Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama: Give Me A Lever Long Enough...

Only if the market would listen!

From The Statesman

President Barack Obama does not believe in taking small steps for mankind or the American people. He has been saying repeatedly that he will rebuild and renew America, whatever it takes.

“Now is the time to act boldly and wisely to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity,” he said addressing the joint session of Congress last Tuesday. Democrats cheered, as did most of the American people. Republicans were sullen. More energised today than he ever was during his long grueling presidential campaign, Mr Obama has seized the economic crisis as a God-sent opportunity to bring about fundamental changes in American society. His budget would usher in an era of universal healthcare covering the 47 million uninsured; make higher education accessible to every American through enhanced Pell Grants; and build cleaner energy by capping carbon levels and auctioning permits for greenhouse gases emissions that would raise billions of dollars. His tax plan would build an economy that lifts the bottom up rather than let wealth drip down from the rich to the poor ~ all this and much more for a handful of (trillion) dollars of governmental spending. Will it work? Where will the money come from?

Mr Obama reminds me of an optimistic and pragmatic international businessman from South Africa who said, “There is never enough money lying around to do a job… but money is never a problem. Money is a consequence of your activity.” So what is a few trillion dollars for a country whose minor hiccup causes a global earthquake? By pulling up the United States from the economic quagmire, the result of its profligate ways, Mr Obama might also save rest of the world from economic chaos and the consequent political instabilities. Weak states from Pakistan to Mexico threaten the peace; and breed terrorism, the jihadist and the narco.

Archimedes, mathematician and inventor of ancient Greece, said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Mr Obama wants to turn the hypothetical into a new economic reality. With his $ 3.6 trillion budget proposal Mr Obama not only plans to revive ~ pardon the change of metaphor ~ the etherealised patient lying motionless on the table but also wants to make him a global front runner once again. Embodying the spirit of American exceptionalism, he says he can do it and he will do it. Mr. Obama thinks boldly and walks tall and dwarfs all uppity comers. With Democratic majority in the House as well as the Senate, and his popularity stratospheric after the address to Congress, Mr Obama will most likely succeed in having his multi trillion dollar budget passed. But the global financial and economic system, albeit dominated and beaten by the United States, is not a mechanical system that could be moved by an American (Archimedean) lever-fulcrum. The global marketplace is a complex dynamic system always on the verge of disequilibrium, and chaos.

Before Mr Obama took office six weeks ago, the Bush administration had already infused $350 of the $700 billion Congress had sanctioned to strengthened the financial institutions; but the system did not move. The bail out money disappeared like sand through the hourglass. A couple of weeks ago Congress approved the Obama stimulus package for $787 billion but Wall Street fell into deeper depression. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama is not giving up. His rhetoric is awe inspiring. “Even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency and a determination that perseveres, a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity,” he told Congress. His opinion polls looked up.

His budget proposal is more than an economic revival plan. Republicans say that it has a subversive agenda, and to the shocking dismay and puzzlement of most Americans, some Republican governors have decided not to partake in the Obama massive stimulus package. For Democrats, it is a break from the past, a great paradigm shift, a fundamental change in thinking about the role of the government in people’s lives, a profound ideological transformation of the United States that would impact the world. There is no substitute for a good government, Mr. Obama asserts. The budget blueprint is a warning to the American people that the present economic crisis is “neither the result of a normal turn of the business cycle nor an accident of history. We arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington, D.C.” He knew what he was getting into when he chanted from coast to coast, Yes We Can.

Mr Obama believes that the function of the government is to lead and become the solution to the people’s problems. This is a total reversal of what Ronald Reagan, a most admired Republican US president, said in his inaugural that the “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Like President Reagan, Mr. Obama is a great communicator and has the ability to touch people across all strata of society; nonetheless, his political philosophy of governance is totally different. By lifting people from bottom up, where most African-Americans are situated, Mr Obama believes that the whole country could rise again. Only if the marketplace with its own stubborn mind and incomprehensible logic would listen to Mr Obama’s messianic rhetoric!

(ND Batra blogs at http://globaldiplomat.blogspot.com and teaches communications and diplomacy at Norwich University)

No comments:

Post a Comment