounts of time exercising or being physically active as other young people their age who are not heavy media users.” The annual Monitoring the Future survey reports that physical activity has changed little among high schoolers over at least the last four decades.

Fighting fatness isn’t just a matter of healthy parents cajoling their sedentary, violence-endangered, media-warped kids to eat better, as Michelle Obama and Daily Show host Jon Stewart comfortably bantered. She praises older generations (“healthy eating and exercise were natural parts of our lives”) throughout her book and depicts today’s challenge in corrective, us-versus-them tones: “restoring our children’s health,” “changing the way our kids eat,” “helping out kids lead better lives.”

In fact, Centers for Disease Control surveys over the last half century show that obesity surged considerably earlier, much faster, and to much higher levels among older generations (the ones supposedly raised with healthier eating, more activity, and fewer media distractions) than among children. Baby Boomers are proof that childhood skinniness does not inoculate against adult corpulence. Fatter parents, beginning in the 1970s, spawned fatter 1990s and 2000s kids.

Also uncomfortable to address is the fact that obesity has risen much faster among poorer groups than middle or upper income ones. America’s poorest counties suffer obesity rates three to four times higher than more affluent counties. If the First Lady wants to talk about problems, real ones needing attention remain.

Amid homey anecdotes and recipes, Michelle Obama’s book and tour paint a dire picture of urban life, new media, and young people while missing the real causes of obesity. We’re bombarded with enough contemporaphobia from Fox News and reactionary alarmists toward all things modern without fear-based White House campaigns for home-grown vegetables.