Thursday, 20 November 2008

Am I Going Soft on Bush?

OK, am I getting mushy in my old age, or does this video clip actually make you feel a little bit bad for soon-to-be-ex-President Bush?

All right, I know Bush is unpopular with world leaders because of his withdrawal from the Kyoto treaty and subsequent refusal to cooperate on meaningful efforts to curb climate change. I know that many of these people considered the Iraq war a dnagerous and unlawful invasion and that even the allies who cooperated with Bush on the war received little in return but political problems back home. I know that Bush seemed to put the interests of the United States above settled international law on issues including torture, extraordinary rendition and unlawful detention of prisoners...

Wait a minute, where was I going with this. Oh... Sympathy.

Well, maybe not so much.

Music to My Ears

Listen to our new Chief of Staff talk about how this terrifying financial crisis finally affords us a real opportunity to solve the underlying problems that led to it.

The five areas he cites where we need bold action are:

Healthcare - reducing costs and providing more coverage
Energy - independance and alternatives
Taxes - fairness and smplicity
Education - effectively training the workforce
Financial Regulatory Overhaul - transparency and accountability

I think that's about right. And I would add that those (including John McCain) who believe that this crisis should be resolved through a freezing of government spending are quite literally offering NO solution at all to the country's problems. Firstly, we need to claw ourself out of the hole that we are in right now - and that's going to mean staunching the bleeding in the financial sector and restoring investor and consumer confidence. That means we are going to have to spend serious money. But equally importantly, we need to address the systemic weaknesses that have caused this crisis and, in a larger sense, made America less competitive than our first world competitors.

If we had succeeded in delivering universal healthcare when Rahm Emmanuel was first in the White House, GM, Ford and Chrysler would not be threatened with bankrupcy right now - a huge portion of their liability is in worker benefits, which in Germany and Japan are dealt with in a healthcare system that is non-employer linked. (And by the way, their healthcare systems are also NOT "government run".)

Let's not muddle through this crisis without seizing it as an opportunity to put us back on track to global competitiveness. We're going to spend unseemly amounts of money to dig our way out of this ditch - let's invest it in our future rather than just blowing it on the mistakes of the past.

The Times They are A Changin'

As you may recall, one of Obama's central themes throughout the election was about transparency in Government - the notion that the people have a fundamental right to watch their leaders at work. This is more than happy talk and far more than a "nice to have" - meetings that are conducted in secret, committees made up of secret members, late night undercover negotiations, all of these things make it far easier for an administration to put in place policies that benefit the few rather than the many. There was a polic reason why Dick Cheney wanted his energy task force to remain secret - why he even went as far as the Supreme Court to avoid even listing the names that made up this group - and that reason was that they wanted the option of pursuing policies that would benefit a narrow group of oil executives rather than the wider collective of the public.

Now, there will often be cases where our policy discussion requires us to weigh conflicting costs and benefits to teh population at large - for instance, weighing the benefits of job growth from a new factory opening with the cost of its pollution. But it's important that our public discussion be kept at that level: what will achieve the maximum good for the most people. Genuine transparency and openness, combined iwth an informed and active electorate is one way that we can help ensure our politicians have their priorities in order.

All of which is by way of saying that I hope the Obama Administration will continue to You Tube it's meetings - and I further hope that they will make full meeting transcripts available as much as is reasonably possible.

And by the way, cynically, this isn't just a way of keeping the politicians honest - it also goes for the corporate interests and lobbyists. If they want to argue that their commercial interests outweigh the needs of the rest of us, let them do it openly for all to hear. If they want to argue against environmental protections, let them put that on the recortd - not whispering in their Senator's ear about rolling back clean air legislation then running a commercial about their commitment to clean energy. Bring on the change, I say!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Where do we go from here?

So David Plouffe e-mailed me today (hurray! I was getting lonely without you David. Whatever happened to the constant communication we used to share?) to ask for my views on the future of Barack Obama's movement for change. In a detailed questionaire he asked me to tell him how I would like to take forward the Obama campaign's unique organising philosophy to deliver real change under the new administration. I'm sure he'd like to hear from each of you as well....

And if you want to put in a good word for your Friendly Neighborhood Field Director while you're at it, I wouldn't object at all.

One of the questions asks your favorite thing about volunteering for Obama - for me that answer was easy: other volunteers. You guys are the greatest. Quite literally.