ATLANTA — The nation’s crippling economic downturn has ushered in unprecedented levels of unemployment, home foreclosure, and bankruptcy. No one understands the pain of average Americans struggling with hunger, joblessness, and underemployment better than the $20,000-a-plate crowd that packed the Atlanta Sheraton ballroom on Sunday night to hear Democratic Senator John Barrow speak.
“Times are tough,” said Barrow to the besieged elites being served by minimum-wage caterers. “I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to go to work day in and day out at the mine – the mine you own – and break your back working for the man – the man in the mirror. You deserve better.”
Gina Macklin, an administrative assistant recently laid-off by Atlanta-based Time Warner, says she is glad her former company was spending her yearly salary to send the company’s CEO and his wife to the event. “I really feel for the company,” said Macklin. “We only grew three percent last quarter. How could they afford to keep insuring me and my asthma?”
Back at the Sheraton, the audience was dressed in its humblest tuxedos, a grim sartorial reminder that even the 1% have suffered during these bleak economic times.
“Originally this dinner was going to be $50,000-a-plate,” confided an anonymous source within Barrow’s re-election campaign. “But with people living royalty-check to residual-check, and with capital gains taxes what they are, we had to lower our expectations.”
Some who attended the speech came to hold Barrow accountable for the slow recovery. “I’m sick and tired of this,” said Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent. “I don’t want to have to worry about how I’m going to feed my kids—” Kent added, pausing for a drink of water before continuing, “to feed my kids’ private zoo animals. Do you know how much a leopard seal eats?”
But still, at the end of the evening Barrow exited to a standing ovation. “If we’re going to turn this economy around,” he said at the close of his speech, “we need the donations of hard-working, white collar Americans like yourselves. So scrape whatever you can out of your Swiss bank accounts, and let’s get Washington back on track.”