The Other I

November 9, 2008

Can Obama dig us out of this?

Far be it from me to tell Obama how to fix the global economy.  If he can do it, he can do it in whatever way that works.  But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what he said he would do, and wondering what I think about it.  I’m rather surprised to find myself thinking – in my amateur way –  that he might be proposing some surprising solutions.  From what I’ve been reading, here are five possibilities Obama might implement:

  • Provide universal health insurance.  Presently, health insurance is mostly provided by employers, and though it was big business that stopped Hillary Clinton’s health care plan, business is now staggering under health care costs that are rising faster than inflation.  GM says it adds about $4000 to the cost of each car it makes.   Universal health insurance regardless of employment will not only provide what has been a scandalous gap in our care for the poor.  It will free workers to change jobs without fear of losing their health insurance.  And it will help business.  Done right, it could be a win, win, win situation.
  • Repair our country’s infrastructure, including our roads and electricity grid.  Apparently our highways and bridges are in desperate need of repair.  Fixing them will not only be good for our transportation system.  It will provide urgently needed jobs.  The electricity grid is antiquated and lacks integration.  Updating it will also provide jobs, and just as importantly, make it possible to send green electricity to larger areas.  Electricity provided by wind, wave, and geothermal sources would reduce our dependence on oil as well as our carbon footprint.
  • Support property prices.  I’ve read three different proposals about how to do this.  One possibility is to legislate an automatic reduction in mortgage loans for any property that has dropped at least 20% in value so that mortgages are never higher than the real value of the property.  Lenders in turn would share in future price gains.  The benefit would be that owners would not be required to move when they dive into negative equity, and whole neighbourhoods would not be blighted as house after house is foreclosed for increasingly less values.  Banks would also find that fewer people default on their loans.
  • Increase state and local government aid.   This would help a lot of people through desperate circumstances and would help a lot of people keep their jobs doing all those things people need their local and state governments to keep doing.
  • Get out of Iran, and support the Middle East peace process between Israel and Palestine.  (The benefits here are too obvious to elaborate.)

 Okay, maybe it won’t work.  But to an economic neophyte like me, it sounds like it’s worth a try.

PS:  I read that some Democratic senators are talking about a $300 billion stimulus package.  I’d love to get a tax rebate, but in all fairness, I think it might be more effective to spend it on health insurance and mortgage relief.

I don’t, by nature, like big government.  But right now, I think some kinds of big government could help create the kind of world I would like to live in.

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