Putin Cancels State Employees' Xmas As U.S. Sanctions Bite

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President Vladimir Putin-- Russia feels the pinch

[International: Commentary]

The late, great comedian Richard Pryor had many sayings I found to be completely hilarious.

Naturally, the vast majority of those sayings could not be printed in a family newspaper such as this one.

There remains, however, one clean phrase of his I have laughed at repeatedly for decades. That particular phrase is "Cancel Christmas."€ I don'€™t know exactly what it is about that phrase that still cracks me up.

Perhaps, it was Mr. Pryor€™s deadpan delivery. Maybe it was his razor sharp wit. Conceivably, it could have something to do with the fact that his phrase brings tomind a virtually impossible scenario. Think about it: who other than the Grinch would actually cancel Christmas?

What would be the circumstances which would call for such a grim decision? Who would subscribe to the cancellation of the celebration of Jesus€™s birth? Ladies and gentlemen, there will be no Christmas in Russia for 2015.

No joke, no punchline. President Vladimir Putin didn'€™t postpone the holiday, he cancelled it and President Barack Obama has more than a little to do with his decision. I say again: Mr. Putin cancelled Christmas.

Last week, the Russian President officially banned government workers there from taking any vacation or personal leave time during the entire month of January.Employees at Russian companies and government officials are typically entitled to time off between January 1st and January 12th. Not this year. Which means nocelebration of the New Year Russia'€™s primary holiday. And that also means no observance of Orthodox Christmas on January 7th.

Mr. Putin as Ebenzer Scrooge? Or Vlad the Impaler? Say it ain't so. Why would he make such a drastic move? The answer is financial. President Putin said: €œFor the government, for your agencies, we cannot afford this long holiday, at least this year you know what I mean.€ Please allow me to elaborate, good people. Russia'€™s economy is currently in recession. Current projections has its economy shrinking by 4% this year.

Its deficit is rapidly growing. Russia's oil prices are dropping like an anvil from a naval ship. Russia's currency“ the rouble a€“ has seen a steep decline in its value against foreign currencies like the American dollar. Credit in Russia is tight to the extent of being non-existent. Trust Bank“ Russia's biggest bank was in such dire straits that the Russian government was forced to put into place a system to bail it out in order to prevent it from failing.

What does this all mean for the average Russian citizen? Please think back to the fall of 2008 here in the United States when the banks deemed too big to fail werefailing. Companies closed. Jobs disappeared. The real estate bubble burst. Banks were either unable or unwilling to lend money. Small businesses failed. Gas pricessoared. Food prices skyrocketed. Pensions suddenly became insolvent. Entire industries teetered on the edge of oblivion. You remember all that, right?

You recall how bad it got for most Americans then? it€™s pretty much the equivalent for the Russian people right about now.

Have you seen gas prices around here later? I saw unleaded fuel in Valdosta at $2.10 a gallon – and that was almost two weeks ago. It is surely lower now. Youknow you love seeing gas prices at the lowest point in years. Well, Russia's economy is largely dependent on oil and gas prices. There€™s a direct correlationbetween Russia’s economic maladies and what we€™re paying for our gas here.

Here€™s where the President enters the fray.

During his re-election bid in the fall of 2012, President Obama was relentlessly attacked by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party for gas prices in the US. Theyclaimed President Obama wanted preposterously high gas prices. Then, they claimed that he was secretly in control of the gas prices. Some media pundits evendeclared that the high cost of gas would be the main reason Mr. Obama would lose to Mr. Romney. On those three points: no, wrong, and sorry. I€™m curious, though.Since the President took all the blame for the cost of a gallon of gas in 2012, should€™t he get credit for the same in 2015? Anyone? Bueller?

Clearly, the waves of economic sanctions President Obama inflicted upon Russia earlier this year for its hostile actions against Ukraine have now brought the Sovietbear to its knees financially. At the President€™s urging, the UN followed suit. So did various European countries.

Mr. Putin is cornered. He can stay the course in Ukraine and watch the Russian people suffer“ or he can lose face and save Russia from a full-on recession. Eitherway, he loses.

Attention, GOP: your poster boy for decisive action has been checkmated by President Obama. Mr. Putin cancelled Christmas! Richard Pryor€™s catchphrase wasactually true. Who knew?



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