Monday, February 1, 2010

Eloquent, ambitious, unfocused

Listen to the people

Bucks County Courier Times

President Obama's State of the Union address was an opportunity to reestablish the potential for leadership that Mr. Obama has squandered since his inauguration. He failed.

The day after the speech, it was as if it had not happened.

Businesses went right on laying off, homes continued to be foreclosed, Congress went right back to business -trying to figure out how to get re-elected while selling out the voters to the entrenched interests - and the president headed out of town to promote his agenda.

And there is the problem - a Congress that is bought and paid for, and a president with an agenda as long as a laundry list and about as exciting.

The morning after Mr. Obama addressed Congress and the nation, nobody had a clear idea what the president proposes to do to rescue America from its disastrous slide - because the president proposes everything.

Mr. Obama needs urgently to take his own advice, delivered at the time of his inaugural with a clarity and prescience he has since lost, and begin to govern with focus.

He might start by sending his advisors and campaign gurus off to some island, cutting off all communication and listening to the American people.

Americans do not like the president's health care proposals. To be fair, they are not really his anymore, if they ever were. They are instead the remains of some good ideas that have been mauled beyond recognition by the health care industry.

Rather than wait for the legislation to die, as it will, the president needs to get the corpse out of the capitol, pull the legislation and - I know this is popular and therefore apparently suspect - give the people what they want: keep the ban on the most outrageous insurance industry practices, set limits on medical malpractice and expand Medicare to include as many of the uninsured who want to sign up, especially the now unemployed.

In his speech the president pointed out that everyone hates the Wall Street bailout, attempting the pose of a martyr to the sad burdens of his office. He should have been less theatrical and more truthful.

Not everyone hates the bailout. None of the fat cats on Wall Street, their retainers in Congress or their stooges in the regulatory agencies hate it. They love it!

It is the American people who hate it, because they know they have been massively ripped off.

If instead of making excuses and defending the outrage, the president actually went after the money - not just chump change that Wall Street will shrug off, but the trillions they took from the Treasury - took it back and put it into jobs creation, he would be overnight the most powerful man in America, which is what successful presidents must be.

How might Mr. Obama do that?

Simple. Finish the Wall Street takeover. The president took the banks' bad debts and losses and put those on the nation's balance sheet. Now he must take the assets. And tax the hell out of the highest wage earners in America.

Forget trickle down. It's a fraud. It is time to share the wealth, which for three decades has been steadily concentrated in the hands of a few, while the middle class is impoverished and the under-middle class explodes.

These three initiatives would put the people behind the president, and give him an audience and a hearing for whatever he wanted to do next.

First, a simple approach to health care that ends abuse, cuts costs and expands coverage through already established and generally liked programs.

Second, a recovery of the real cost of the bailout and a redirection of funds into massive jobs creation.

Third, a tax policy that demands a share of the riches of America for the people of America.

These limited and focused initiatives would put the people in the president's corner and Congress and entrenched interests on the run.

All three will require the president to listen to the people he was elected to represent; an apparently novel idea for Mr. Obama, who may be too smart for his own or the country's good, and unwilling to admit the people may know better than he what is in their interest.

But for as long as Mr. Obama refuses to listen to the people, just so long will he fail to lead.

February 01, 2010

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