This is from the blog “In Another Country:’
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The Audacity of Help
Benito Beck is quite right–President Obama does want to transform the United States with his policies. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times laments that a political system such as ours with so much special interest money blocking up the works may actually thwart our ability to solve large global issues. Unlike Beck who seems to believe in a libertarian utopia devoted to Jesus Christ, Friedman is extolling the current Chinese system with its authoritarian capitalism. We’ ve been here before, folks, when people get all weak in the knees about democracy. That’s why I support Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 perpetrators in New York City. He matter-of-factly defended the strength of our constitutional system and our ability to deal with terrorists using our own laws.
John Wasik has written an eye-opening book about Obama’s Economic Plan and the Remaking of America called The Audacity of Help. ( 2009, Bloomberg Press) Anyone watching the health care debate might sympathize with Tom Friedman’s remarks since the financial forces aligned against making any reforms have been awesome. In his book Wasik outlines the basic assumptions of Obama’s economic plan and analyzes what has been promised and what Congress has or has not delivered. His previous work The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream gives you some idea where he comes from. He has a keen eye of what Obama was and is trying to do with the Stimulus Plan and notes the pitfalls in stimulating a bottom-up financial recovery but sees there are not alot of alternatives.The most rewarding sections of his book concern the making of a Green, Digital Economy and the initial seed money the Administration has allotted for the development of alternative fuels and technology.
For my money, the most important speech given by President Obama was his MIT address where he outlined the transformation he envisions for the American economy. I would rank it up there with JFK’s Moon speech. But that may be the problem–Obama takes a long view of our problems which he should but the short term hurt of the recession may slow if not stall the long term objectives entirely. Like Bruce Bartlett in another entry of mine, Wasik also is keen on a single-payer solution to health care, something that is off the table now. But as Wasik notes, Obama has taken on some of the most divisive issues in our political economy and contrary to his critics of the Left have stepped on alot of toes of entrenched interests. To make it to the Green Deal, Obama has to show that his stimulus package does heal the economy and help the unemployed and has made an impact on starting the transition to a more Green economy.
In a way, the whole healthcare issue is not only essential to resolve but also to build momentum for the other initiatives outlined in the book. As Wasik points out President Obama has vowed to cut the national deficit in half by the end of his term in office. While plans have been started from the first days in office to tackle this issue, President Obama will have to use his ability to explain complex problems to address frontally and fully the nature of our national debt. This will lead him into the territory of the third-rail of American politics–entitlement reform.
Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare all need funding overhauls and no recent administration has even come close to addressing this urgent issue. In addition, there is no consensus solution. Not only will the tax code have to be reformed but also the Administration must develop new revenue sources to maintain these programs at the present level just as the Baby Boomers are about to swamp them. This is the Administration’s Herculean task if the American dream is going to be revived at all.
The Audacity of Help is an excellent primer on the Obama Economic Plan as well as its emphasis on the needs of people in an economic system. The format of the book lends itself well to following the different aspects of the plan and what needs to be done. The Economic Plan is ambitious and unfortunately it appears to be necessary in all its aspects. For those who want the President to fail, it is a challenge to them to present an alternative view of how to maintain and sustain the American dream.