11 February, 2009

"Hoping for the best is foolish"

Martin Wolf at Financial Times asks, "Has Barack Obama’s presidency already failed?"

Today, the new US administration can disown responsibility for its inheritance; tomorrow, it will own it. Today, it can offer solutions; tomorrow it will have become the problem. Today, it is in control of events; tomorrow, events will take control of it. Doing too little is now far riskier than doing too much. ... Hoping for the best is foolish. He should expect the worst and act accordingly. ... Yet hoping for the best is what one sees in the stimulus programme. ... The banking programme seems to be yet another child of the failed interventions of the past one and a half years: optimistic and indecisive.

[This administration] seems it has set itself the wrong question. It has not asked what needs to be done to be sure of a solution. It has asked itself, instead, what is the best it can do given three arbitrary, self-imposed constraints: no nationalisation; no losses for bondholders; and no more money from Congress. Yet why does a new administration, confronting a huge crisis, not try to change the terms of debate? This timidity is depressing.

I have lived in DC for over two years now, I am far from an expert, but let me say that things "inside the Beltway" look different from outside of it. And in the month since Obama took office I have seen very few good things. Obama acts like he was elected student body president, not President of the US. I am glad for the prep that he did between November and January so he could hit the ground running, but is he running anywhere? There is only so long he can blame Bush for everything - Bush is not the only reason we are in this mess. He did not force people to buy homes out of their means, or live in too much debt, he did not force Americans to become greedy, and to over spend... I am tired of that cop out and it's time for Obama to pick a different song.

The time for action is now. It needs to be decisive and it needs to be intelligent and well thought out. We cannot afford another band aid on the hole in the dam, we need a long term response that might put Americans in an uncomfortable place for a bit (gasp!). Let us face the consequences of our actions - throwing money at it is not a solution.

Maybe, someday soon, Obama will realize what being president actually means.

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