Big Spender or Economic Reformer?

In the midst of this economic downturn, the president has proposed a budget that gives further definition to his vision for American progress.  In some ways it may not be the best time to propose something new, as many people, shocked by financial insecurity and instability, investment and pension losses, and business and job distress feel the need to hunker down and survive, rather than experiment and take risks.

On the other hand, the government is stirred to take significant steps to repair a major crisis, and while thinking big, there is opportunity to take bold action.  That, I think, can be said of President Obama’s political vision.  The question is, what kind of action is it?

Probably the most sensitive issue at the present time, is the issue of government spending.  Americans are mistrustful of congress’ ability to spend responsibly and are deeply concerned with the deficit.  How should Obama’s grand, if evolving, plan be looked at from this perspective? 

Is he the big-spending liberal, willing to meet any “progressive” goal with tax-payer dollars, giving only secondary consideration to the harm to the economy of tax increases, redistribution of wealth, and deficit spending? 

If we turn to conservatives for an answer, we hear the harsh critique of a socialist redistribution of wealth.

Even moderates, such as David Brooks, find the size and target of the fiscal stimulus legislation and budget proposal too big and too progressive, while expressly embracing parts of the program such as education.

If we ask liberals, they may very well see an increase in public spending on education, health care, and alternative energy that bespeaks progressive values, liberal causes and Democratic agenda.

I disagree.  Mr. Obama is a financial reformer, using public funds as necessary to do what government truly needs to do, but intent on cutting waste, corruption, and mismanagement out of the workings of government.

The main thrust of the vision is still investment in parts of the economy that need repair:  a struggling education system that is needed to produce a work force on which our prosperity will be based; an inefficient health care system that uses too much of our national budget, is a drag on our businesses large and small (unless like Walmart did they force these costs on private individuals and on state tax-payers when private citizens use public resources) and is too expensive for too many to afford; and energy that is imported at great cost to our economy and national security.  These are issues of fundamental importance to our economic prosperity, our business climate, our capitalist system.

Couldn’t we call what Obama is doing long-range economic reform? 

It might even make a good Republican agenda, as they are rooting around for one. 

Let us not quarrel with the targets of public spending as they are, in fact, economically productive and necessary.  Let us not quarrel with the amount of funds because they are realistic and necessary.  Let us organize and fight for the right use of these funds so that every dollar engenders in our children the philanthropic, creative, entrepreneurial and leadership qualities of business and civic leaders like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Colin Powell. Let’s make sure our businesses and citizens can afford economical health care benefits, and our citizens receive worthy care, and let us, using the scientific and entrepreneurial genius among us, develop alternative energy or at least efficient energy that is home grown, as clean as is reasonably possible, and marketable to the world.

Is that liberal?  Really?

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43 comments

DH F.
Diane H. F9 years ago

Finding the money to fund services isn't difficult. Over the past 30 years, billions of tax dollars were given to corporations, always with the assurance that this would result in a massive creation of family supporting jobs. It didn't. Instead of new jobs, we got unprecedented CEO salaries/benefits, stagnant wages, the impoverishment of the working class. And billions of tax dollars have been used to move jobs to foreign countries, further harming the economy and the American people.

The solution is to simply reverse this. Restore taxation of the rich/corporations, dare to put conditions on any taxpayer dollars they enjoy, and rebuild our workforce via easily available education, job skills training and health care. We had a world class workforce, but it has dramatically deteriorated since 1980, due to a range of policies (cutting aid to schools, ending poverty reduction programs, letting college tuitions to soar beyond what anyone but the rich can afford, etc.) Our workforce can no longer compete internationally. So -- go back to doing what actually DID work. Invest in the people.


Investing in corporations didn't work. It';s time to invest in the American people, as we did following WWll. Those "horrible socialist programs" did, in fact, play a central role in making the US the most advanced and richest nation on Earth. We changed course in 1980, and the results were both predictable and inevitable.

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Dan M.
Dan M9 years ago

Cindy,

I agree. Your comment about reactionary measures to correct up and down swings reminds me of what we call in engineering, a "control system." An autopilot is a good example. The autopilot system looks at what certain inputs are, altitude, speed, course, etc., how fast they are changing, and gradually changes the controls to put the plane back on course. Jerking up on the stick because the plane has lost altitude could temporarily gain the plane altitude, but ultimately put the plane into a stall.

The gamble Obama's taking reminds me of a poorly designed control system. This massive influx of money (jerking up on the stick) is almost certain to improve some things relatively soon; however, I don't see how inflation can be avoided when this much money eventually hits the economy. Seems like we have two choices: live with our investments loosing value for a while; or give the economy a super adrenaline shock, and have our investments recover only to be wiped out by inflation. Nobody asked me, but it looks like the former choice has been made for us. Maybe when we get some new congress people in there they can stop this knee jerk policy making while Obama's still around.

Dan

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Cindy D.
Cindy D9 years ago

Our giant pendulum swings have just got to settle to a gentle, constant, and secure place....whether it be in our economy, our health care systems, our education venues, and our environmental impact. If we were to graph the world in each of these areas, it would be difficult to find a best fit line....and that is where we find our equilibrium, our balance, and our forward thinking. Wild ups and downs in any arena only lead to unrest, reactionary measures, and shortsighted decision making. Granted, when we make such messes, it often calls for drastic and quick decision making to call a halt.....but after the halt is called, then it is time to find the place that listens to and looks at all points of view, all measures of best practices, and then chooses behavior that reflects the best of each and every one of these. Takes some smart folks to keep all of this going...to tend to all of these pots which just happen to have landed on the front burner simultaneously because of our extremist behaviors. Settle down, use collective wisdom instead of reactionary opportunism and we just might be able to get some of those pots to simmer down, be moved to the back burner, and trust and confidence to be restored. Our founding fathers didn't always agree but they had to listen to each other and find the best fit line for what they were trying to do. Let us remember their wisdom and go forward with their legacy as our guiding light.

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Nancy L.
Nancy L9 years ago

I'm not wealthy by any means, and I sure as heck don't want to live in a socialist society.

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Dan M.
Dan M9 years ago

Brad,

That's an interesting point about North Dakota having the only state owned bank in the nation. I used to live there and didn't realize that.

Besides from that, North Dakota is about as far from big governement and socialism as you can get. it's basically Republican controlled. When I was there, not sure how it is now, the legislature only met every odd year. Interesting that they could balance their budget and only have to meet every 2 years. Contrast that with California, a state all of us are now having to bail out due to their reckless spending.

Dan

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Brad Salkind
Brad Salkind9 years ago

Corporatists and Wealthy are the ones most afraid of the word Socialism. (Why not they have the least to gain in both the way of money and more importantly, control over the rest of us). They throw around the word Socialist, like it was Leperosy. But in a Capitalist World try to imagine every road "privately owned" with a Toll booth on it! Try to imagine the veteran who needs healthcare (or the retiree on fixed income) suddenly hit with medical expenses he simply cant afford. Try to imagine needing a policeman because of ANY altercation - a traffic accident - and getting a bill for his services, or even getting denied - because you lack the ability to pay. Now imagine your vote even if its the majority - has been bought and payed for by a consortium of corporations, that have a greater interest in your wallet than your health and well being. That is not so hard (that one is already here right now). Those with the huge money behind them, have control. The rest of us get to choose between THIER choices and are fooled into thinking it was a free and Democratic choice. Both our Political and Economic system are badly broken, and have been for more than a half century. The ship had a slow leak - and now that the water is up to our noses - people are all screaming BAIL! BAIL! North Dakota has its own State Owned Bank. It is the ONLY state that is not running at a deficit or near deficit! What does that say? Of course the Conservatives will cringe and say its Socialism !!!

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Nancy L.
Nancy L9 years ago

What is he going to do when he taxes the snot out of the people who create jobs and they just stop creating jobs? There is no incentive to work when the givemement steals from one to give to another. Why the hell should I expand my business to fund his socialist agenda?

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Nancy L.
Nancy L9 years ago

What is he going to do when he taxes the snot out of the people who create jobs and they just stop creating jobs? There is no incentive to work when the givemement steals from one to give to another. Why the hell should I expand my business to fund his socialist agenda?

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Nancy L.
Nancy L9 years ago

Right, we are bankrupt so let's spend more.....that makes a lot of sense.

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Dan M.
Dan M9 years ago

Whether you're "conservative" or "liberal," the numbers just don't add up; Obama's spending is unsustainable. His economic growth assumptions are not realistic and increased taxes are not going to be enough. The stimulus spending bill was bad enough, but I’m somewhat surprised to hear no complaints from him about the bill just signed by the House with earmarks for everyone. I listened to him many times during the campaign talk about going through the budget line-by-line with a scalpel. It's almost certain that all this spending is going to have an effect; however, when all this money finally hits the economy it will be too late to prevent hyperinflation. Some of us are old enough to remember the Nixon, Ford and Carter years; what’s coming up might make those look like the good times.

When the government sucks capital out of the economy with taxes it hurts growth, and trying to make up for it by printing more money is a shortsighted approach. If it was that easy to create prosperity every administration would be doing it.

Sorry people but we are in trouble. Not only is the "operational" deficit out of control, the 800 lb gorilla in the room, Social Security, for some reason doesn’t count! But what do I know, I voted for Ross Perot.

Dan

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