One of the problems with unfettered faith in free market capitalism is that one has no idea where the free market is going. The reason is simple. Free markets don’t know where they are going either.
Ever since 1981 when President Reagan damned government by telling the nation “Government is the problem,” the nation has simply careened into the future without any real sense of direction. The reason is simple. National direction is a function of government.
So now it’s 28 years later and along comes President Barack Obama, and along comes direction with him. Finally.
One thing’s obvious, a lot of direction is needed right now. Let’s just go through a basic list. Among the “directions” President Obama promises are: Some form of universal health care because the current system will bankrupt the nation and 48 million Americans have no health care; Tax reform because since Reagan made his pronouncement, an increasing amount of wealth has drifted to the top 1% of Americans, while the rest go nowhere; Reducing America’s dependence on oil because America is not only funding it’s own military, it’s funding terrorists by buying most of its oil from petrodictators who fund terrorism; And finally to bring transparency to government activity, in part by halting the practice of putting real expenditures off budget and thus hiding deficits.
And this doesn’t include Obama’s strong response to the global financial meltdown he inherited, including a $787 billion stimulus package and what is likely to be several more billions helping underwater home mortgage owners. In total Obama is showing an excellent combination of thought and action.
In the intermediate to long term there are two overwhelming issues. Issues about national survival: health care reform and energy transformation.
On health care, America’s system ranks 37th in the world, and among developed countries is among the worst systems no matter what metrics you use to compare systems. As the baby boomers move further into old age, the stresses on this system will bankrupt the nation. Obama is recommending a 10 year, $630 billion committment to revamping health care. Making the complete transformation will cost more than this, but the alternative is bankruptcy.
The reasons for energy transformation away from petroleum products to “Green” energy were summarized best by Thomas Friedman in his best selling book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded.” On page 81 he writes: “Our own oil dependence is behind more bad trends domestically and around the world than any other single factor I can think of. Our addiction to oil makes global warming warmer, petrodictators stronger, clean air dirtier, poor people poorer, democratic countries weaker, and radical terrorists richer. Have I left anything out?”
If you have a greater interest in Obama’s budget, go to the White House site here. From that site you can also navigate to the entire budget proposal. If you want to get an education on energy and broad global issues surrounding energy, the environment, population and other trends, two books are mandatory reading: Friedman’s book mentioned above, and Lester Brown’s “Plan B 3.0.”