Barak Obama has been our president for an entire week. A lot has been happening but no big surprises. Overall I’m pleased with the job he’s doing so far though I disagree with some specifics. Time for my (long, boring) review.
The Economic Stimulus Package – There is no plan so great that Congress won’t chop it up, remix it and turn it into something totally ridiculous and impractical. President Obama’s stimulus package wasn’t an especially great plan to begin with and Congressional tweaking cannot possibly improve it. I agree, in principle, that there should be a stimulus package. I’m skeptical about the tax cuts. I like tax cuts as much as anyone else but I’m not sure it’s the best thing to do right now. If we give tax cuts to businesses there should be strings attached, such as only giving tax cuts to businesses that have hired new employees, with a penalty later on if they hire people only long enough to get the tax cut and then lay them off.
I’m in favor of jump starting the renewable energy industry. I don’t think wind farms are a great idea but there are other things that we could be doing. I agree with spending money on infrastructure but it should be limited to repairing existing roads and bridges. Upgrading the electrical grid is a good idea too. But I worry that none of this can be started as quickly as it needs to be. There are people who need jobs now not one to two years from now.
Closing GITMO – Something needs to be done about Guantanamo but it seems unlikely that it can be safely done in just one year. I see the one year from now date as mostly symbolic. The government never meets its own deadlines but deadlines do sometimes serve as a stimulus for working toward getting things done eventually.
Government funding for abortion – I think abortion is a private decision. But it’s such a controversial issue it is reasonable to ask, “Should the government fund something which nearly half of the country considers evil?” The other side of that is, “Shouldn’t women who can’t afford good medical care have the same right to choose as any other woman?” I can sort of sympathize with both sides. However, I saw a blog post somewhere a day or two ago, by a conservative blogger who objected to being “forced to participate” in something she believes is wrong. Seeing it worded like that pushed me a little bit to the liberal side. I wonder how that blogger would respond to someone who thought the war should not be funded because they didn’t want to be “forced to participate” in a war that they consider evil. (not that I’m one of those people) All taxpayers have to pay for many things they would rather not be paying for so this isn’t a very good argument.
State limits on auto emissions – Several states want to set their own emissions standards and President Obama may reverse earlier denials of these applications. I think this would be a bad idea. There should be one standard for the whole country.
Foreign policy – I believe in the old fashioned idea of “speak softly and carry a big stick”. Taking the diplomatic approach might be emotionally painful to some of us when we know that what some people in the world badly need is to be bashed over the head with that big stick. But often a lot more can be accomplished with a soft, persuasive voice. One might think of Bush and Obama as the bad cop and good cop. Bush was a very bad cop. Obama’s the good cop right now but I think he could turn into the bad cop if necessary. We’ll see.
Of course, America’s role as international cop is one thing that so many people hate about us but we do have to deal with the rest of the world somehow. The way they act naturally affects how we deal with them. If they don’t like us playing cop they need to police themselves better.
Anyway… before I go into full blown preaching mode… So far it’s all talk but I like what I’ve been hearing from President Obama on foreign policy – a little bit of tough talk but mainly an indication that we are willing to listen to and work with the rest of the world. To be honest, deep down I’m a dirty imperialist. I’d like to take that big stick and beat the rest of the world into submission with it but, realistically, aside from it being morally questionable, I know that simply won’t work. Like it or not, sometimes you just have to be willing to talk to people and talk to them in the right way. I think President Obama can do that. That doesn’t mean he can fix all the world’s problems but knowing what we can and can’t fix will be helpful.