Obama reads book to, debates with 2nd graders

The book reading turned into a heated discussion over taxes and fairness.

Taking a break from the Oval Office, President Obama visited Long Branch Elementary School Friday to read to a group of second graders.  During the reading, Obama launched into a 40-minute debate over socio-economic issues that ended when one child threw a pudding cup at him.

Obama began by reading the classic book, The Night Before Christmas, stressing multiple times that “even if your family comes from a different faith tradition that does not celebrate Christmas, it’s a great story about the spirit of the holiday season.”  About mid-way through the book, Obama began to engage the children in a discussion about class issues and ethics highlighted by the story.

“Now some people in Congress want Santa to give extra presents to people who already have plenty of them, and even though I think that’s unfair, I want to make sure all Americans have presents this year so I’ve agreed to that,” he said.

The children appeared confused and began asking questions.

“Are you Santa?” asked Billy Clemens, one of the second graders in the audience.  Another asked whether the president would give out gifts to everyone.

“Well, I’d like to, because I believe that’s what my job as president is,” answered Obama.

This triggered an intense debate over taxes, class warfare, and the role of government.

“How will you get the money to pay for that?” asked another student, Jane Adams.  When Obama briefly explained the concept of taxes, Adams responded, “Isn’t that stealing?”

“No, no,” said Obama.  “See, when the government takes your money, it’s different, we don’t call that stealing we call that, we call it paying taxes.”  About five minutes into the explanation, a couple of the second graders began to wander off.

Second grader Kelly Harvey asked the president why it was fair for the government to take money from people who earned it and give it to those who don’t.

“You have to understand, Kelly, some people don’t have the same things you do, and in America that just isn’t fair,” Obama answered.

“But if I make money because I’m good at something and you take it from me, you’re punishing me for being good at what I do,” Harvey replied.  The other children grew raucous, with several students grilling the president at once.

The event abruptly ended when student Matt Jackson tossed an open pudding cup toward the president, shouting, “You lie!”  Although the food missed Obama, Secret Service questioned the second grader for several hours and added him to the no-fly list.

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