The first press conference of president elect Barack Obama has come and gone. The blogosphere appears nonplussed. Rightpundits.com focused on his “fuzzy campaign rhetoric” suggesting that change was not coming to the White House and that under Barack it would be business as usual. A few cyber spaces over at theprovocatuer.com, Mike Volpe assured his readers that the wealth was already being spread around. Most of the conservative posters are afraid of Barack’s intentions, but they didn’t find much to satisfy that fear in this first press conference. Most depended on previous right-leaning rhetoric, falling into the same trap as the McCain campaign: criticize rather than offer better solutions.
Believe it or not, the progressive response to Obama’s press conference was a bit underwhelming. Sohighabove.com suggested that the president elect’s demeanor “bodes well…” for the coming years. But other than touting Obama’s eloquence, tone, and posture, the leftist pundits didn’t have much to say about policy. They focused more on how he said things rather than what he said.
Obama seems obsessed with the real. Sorry pundits, we’re not in a Disneyland Republic anymore. This is no longer just about entertainment. When he says that he will not underestimate the depth of this crisis, and that America is a strong and resilient country, he isn’t playing games. It will take a strong and resilient people to rebuild America. We are/have been complicit in this financial crisis, and it will take more than government handouts to set things right. This was the message that was between the lines of his speech.
I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear: new solutions. But I’m happy waiting till January.
Before the press conference Chris Matthews talked about the two ways that the government can stimulate the economy: lower interest rates and/or increased government spending (creating jobs at the expense of increasing the deficit). It will take new models to solve this crisis. Capitalism as we have known it for the last 80 years has passed away.
It is no longer a question of regulation and taxes for the rich or poor. We live in an immediate global market where we can no longer consider resource as a bottomless well. What this means is that we need to think–Obama and his cabinet need to think–in terms of the 21st c. It means we need to establish new models to deal with a problem that is both global and local, a problem that has exposed the unstable roots of western capitalism.
Alan Greenspan’s testimony revealed the carefully reasoned mistake at the center of free market ideology. I like how dispatchpolitics.com put it:
“Greenspan, 82, acknowledged under questioning that he had made a ‘mistake’ in believing that banks, operating in their own self-interest, would do what was necessary to protect their shareholders and institutions. Greenspan called that ‘a flaw in the model … that defines how the world works.'”
The flaw is that we don’t look out for our own self-interest because many of us are shortsighted enough that we don’t realize that our self-interest includes the health of those around us; it includes the health of the world around us.
In the coming months I’d like to hear Barack Obama, our president elect, clearly define an economic policy that is akin to his campaign policy. It would sound something like this: A strong and resilient America begins with a strong and resilient infrastructure. Yes, infrastructure, in this case includes people. This is where 21st c. economics shatters the economic dialogue of the last 50 years. Phrases like trickle-down economics and welfare state, the concept of a two lever financial control panel (interest rate, spending) are passe. Welcome to 2008. An infrastructure that raises the base level economic status in America is not a welfare state that ‘spreads the wealth around.’
Unlike captain Picard, we don’t have di-lithium crystals. But we do have the technological means to rebuild the physical and social infrastructure here and now in our United States of America. To accomplish that, we have to adopt a new posture toward our fellow citizens, toward other countries, and ultimately toward the world. It is in understanding that our self-interest extends to our larger environment that we can rethink an infrastructure that increases the standard of living for any and all, not just the rich, not just those on welfare. Trickle-down and welfare are tired concepts; today, we have a whole new world in front of us. It is ours for the changing.