Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughs on Obama's Speech

Interesting, interesting.

I did not watch Obama's speech last night, as the Boy Scout Blue and Gold Banquet took precedent. But I promised myself I'd read it this morning. And since I had to call in sick to work, I had the time to read it.

I voted for Obama. I believe he has the support and the drive to accomplish what he wants to, for our mutual benefit. And I appreciate that he's giving us ways we can help out (more on that later). But I also want to cut through the fancy talk and get to the bones of what he's proposing, because like many other politicians, the flowery rhetoric flows thickly.

So, he says 90 percent of the 3.5 million jobs he wants to "create or save" will be in the private sector. That's well and good. So far, the jobs I've seen saved are to private-sector firms working for governmental agencies (see my recent post on the stimulus helping the Idaho Cleanup Project, where I work). Obama also mentions police and teaching jobs. Public sector jobs. These are easier to "save" because they're already there. The jobs he hopes to create in constructing roads, bridges, electricity infrastructure, renewable energey plants (which, disappointingly, do not include nuclear, at least according to his punchlist) will be harder to create.

He wants us to go back to school. I agree with that. I've been doing that for the past 2 1/2 years and hope to finish a masters degree in July. But i've been lucky in that I could afford to pay for this schooling out of my own pocket, and that I'm in a job secure enough to let me consider this a long-term investment. Others, in more precarious job positions and with less disposable income, will find this harder to accomplish. He seeks to remedy this by working with credit markets to make getting loans -- including student loans -- eaiser to get. And while I believe it's an acceptable thing to accept debt to get an education, I'm at a loss to see how this is going to help those who need the retraining the most. I look at my degree as gravy. I can't see it helping me at all in my current job, except for the ability to add a few more initials after my name when I use the experience I've got to get a better job. I'm able to do my coursework entirely online, in time I can find in which to do it. Others won't be so lucky, because others won't have an exclusively online environment in which to get their additional education.

That comes to the tone of sacrifice that Obama injects into his speech. He's also asking parents to get more involved with their children, read to them, turn off the video games and such. He's preaching to the choir in our house, ladies and gentlemen.

Obama lays out a good plan, form health care to clean energy. What worries me is that this is nothign we haven't heard before. Bill Clinton made a huge amount of noise about healthcare reform early on in his eight-year presidency. It failed. What bothers me is that Clinton never tried again in any major way. Obama recognizes that the fight will be difficult. I'm exccited to see what plan he and other come up with. I'm more excited to see the drive that'll take the plan, the comporomise plan, the re-compromised plan and such from the planning stage to actuality. U.S. politicians are great when it comes to planning things. The follow-through stinks. I look at the efforts in clean energy and healthcare on par with important projects like the Manhattan Project and the Apollo moon landings. To coin an old World War II phrase, "We did it before; we'll do it again." And I hope that happens. I'll do what I can.

But for this to happen will take true bipartisanship. Allow me a cruel, cynical chuckle here. And I don't mean here that it'll be the Republicans doing all the stalling. The Democrats have enough idiot stubbornness in their own party that obstruction won't be cornered by the Republicans. To get the Manhattan Project and the Apollo moon landings to where they accomplished their goals didn't mean that one side of the argument go their way the entire time. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of compromise. The success of alternate energy and healthcare reform will hinge on how well both sides of the aisle can learn to work together. Given their track record, I'm not holding my breath.

Another thought comes to me: Obama is asking the little guy to be responsible. Get out of debt. Go back to school. Get more involved with our children. Volunteer in communities and schools to get easier access to education money and to pay it back. What is he asking the big guy to do? It's hard to tell. So far, all the big guys have been asked to do is to drive to Washington, rather than fly, to get their bailout money. Sure, he wants oversight in the form of Joe Biden wandering around slapping the wrists of state and city officials. Sure he wants hybrid vehicles built here in the United States. But it appears the big guys are going to be doing all this with federal money. I still feel like there's a gap here, a disconnect. The little guy is being asked to do a lot. The big guys keep getting the handouts.

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