Still waiting for answers…

2009/03/25

Last night, the President announced that he will lead the nation from recession to prosperity, that there are no quick fixes to the economic situation, and that we will need to make some tough choices in moving forward. [1]

I feel like I’ve heard this all before. And that there are still no real answers in anything he’s said thus far.

First of all, he spends a great deal of time claiming that the way to move from recession to prosperity is to cut down on health care costs, invest in “green” energy, and continue with the federal government’s taxpayer-funded bailouts. Fair enough, but how are these actions supposed to accomplish the goal of leading us to the prosperity he promises? He mentioned cutting down on health care costs and reining in Medicaid and Medicare, but is a government administered health care system the way to do it? How, exactly, are the costs going to be kept down? Government subsidies? Harsh language? The entitlement programs in Medicaid and Medicare do need to be reformed, but what about the other massive entitlement program that nobody is talking about these days? [2] And what changes will the President propose to lower the costs associated with Medicare and Medicaid? How much can we save in so doing? Will there be any negative consequences to his proposals?

WRT “green” energy, I’m not so sure that there will be any cost savings involved here. Most of these technologies are not yet in large-scale use yet, so there will need to be a massive spending initiative to get any of them going, even in the case of the most promising technologies. Arguably, this is a necessary investment, though, since fossil fuels will (eventually) run out, and we’ll need some other form of energy production in place prior to that. There would be opportunities for job creation in the event that any of these technologies are built on a large scale, but I’m not entirely sure that these gains will offset the massive unemployment numbers that have been generated by the current economic crisis. [3] What specific technologies does the President want to support, and how many jobs can implementation of said technology create? Will there be targetted initiatives, or are we just throwing money at everything, and seeing what works out?

WRT his proposed budget [4], where are the “tough budgetary choices” he and his administration have had to make? How much savings will these cuts provide? Maybe there are some answers to these questions somewhere in the budget documents, but at 140 pages, is it too much to ask for a quick overview somewhere on the website? If he has, indeed, made the tough choices he alludes to, would it not make sense to itemize these, and indicate how much savings may result from said cuts? Wasn’t this administration to be the champions of government transparency and accountability? A 140 page document is not exactly transparent (literally, and figuratively).

As for savings from cutting weapons procurement and development, what systems has he identified, so far, that do not neet his standards for efficiency? How much money will we save in the process? But more importantly, do we run the risk of making ourselves and our armed forces more vulnerable by cutting funding to military development programs that keep us a step ahead of the rest of the world? The President likes to make the case for working together with the rest of the world (and holding hand around a fire, singing hymns and such…okay, this is my addition), but the world is not so friendly as we might want it to be. Can we be sure that the programs he intends to cut are unnecessary for our national defense?

As with previous public statements and speeches, I find myself consistently underwhelmed by the President’s offerings. The President likes to point out that his opponents have not been offering alternate proposals to his own. Fair enough, but how can anyone propose alternatives to his proposals, when he offers no details to which his opponents may respond? The President has placed himself in an enviable position: he gets to challenge his opponents to provide alternatives to his own plans, but without details, his opponents’ plans would be shots in the dark, at best. At the same time, he can cherry-pick details from such opposition plans to rail against, while never once having to defend his own position. So, this is the new way of doing business in Washington? Sounds very much like the old way of doing things.

Notes:

[1]: Transcript available here (via CNN).

[2]: Social Security, in case you didn’t catch that reference. Medicaid and Medicare generally only kick in when someone receives eligible care; Social Security payments flow out constantly. Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Or has the crisis of the 2040s been averted while no one was looking?

[3]: 2009 unemployment statistics, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; report created 6 March 2009.

[4]: Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website. Beware, though; the entire budget is 140 pages long (has anyone read the whole thing? Has the President???)

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