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“If I were President…”. How many conversations have started like that? The other day, my mother… whom agrees with me politically… asked if I thought President Obama was doing a good job. There is a mood in the country (myself included) that is frustrated that President Obama doesn’t seem to “get it” on a range of issues. “This isn’t what we voted for!”, a great number of Democratic voters cry out. Expanding the war in the Middle East by sending in more troops, a lack of action on Climate Change, unemployment still hovering close to 10% for nearly a year now, a dreadful compromise on health care that could of been drafted by Mitt Romney himself, an ecological disaster in the Gulf where… not only are the criminals in charge, but they are actually restricting news coverage to try and whitewash the scale of the disaster, and where are all those Green jobs we were promised?

The only comfort I could provide my mother? “I may not agree with some of the decisions he makes or how he makes them, but compared to the alternative, I’m not about to replace him with some BSC* Republican that got us into this mess in the first place and hope he’ll do better.” As I wrote a few months ago, “when did the Republican Party become this nations fall back position?” If a Democrat can’t fix in 15 months the disaster left behind by eight years of Republican mis-administration, why on Earth would we want to put them back in charge?
(*Bat S#it Crazy)

House Minority Leader John Boehner, on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday suggested that winning the ONE-HUNDRED House seats necessary for the GOP to regain control of that body was an attainable goal, saying (no joke) that “Americans will put Republicans back in charge to stop the out of control spending coming out of this White House.” I’m not kidding. The Party that DOUBLED 225 years of National Debt in under SIX says they are the ones to get the deficit under control. Riiiiiiiight. How much for that bridge again? (Brooklyn or “Bridge to Nowhere”. Your choice.)

So I’m not happy with the way President Obama is doing things. Hey, while I support the guy, he wasn’t my first choice for President (I was a Richardson supporter because I wanted a Diplomat with a green-jobs record in the WH). I see the president making a lot of mistakes. Here is a brief rundown, along with my alternative solutions:

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, whom I regard as brilliant, noted during that same episode of “This Week” that the president is making a mistake by allowing BP to remain in charge of the oil breach (he said “spill”) in the Gulf of Mexico. “BP is first and foremost beholden to its shareholders”, he noted, “not the people of the gulf coast”. WE are not their first priority. If they could weasel out of this with a PR media blitz without ever capping the well or cleaning up a single beach, they would. It is only because of “the bad PR” of all those oil covered beaches, dead animals, and unemployed fisherman (not “the threat of government fines and sanctions”, which are meaningless) that is forcing BP to do anything at all about this disaster they created. Just look at what their first action was in response to the breach: “dispersants” to thin out the spill, making it appear less severe by making it less visible. NOAA is reporting (which BP denies) that there is a second submerged layer of oil floating more than a half mile beneath the oil on the ocean surface thanks to the use of dispersants. Think about that. A second hidden spill beneath the one we already see, effectively DOUBLING the size of the spill we see on TV. Are you worried yet?

Reich rightly advised President Obama to “put BP America in temporary receivership”. Seize all of its assets and dedicate it to stopping this leak and cleaning up the spill, because as long as BP is in control, their top priority will always be their shareholders. It will also have the added side-benefit of making President Obama looking like he’s “taking charge” of the situation, whereas at this moment, no one is quite sure who is in charge.

Second mistake of President Obama: the moratorium on offshore drilling during this crisis without providing an alternative. I agree completely with the idea to suspend all offshore drilling during this crisis (I would say, “until we know what happened” but we KNOW what happened). I also agree with Bill Maher that the death of a murderous industry is no vice. But in the midst of an economic and employment disaster, you don’t compound the problem by effectively rending hundreds of bluecollar workers out of a job without providing them alternative work. If we had a green-jobs program, I’d say move those oil workers into that. But since we don’t, there needs to be a compromise.

Every offshore well that has ALREADY been drilled and is safely bringing in oil without problems should be allowed to continue. Those wells that HAVEN’T been completed yet, suspend them until at least one relief well is drilled next to them.

CORRECTION (6/26/2010): MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out that the THOUSANDS of “production” rigs were NOT affected by President Obama’s moratorium on “drilling”, only 33 “drilling” rigs were suspended from continuing to drill until the current disaster is resolved. The GOP would have us believe that “all 3,000 rigs” were shut down and their employees laid off, which isn’t even CLOSE to the truth. I fell for it, and I apologize. I should have known better.

Once the relief well has reached sufficient depth, you may resume drilling on the original platform. This will get every rig worker back to work immediately in a relatively safe manner. But continue the moratorium on any new wells being dug, and in the meantime, start pushing an alternative energy program while making the case that additional drilling is unnecessary. Just because we got it, doesn’t me we should use it (as I noted last week, despite the massive scale of the disaster in the Gulf, the less than 50 million gallons of oil that have leaked into the Gulf so far would supply our energy needs for less than ONE HOUR (I had to update my figures from last week. I apologize for any confusion).
 

An hours worth of oil

 

At that rate, we would need over EIGHT THOUSAND GUSHERS just like this one to supply us with just one years’ worth of oil… assuming we don’t use it as quickly as it comes in. In fact, at a rate of “50days for just 1hours worth of oil”, you would need 192 THOUSAND wells exactly like this one just to keep up with demand.

Next issue is one I’ve harped on a lot is the lack of a Green jobs program. The White House has been reluctant to the point of disaster (see: “Gulf of Mexico”) to spend any “stimulus funds” on the very thing that would stimulate the economy more than anything else: a Green Jobs Program. President Obama appears unwilling to incur the wrath of Republicans by spending that “stimulus money” they themselves approved in the waining days of the Bush Administration because Republicans don’t think we need any Green jobs. They’d rather spend that money rescuing BP from financial disaster.

In the 1950’s, President Eisenhower asked for and got “the Interstate Highway System”. As a four star General in command of allied forces during WWII, Eisenhower was impressed by Germany’s national highway system, which allowed Hitler to move his military quickly and efficiently around the country. Selling his idea as “a matter of National Security”, Eisenhower’s MASSIVE government project is still paying dividends to this day.

In the 1990’s, the Clinton Administration opened up “ARPANet”, the military’s Global Communications network, for public use. The network had been in existence since 1969, and private industry had pushed every president since Ronald Reagan (coinciding with home computers) to allow public access. Reagan (followed by Bush-41) both considered ARPANet a military asset and refused to commercialize it. But when Clinton/Gore took office and Vice President Gore was put in charge of technology matters for the White House, they lobbied him hard to make the network commercially available. Gore saw the promise in a public global network and pushed the Pentagon to approve its release to the public domain. So when Gore said he “was instrumental in the creation of the Internet” (which the Right rephrased years later as him claiming he “invented” the Internet), he was absolutely right.

And what do these projects have in common? Both started life as massive government projects that became economic booms because they greatly facilitated an increase in trade. And both were WAY too big for private industry to create on their own. No privately owned business could have built the Interstate Highway system. It would of been just too damned expensive, and they would of only built roads through the most populous towns with the most customers. Ditto for the Internet. No private corporation could afford to have built a global telecommunications network in 1969. Today, it could conceivably be done wirelessly, but not in 1969. And while President Obama can’t repeat what Eisenhower or Gore already did, he CAN create an entirely new industry, an eco-tech industry, for which there would be a global demand, creating millions of high tech jobs right here at home. But in a Recession, someone has to get the ball rolling. Someone has to be that first big customer. And only the Federal government is big enough to place an order that big (affecting the entire United States). That means deficit spending, and lots of it. But as Robert Reich pointed out, “the President needs to explain the difference between short-term deficits and long-term debt.” The National Debt is a long term problem. Unemployment is a short-term problem. It is the job of government to be the “buyer of last resort” to get the economy moving again, and put people back to work so they can start paying taxes again and pay off that long term debt. If people aren’t working, no taxes are coming in, and the deficit will just continue to grow. Short-term loss for long-term gain. Eisenhower knew it. And he was a Republican.
 

I leave you with this one final thought: Republicans today come in two varieties: the “I got mine, go get yours” crowd, and the Wal*Mart “I’m gonna be rich one day, so I’m going to vote to give millionaires huge tax breaks at my own expense now in preparation for the day I strike it rich” crowd. I compare that second group to people whose entire Retirement plan is to “win the lottery”. Folks, if you’re in your mid-40s and haven’t “struck it rich” yet, you’re not going to.

 


 

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