Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indiana Law Grad Asks President Obama: 'Is the American Dream Dead for Me?'

National Law Journal, Young Attorney: Obama Didn't Answer His Question:

A growing number of disgruntled law school graduates have taken the to Internet to anonymously vent their frustrations about high debt and poor job prospects.

Not Ted Brassfield. The recent Indiana University Maurer School of Law—Bloomington graduate took his concerns to the most powerful person in America: President Obama. Brassfield, 30, laid out his financial problems for the president during a town hall meeting about the economy held Monday in Washington, televised by CNBC. Brassfield explained that he's drowning in law school debt and doesn't have the means to contemplate getting married or starting a family. "I was really inspired by you and your campaign and the message you brought, and that inspiration is dying away," Brassfield told Obama. "What I really want to know is: Is the American dream dead for me?"

Brassfield's question has prompted plenty of pontificating in the media. The National Law Journal spoke with Brassfield, who lives in Washington and does temporary document review jobs and other non-legal jobs to pay his bills, about the town hall meeting and his legal aspirations. His answers have been edited for length.

(Hat Tip: Ann Murphy.)

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One of the themes I see repeatedly popping up in critiques of Barack Obama is a disproportionate concern about how the rest of the world views the United States.

And how did did he answer Brassman's personally pressing question? With how he feels the rest of the world views us. Entirely empty rhetoric.

Sorry, Brassfield deserves the leadership for whom he voted (and still supports).

Posted by: 00stephen | Sep 23, 2010 7:20:02 AM

...Uh... why hasn't anyone mentioned the fact that he's not admitted as being the primary source of his joblessness issues?

NLJ: You graduated from law school in 2009. What have you been doing since then?

TB: I have paid the bills by sporadic contract work. I have tried to drum up non-legal work. I'm not yet a licensed attorney. I'm waiting on the results of the Colorado bar, where I'm originally from.

Posted by: Neo | Sep 22, 2010 3:46:41 PM

@ALP: A cardboard box... what kings you must have been. We had a burlap sack coated in broken glass under Naomi Wolf on a bender, and we thought ourselves lucky.

@Robert: Here's where it comes from. The American Dream is all about finding your own way, not about having something handed to you. Both you and your classmate fell victim to the belief that a JD somehow entitled you to anything more than a fancy piece of paper. It's what you do with the education that matters. Perhaps your classmate would be better off moving to a rural county seat and hanging out his own shingle. Or starting his own firm in the big city like Messrs. Skadden, Arps, Sidley, Austin, etc. all once did. So yeah, if your American Dream meant lots of time in school, some education and a fancy degree, then you got your dream. Now go make something of it.

And please don't get me started about too poor to marry, etc. Our parents did it with even less than we have today. Somehow, the poor folks managed to raise us.

Posted by: Jacknut | Sep 22, 2010 3:33:24 PM

I keep seeing this whine about "we can't get married or buy a house due to debt." Number one: while buying house is nice, I'm sure you'll have a roof over your head via a perfectly acceptable apartment. They make it sound as if they will be living in a box in the street that they will be required to lick clean every morning (see Monty Python's "The Four Yorkshiremen").

Its the "we can't get married" whine that torques my butt. It cost all of $64 for a marriage license in my county of WA State. If you can't manage to scrape that up, or even borrow that much to get married...I guess you are living in a cardboard box! Oh, what's that you say? You can't afford the big fancy wedding you somehow thought you were promised? Cry. Me. A. River.

Posted by: ALP | Sep 22, 2010 12:59:41 PM


Let me begin by saying that much of this venom directed at Mr. Brassfield is misplaced. I know Ted, I graduated with him from IU Bloomington. While I disagree with almost all of his political views, he's a decent, principled and rather intelligent guy.

Law schools, by any honest measure, are engaged in misrepresentations that would land a private sector actor in prison for fraud. Education is, after all, an investment. I can no more blame him than I can blame Bernie Madoff's or Enron's investors.
I'm in very much the same situation as Ted, and it's discouraging. I don't expect Dear Leader to bail me out or fix everything for me, but I sure as heck would like it he would quit screwing things up even further.

In any case, as a card carrying member of the right wing conspiracy, I would have asked Dear Leader the same question, albeit in different terms. I would love to hear Obama give a coherent explanation as to why the economy under his incompetent, regime-uncertainty inducing leadership isn't going to continue it's death spiral.

I don't expect that he could actually answer that, not honestly anyway. Mr. Brassfield had more faith in Dear Leader and expected him to come up with something substantive. He couldn't of course, and the end result is the same as if a non-lefty had asked the same question. An implicit admission of ineptitude.

I'm hoping this begins Ted's conversion away from the dark side.

Posted by: Robert Simmons | Sep 22, 2010 12:29:44 PM

I'll point out that what young Mr. Brassfield wants is a government job.

That's right. He wants a vampire job. He wants to suck money from the hardworking people who work in the private sector while he swings from the public teat.

We have plenty of that already, is what I say.

Posted by: razorbacker | Sep 22, 2010 12:06:27 PM

LMAO. Another Rube self-identifies... by mistake. The glassy-eyed bewilderment of this guy is pure comedy gold. He still doesn't get it.

Posted by: wannabe | Sep 22, 2010 11:29:42 AM

BTW: You want Hope and Change? By now, anyone with their eyes not blinded by ideology or identity-politics should be able to see that Hope and Change do not come from the Government, but from the creativity, diligence, hard work and enlightened self-interest of the American people unrestrained by the tyranny of Government.

Turning Government into another Kingdom with taxpayers as peasant serfs ruled on by the Elite Masters is the sure road to ruin.

Posted by: Reasoner | Sep 22, 2010 10:35:03 AM

Obama Lied: the Economy Died.

There. That ought to explain it in terms simple enough for a leftist law-school grad to understand.

Posted by: Reasoner | Sep 22, 2010 10:29:57 AM

Gimme a &*^%ing break. Your desire to earn lots of money drove you to law school. But you bet wrong and now you're poor. Waaaah!

Your problem is that you have an inflated vision of the American dream.

When my parents got married in NYC, they honeymooned in nearby Niagara Falls because it was cheap. They lived in apartments for the first 10 years of marriage because it was all they could afford. They drove old cars, hung the laundry on a line and washed the dishes by hand.

But the instant gratification generation believs they should push a button and have everything they ever wanted. You have cell phones and internet and cable tv andmicrowaves and laptops and clothes and cars people could never have dreamed of 40 years ago.

But you were lied to by the academic/industrial complex and wasted your money on a useless degree instead of buying a house.

You could have learned plumbing, they make GREAT money ... but then that would involve getting your hands dirty and, ya know, *working*. Not you. You're too good for that. It's gotta be air conditioning, paperwork and internet surfing for you as a job.

Posted by: John | Sep 22, 2010 9:58:08 AM

Anonymous: "And, Bob, what if you are incorrect? Do we continue resisting for the egos of self-appointed saviors?"

It appears that your idea of 'not following a self-appointed savior' might differ from Bob's.

Posted by: grichens | Sep 22, 2010 9:52:29 AM

And, Bob, what if you are incorrect? Do we continue resisting for the egos of self-appointed saviors?

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 22, 2010 9:26:36 AM

The American dream will return when Americans -- like this Brassfield guy -- stop assuming a president has anything to do with it.

Posted by: Christopher | Sep 22, 2010 9:17:29 AM

Didn't this fool check out the prospects for being a lawyer in 2010 before he cranked up major debt at law school.

Sounds, to me, as if he helped crush his own dreams by not being able to look forward.

Now, he's merely another whining Dem voter referencing Camelot... which is a dream that NEVER existed... while I continue to enjoy the American Dream and the fruits of my labor without ever having taken a student loan. A "miracle" achieved by simply working while going to school... and keeping my eye on the ball.

Go Bears; Beat Stanford.

Posted by: Shivas_Irons | Sep 22, 2010 9:11:30 AM

Yet another rube blinded by rhetoric. Willfully ignorant of anything except the feel-good talk.

Posted by: Bill | Sep 22, 2010 8:50:00 AM

Listening to this guy makes me wonder if law school has gotten incredibly easier or are they grading one heck of a huge curve?

I do know one thing, this is one lawyer is not one I'm going want working for me...

Posted by: juandos | Sep 22, 2010 8:44:55 AM


Anyone who was stupid enough to be "inspired" by Obama's so obviously empty teleprompter reading deserves exactly what he gets.

The people who inspire sympathy are those who didn't ask for the garbage in DC, but found that we were, at least for a time, powerless to stop it, and now they're suffering.

This guy voted for the Obama-Pelosi-Reid government, bought into their lies, and he's paying the price. I can only laugh. And of course Obama didn't answer his question. The man has no answers, and never did. We shouldn't be looking to a President to save us, anyway.

Posted by: Barry D | Sep 22, 2010 8:41:55 AM

Dude, lawyers are supposed to be smart, but you had to mess up and support a lightly qualified lawyer with no track record to speak of. You're not looking too brilliant and that alone will seal your fate.

Posted by: Menlo Bob | Sep 22, 2010 8:37:11 AM

I, like Bob, am with America.

Posted by: Bill | Sep 22, 2010 8:34:00 AM

Who is John Galt?

Posted by: Randroideka | Sep 22, 2010 8:29:01 AM

It depends on which dream you mean. Obama despises the current American dream of getting ahead and wants to replace it with one of dependency on the government. That substitute dream is on offer, but it won't pan out even if the American people decide to trade in the old dream for it.

Posted by: Tex the Pontificator | Sep 22, 2010 8:28:03 AM

Notary translation: We'll all get along fine if everyone else shuts the hell up and does things my way.

Posted by: Dark Eden | Sep 22, 2010 8:18:25 AM

"The beatings will continue until morale improves."

I'm in a variety of businesses (construction, banking and some startups). We are deathly afraid of the next "legislative action" thats going to rammed through from Washington. As a result, we are not hiring. Nor do we have an intention to do so.

Until there is some reasonableness coming out of Washington, we are keeping our heads low and avoiding taking any new risks.

Posted by: Illinois | Sep 22, 2010 8:17:41 AM

As long as you define "cooperate" as "get to work, pay your taxes, and stop taking more government benefits than you consume," then I'm with you.

If you define "cooperate" as us working tax-payers should continue to take our pay and send it to the gropwing plurality of Americans who pay no tax and gobble up benefits and vote for people who cater to that attitude, then forget it.

Posted by: luke | Sep 22, 2010 8:17:23 AM

So, Notary, do we cooperate like lemmings or what?

One should resist, not follow, when the path chosen by others is clearly incorrect.

Posted by: bob | Sep 22, 2010 7:59:34 AM

I don't think that American is dying, If only all the people in America would cooperate. I think their would be no problem.

Posted by: notary public sydney | Sep 22, 2010 6:22:21 AM