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.

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