He said Obama was speaking to the middle class, which he defined as folks with incomes of $250,000 and up. “Heck, if you define it this way, he’s not talking to me about anything.” Ables’s income is only about $40,000 a year. “I now have health insurance for the first time. It’s a catastrophic policy.” He pays $60 a month for coverage with a $5000 deductible. The more we talked, the more I could see that the president was speaking to him on some level, at least economically speaking. He didn’t like the bailout for the banks. “Everything should have been allowed to collapse. They got bailed out and walked away with millions. They are con artists. They are running a scam. When I was twenty years old, I screwed up my credit and dug myself out,” Ables said, asserting that the government should’ve forced the banks to do the same.

“Where’s the accountability?” he asked. “All politicians are really the same guy—only a little different. Everything is a fake. It’s hard to tell what’s real.” As Ables got up to begin preparing for the night’s customers, he said the restaurant had hosted fund raisers for both Democrats and Republicans. “I make sure their drinks are filled, and if they want snacks, we’ve got them.”

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.