Obama and the Economy

Granted, the economy is probably on more Americans’ minds than why Bill Richardson withdrew his name from Secretary of Commerce consideration.  Granted, the economy should be the number one issue on Capitol Hill and on the mind of the incoming president.  This is evident in the address President-elect Obama gave today at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Unfortunately, the speech was long on rhetoric and short on details.  As Governor David A Patterson did yesterday in his State of the State speech in Albany, New York, Obama quoted figures at the beginning.  The problem is these figures were not dealing with his “Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.”  The figures were dealing with job loss in the US.  One figure that I had not heard before and am totally unsure where data such as this comes from is that 2.8 million Americans have settled for part-time jobs where they would prefer full-time jobs.  This is on top of the nearly 2 million job losses last year.

Obama, as was his habit in the primary and general election period, spoke in grand terms – “not too late to change course,” “extreme action,” “before a bad situation becomes dramatically worse” and more.  Obama discussed the loss of trust and loss of confidence in our economy, markets and government that we the American people have experienced.  He feels “we” can rebuild that lost trust and confidence.  Yet, he did not give any specifics as to what the rebuilding process will cost us.

President-elect Obama stated that his plan is a new policy, a new approach to end the crisis.  The cost is considerable – the only real nod to cost in the entire speech.  It will add to the deficit in the short term.

This plan, which Obama believes should begin today – but we all know Congress cannot, and should not, act that fast, will save or create 3 million jobs.  It will invest in energy, education, health care and infrastructure.  Hard to find fault as those are all areas that can use investment.  Obama insists the overwhelming majority of these jobs will be in the private sector.

A few of the details that were in the speech are below.  Unfortunately, there were no cost details associated with any of the few details.

  • We will double the production of alternative energy in this country in the next three years.
  • Within five years, all health care records will be computerized. 
  • We will update our electric grid to a new smart grid.
  • We will expand broadband lines to make rural businesses more competitive.
  • 95% of working families will see a $1000 tax cut.
  • We will continue the extension of unemployment coverage.
  • The federal government will help out struggling states.

Obama said some might be skeptical.  I fail to see what there is to be skeptical about.  The speech was all ideas.  There were no details so how can you be skeptical that the plan will work.  He said the federal government will not just throw money at problems but will invest it what works.  I didn’t see how that was presented.  Evidently, only his ideas are what works.

Good news for open government advocates!  Obama says the decision on where to invest will be transparent.  We still have yet to see that this will occur.  Any taxpayer will be able to go online – although not sure where online – to see how and where our tax money is spent.

This plan will not solve all the problems.  It should begin an open and honest discussion.  At this point, President-elect Obama urged Congress to act quickly.  He insists that we all should be asking “not what is good for me” but “what is good the country my children will inherit.”

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