Every four years when a new president is inaugurated, I get slightly sick to my stomach. It's not that I don't like the people who are taking office (though I haven't for quite some time), and I do appreciate the U.S.'s unique, long record of peaceful transitions of power.
But what gets me is the pomp and circumstance before and after the actual legal transition of power: the concerts, the inaugural balls, and so forth. This is a republic, not a monarchy, and there is something untoward about spending tens of millions of dollars on inauguration celebrations, which seem to me more appropriate for a coronation of a king than an inauguration of a president. Worse yet, the money comes from various fat cats and special interests who hope to gain special favors from the new administration, and many of the events are dominated by the permanent political class that lives off the labors of the general public--it's almost like they are taunting the rest of us.
This is hardly Obama's doing; to the best of my recollection, it was Reagan who first went overboard with inaugural festivities, just as it was Reagan who had what I consider the most gratuitously lavish "sendoff" in American history when he died. But I think it will be a sign the country is on the right track when a future president takes his oath of office before a few hundred friends, relatives, supporters, and high-level government officials, has a small party in the White House that evening, and then gets to work.