I’m as excited for Barack Obama to be sworn in as president as the next person, but is a $160 million inauguration extravaganza really the best way to start an administration built on the mantra of change? At the risk of being labeled a “party-pooper,” I have to say, I don’t think so.

Despite America’s long national nightmare that has been the last eight years…despite the historic nature of this presidential election…despite the fact that this new president is the first African-American elected to be to the highest post in the land…and these are all great reasons to celebrate heartily…despite all of those things and a multitude of others…I just don’t think this is the best way to begin a new era in American governance. After all, profligate overspending is the old way of doing things, and to my mind, a $160 million party is merely a continuation of that attitude.

Oh, I understand that people want to celebrate, maybe even need to celebrate this presidential inauguration. I have no argument there. In my own way, I’ll be celebrating this event too. But instead of orchestrating a party of friends and spending a few hundred bucks I can’t really afford to spend, I’ll be commemorating this event internally, awash in the knowledge that America will begin a new chapter and flush with the hope that it’s not too late to turn the ship of state around.

Some will undoubtably say, “Hey. Wait a minute. $160 million isn’t that much, compared to the billions Bush has wasted away.” Okay. I agree. But what’s the point? Our nation is in the midst of the worst economic crisis in over 70 years. Our country remains mired in a war that should never have been. Our domestic problems-from health care to education to immigration to energy to the environment-all are reaching breaking points that continue to put our nation into a downward spiral. We’ve got big problems folks, and no amount of celebrating will change those facts.

Obama came to us with the message of change. I believed him on the campaign trail when he talked about fixing America’s problems, starting with the way government does business. I supported Obama all the way through the primaries to the victory in November, and was hopeful that this man would truly take us in new directions. I’m still hopeful, but I must say I am less than impressed with the way things are beginning. From packing his cabinet with professional politicians who only know the old way of doing things to backing away from some of his more promising campaign rhetoric (although I still believe Obama can instill the change he spoke of with such passion during the campaign), I’m not seeing a hard turn away from the poisonous practices that have made this government such the intransigent beast that it is. I know…the man isn’t the president yet, so what did I expect? One must sit in the captain’s chair before he can steer the ship, right?

Wrong. Obama could have started to create significant change immediately by declaring that upon swearing in there would be no festivities. Instead, he would simply get to work immediately. No big parties. No celebrity performances. No publically funded inaugural ball. Just a quick reading of the oath and off to work. America is in trouble. We don’t have time to party. And we can’t responsibly keep throwing millions of dollars around just to pat ourselves on the back. America’s problems are too big to put off for even one more day. Doing those things would have sent a loud and clear message that a new day was dawning in DC.

But that’s not what they are doing. Instead, tomorrow’s inauguration will be one big party, as if to say, “Problems? What’s one more day going to hurt.”

For my money, I’d rather see Obama take the oath, head over to the Oval Office, and begin to undo the damage that Bush wrought. I’d like to see his first day filled with new executive orders dismantling the worst of the Bush abuses. I’d like to see some real change for once. But I know that won’t happen. Instead we’ll all have to endure this orgy of celebration, this historic moment of change wrapped in a $160 million catering bill. Not exactly humble. Not exactly different. Not exactly a new day in politics.

I guess my hopes for a better tomorrow will have to wait a little longer.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)