In his first interview with LiveCheap.com, President Obama owned up to being a card carrying cheapster. In intense negotiations with the White House Press Office, we reluctantly agreed that the President’s comments would be off the record. Of course, we had no intention of keeping that promise because they have no intention of giving us another interview.
Frugal Nomad: Good Morning Mr. President. I want to begin by thanking you for reaching out to our community.
Obama: I just want to say that your community is my community. I’m cheap and I’m proud. During the campaign, we made a very conscious effort to recruit cheapsters in every state in the Union. I think the history books will record that we ran the most tight-fisted campaign in recent memory. We knew that a lot of the fifty cent donations were coming from the cheapest people in America and we made a concerted effort to spend that pool of money on day-old store brand donuts. Our post-campaign stats show that cheapsters donated Six Bakers Dozens to our campaign for every two and a half dozen donuts that went to McCain. It was the most lopsided demographic in our favor and we appreciate you carrying North Carolina for us. Who would have known that the highest concentration of cheapsters was in Raleigh?
Frugal Nomad: Well, how cheap are you Mr. President?
Obama: Well, let me put it this way, when Michelle tells me one of my socks escaped from the dryer, I send the Secret Service to track it down.
Frugal Nomad: It probably looks like an oil rag by the time they’re done with it, but that’s cool. At least you get to have closure.
Frugal Nomad: Most Presidents complain about the burdens of high office. What are some of the perks?
Obama: Well, I think you’ll appreciate the fact that I get free meals including breakfast-in-bed. Even my dog gets to eat for free. I can hold banquets at state expense. There is no such thing as cheap wine in the White House although I’m trying to change that long standing tradition. The job also comes with free housing and I don’t have to pay for gas. They even throw in a driver for good measure. Air Force One is probably the best perk though. So, we’ve managed to drastically slash our household expenses.
But, we do have to make allowances for the fact that I’m now President and that means that our wardrobe has significantly expanded. The First Lady has to buy designer dresses and can’t be seen wearing the same evening gown twice and I’ve also been obliged to beef up my sock inventory. Asking the Presidential limo to stop at a thrift store is simply out of the question. It’s not that we haven‘t tried, but Homeland Security had the last word on the matter. So, on balance, I’d say that what we spend on Michelle’s dresses and shoes pretty much wipes out any savings on food and housing expenditures. I just hope she doesn’t get used to it. Because in eight years - make that seven - she’ll have to go back to shopping at Martha’s.
Frugal Nomad: Martha’s?
Obama: It’s a thrift store in Georgetown. As you know, it pays to shop at thrifts in the toniest neighborhoods.
Frugal Nomad: My gut tells me you really are one of us. But how do you intend to keep your commitments to the cheap community to control Federal spending?
Obama: It’s a matter of public record that we inherited an economic disaster that was largely a result of a lack of economic discipline by the previous Administration. They must have had some kind of litmus test that excluded cheapsters from the Bush cabinet. Let me put it this way, we won’t be funding ‘Bridges to Nowhere’ while I’m in the White House. Half my Cabinet is made up of closet cheapsters. We spend the first thirty minutes of every Cabinet meeting exchanging coupons and I give a weekly cheapster seminar that is mandatory attendance for every member of my staff.
Frugal Nomad: Mr. President, with all due respect, it seems like you’re evading the question. Could you be more specific? Let’s start with Defense spending - given our commitments abroad - how do you intend to cut back in that department.
Obama: We’ll be pretty much out of Iraq by August - that should save us $400 million a day. In Afghanistan, we’re sending in more troops. But we’re also attempting to bribe certain factions of the Taliban. My guess is we can buy them off on the cheap and be done with it. The CIA has assigned a few of their veteran cheapsters to haggle with tribal leaders. But once they started asking for Euros, we decided to put a temporary freeze on negotiations. By the way, that’s a state secret and I’d appreciate it if you kept that to yourself because it might raise some eyebrows with our NATO allies.
We’ve also asked the Pentagon to look at base closures and to issue the Marines short pants and sneakers. They balked on the second request and when it comes to National Security, I always defer to our Generals. Although our policy is to have smaller foot prints in Iraq and Afghanistan - it would be a bad idea for our Marines to show too much leg. And the sneakers might send out a message that we’re going to cut and run.
Frugal Nomad: But how can a card carrying cheapster justify handing out hundreds of billions to bail out the same banks and financial institutions that virtually sabotaged our economy?
Obama: Listen, I know Main Street folks have a hard time buying into the $180 billion bailout of AIG. But let me say this, that package was put together long before I entered the White House. I would have done it but I would have had more strings attached.
Frugal Nomad: Strings? Did you ever consider some balls and chains for the crooks on Wall Street?
Obama: I did. But you ought to know that ball and chain manufacturing have been outsourced to China and anti-torture legislation prevents us from importing them.
Frugal Nomad: What about water boarding?
Obama: No comment.
Frugal Nomad: How exactly to you intend to live up to your campaign slogan “Live Cheap or Die.” At the time, McCain and a lot of people accused you of pandering to the cheapster and frugal communities. Could you elaborate on your commitment to ‘Cheap’ values?
Obama: You know, the last administration was constantly harping on ‘values.’ Well, I’ll tell you what ‘Value’ means to me - getting what you need, at rock bottom prices. Those are the values we want to inculcate into future generations. Unfortunately, I have to deal with a Beltway culture that never earns the dime that it spends. I’m trying to change that. I’ve ordered our thermostats in the White House to be turned down to 39 in the winter and up to 93 in the summer. Michelle and I are making an effort to change the culture here and we really believe that our cheap values will eventually trickle down. She’s growing her own tomatoes in the Rose Garden and we have the dog on a strict two meal a day diet. I’m also trying to set an example. I’ve issued an executive order directing the White House kitchen to switch to store brand products and we’ve hired an assistant chef to cut coupons. We’re now serving Gallo wine at state receptions and we might go a step further and initiate a BYOB policy. If we do, we’ll invite the Italian and French ambassadors to move into the West Wing and bring their wine cellars with them. They owe us big for WW II and we need to start calling in some of those chips.
And already we’re starting to see results. Your paparazzi colleagues recently caught five members of my cabinet shopping incognito at thrift stores. We’ll be taking other initiatives and have considered hiring undocumented janitorial and gardening help. But, I don’t need to tell you that wouldn’t sit well with the press and the unions. Like I said, I’m cheap and I’m proud but I’m not stupid.
Frugal Nomad: But Mr. President, you can’t pay off 11 trillion dollars in debt by clipping coupons. At some point, don’t you have to go beyond the Beltway culture and take some really radical moves?
Obama: I agree that setting the tone is not enough. What we’re trying to do is to construct a political environment that will allow us to follow up on a few asset sale proposals that might otherwise cause a public outcry. Let me assure the American people, that we will do what has to be done.
Frugal Nomad: Care to give us a few details?
Obama: Well Guam and Puerto Rico would be a good place to start. We’re still feeling the market for how much they might fetch. We want to spark a little bidding war between China, Japan and our Saudi friends. Chavez might come in with a ridiculous offer for Puerto Rico and, who knows, India might have an interest in Guam.
Frugal Nomad: Any states on the list?
Obama: We have a short list but we haven’t made any final determination.
Frugal Nomad: Mr. President, you have no idea the kind of people I’m working for. I walk out of here without a headliner and I’m toast. Throw me a bone. At least give me the top state on your short list.
Frugal Nomad: I knew it. I just knew it. Why Alaska?
Obama: I think in terms of proceeds, we can generate a lot of interest from Japan but we’ll probably get top dollar from the Russians. Let’s face strategic realities - they can see Alaska from their front yards. They kept waving at Palin throughout the campaign and I wasn’t a bit happy about it and considered it a flagrant intrusion into our domestic affairs. We know they already have a secessionist movement out there - let’s see them try to secede from the Russians.
Frugal Nomad: Mr. President, these are hard times. Could you leave us with a few words of advice for the Main Street folks out there who are enduring unbelievable economic stress?
Obama: I’ll give you my one word answer - coupons. Get the Sunday edition of your local paper. If you don’t want to pay the dollar - get it at your public library. Find a little space where no one can see you and start clipping away. And if you spot a really good deal, send it my way.
Frugal Nomad: Thank you Mr. President for granting us this five minute interview. If you ever decide to get rid of some of this old furniture - give me a call. I’ll haul it away for free.
Obama (To Secret Service) - strip search that guy on the way out.
The Frugal Nomad covers the White House and the Bronx Zoo for LiveCheap.com.
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