Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Should I be writing for the NY Times???

On Saturday I wrote a blog entry detailing best first policy steps for Obama with emphasis on how to get the economy back on track.

On Sunday, I see the following Op-Ed piece by Al Gore appear in the NY Times entitled The Climate For Change. In his article Gore outlines why and how a bold plan to combat climate change will simultaneously battle our economic problems.

Al Gore writes:
Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis.

First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.

Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used...
Third, we should help America’s automobile industry ... to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available...
Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting.

I wrote in MY blog:
As well, we should embark on a 21st-century "greening" of America by outfitting government with energy efficient design, encouraging businesses to use green technology, and to fundamentally alter the way America approaches building design, energy usage, and product consumption. If any help is given to the auto industry, it has to be with a clear ultimatum to wean America's cars off of oil consumption.

Then today I hear about this Op-Ed piece written on Monday by Paul Ingrassia entitled Detroit Auto Makers Need More Than a Bailout. Ingrassia writes, "But giving GM a blank check -- which the company and the United Auto Workers union badly want, and which Washington will be tempted to grant -- would be an enormous mistake. The company would just burn through the money and come back for more. Even more jobs would be wiped out in the end."

Next, Thomas Friedman expands upon Ingrassia's arguments, in an Op-Ed piece entitled How to Fix a Flat, saying,
Any car company that gets taxpayer money must demonstrate a plan for transforming every vehicle in its fleet to a hybrid-electric engine with flex-fuel capability, so its entire fleet can also run on next generation cellulosic ethanol.

Lastly, somebody ought to call Steve Jobs, who doesn’t need to be bribed to do innovation, and ask him if he’d like to do national service and run a car company for a year. I’d bet it wouldn’t take him much longer than that to come up with the G.M. iCar.

In Summary - my original idea was detail-less, as it was part of a greater plan, but the tenants of my plan, have been spelled out brilliantly by the minds of some of the best 21st century thinkers. Now, if only I had written my ideas in more detail.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Memo to Obama

On Friday, President-elect Barack Obama gave his first press conference since being elected as the United States' 44th president (if you missed it, I have included it at the end of this post). Obama made it very clear that his first priority as president would be the economy. This is, of course, the most prudent action he could take; however, it is promising that he has moved quickly on assembling an economic advisory team, and appears to be soliciting advice concerning the economy from a broad range of political and economic minds. Certainly, it is better to get ideas from a diverse set then from a small group of same minded loyalists. It is this "Big Tent" bipartisan approach that holds the true potential for Obama's presidency. A good start, but still has a steep hill to climb.

With that said, I'd like to offer the following advice to Obama concerning best first steps once sworn in as president.

Dear President-elect Obama:

The following is my unsolicited advice on possible best first steps to take.

  1. Work with Congress to pass a "Real Economic Stimulous Plan." The plan should be an Eisenhower style government spending project that should update, revitalize, and secure America's roads and bridges. As well, we should embark on a 21st-century "greening" of America by outfitting government with energy efficient design, encouraging businesses to use green technology, and to fundamentally alter the way America approaches building design, energy usage, and product consumption. If any help is given to the auto industry, it has to be with a clear ultimatum to wean America's cars off of oil consumption.
    This will be a multi-year long-term project that will not come cheaply. It will, however, create jobs, spur growth, cut energy expenditures, increase energy independence, and rebuild America's infrastructure.
  2. As soon as the economic spending package is signed you must quickly work on cutting the budget line by line and cutting government spending. Every department should be ordered to cut their budgets by 1% (including the Department of Defense). Dollars that go to state governments should not be cut, and could possibly be increased, but only with a caveat that state programs receiving federal dollars should be evaluated for efficiency from the bottom up. At all levels of government, there should be a "suggestion box" initiative. This initiative would allow consumers of government programs, low-level employees and managers, interns,and any interested parties to suggest ways to make government programs more efficient without fear of retribution. As a consumer of a number of government social programs, I have witnessed gross inadequacies and waste of dollars. I have personally tried to save the state money, but was not taken seriously, because of strict rules and regulations. Thus, programs that generally work, and have great benefit to society, should be allowed the flexibility to adopt best practices and change spending habits to promote efficiency. Again, this will only happen with a bottom-up approach that is demanded and supported from the top. Indeed, this is the best way to use your scalpel.
  3. Health-Care: Create a bipartisan commission to study your healthcare plan, revise as needed, and recommend the best and most cost efficient plan for reducing healthcare costs across the board, increasing health care availability to all, and bringing healthcare into the 21st century. The commission should contain the following people -- the Sec. of Health and Human Services, the Commissioner of Medicaid and Medicare services, your top three advisers on your healthcare plan, majority leader of the House and Senate (Pelosi and Reed), Minority Leader of the House and Senate, 5 Congress members from each side of the aisle, and 6 to 9 important community and business members, including a health-care rep, an advocare for people with disabilities, a consumer advocate for families, an hospital representative, and so-forth.

    The commission should be given a time limit, and all proceedings should be open and transparent, including being fully televised. You should either submit a list of your priorities to be considered for discussion, or you should be the moderator of the discussion. A final recommendation, with your approval, should be sent to Congress, within three months, with unanimous approval from the commission.

  4. The War - Obviously, while simultaneously working on the above you will be working on your plan, with the advise and council of the joint Chiefs of Staff, your Secretary of Defense, and Congress, to get troops out of Iraq smoothly and safely, and commit redeployment of resources to Afghanistan.

  5. All other priorities to follow - education, social security reform, other environmental issues, restoring America's moral leadership globally, trade policy, and of course any number of emerging issues and crisis.