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It’s Our Party, We’ll Buy if We Want To

Barack Obama is already at work crafting the details of the latest economic stimulus package: his own inauguration.

Once all the costs are tallied, the federal government and private citizens will have poured tens of millions of dollars into the U.S. economy. That includes costs for hosting the parties, security, crowd management, and travel costs for the record-shattering number of people expected to show up for the largest pep rally in the history of the United States. These costs will dwarf those associated with the construction of the stage on the Mall side of the Capitol.

One of my friends recently questioned Obama’s priorities for hosting such an expensive get-together when the county is in financial turmoil. “Wouldn’t the money be better spent on helping the economy recover, providing health care for the uninsured, or extending unemployment benefits?” she asked.

This is truly an American victory worthy of celebrating.

Well, perhaps. But it’s also important to celebrate big victories. And I don’t just mean Obama’s victory over John McCain. I mean the victory of having more Americans vote than at any time in recent decades; the victory of having increased turnout among traditionally disenfranchised groups, including youth and minority voters; the victory of a record number of Americans contributing money and time to the campaigns; the victory of white Americans voting for a black candidate, without thinking twice about it; the victory that was initiated by Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the thousands of others who have fought tirelessly for civil rights; the victory of the American Dream and the melting pot; the victory of the Declaration of Independence’s promise that all men are created equal.

This is truly an American victory worthy of celebrating.

I’m not suggesting that Obama throw a lavish party. Rather, he should throw a big party, a really big party. And big parties come with big sticker costs. And I’m OK with that.

In fact, the cost of the inauguration is actually quite reasonable, especially when you consider the $152 billion price tag on the economic stimulus package Congress enacted last February. Or when you consider the enormous sums spent to put on the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 every year. Just think how much money we incinerate every Fourth of July to light up the skies in a celebration of Americana. Surely this historic election is worthy celebrating with a big bash. And it will still be millions less than the $950 million Verizon spends annually asking us, “Can you hear me now?”

Even Verizon’s largesse pales in comparison to the billions spent by beer producers for bikini-clad women who urge Americans to slake their thirsts with their particular brew. In fact, the cost of Obama’s inauguration will be in the neighborhood of one dollar per American. I’ll gladly send a check to the U.S. treasury to cover my share.

Yes, America can afford to celebrate. So come January 20th, whether you make the pilgrimage to D.C. or watch events unfold on TV, whether you voted for John McCain or Barack Obama, join the celebration. Inauguration Day is a celebration of America. And America has never had a better reason to celebrate.

Dennis Plane is assistant professor of politics at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.