At noon today, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.
The change is long overdue. Obama’s inauguration should make all Americans proud, regardless of race, creed or political affiliation. But, while the moment is sweet, our new leader will have no time to rest.
As soon as Obama steps into the Oval Office, he will inherit the reins of a nation mired in debt and reeling from a string of foreign policy failures. And to top it off, he will be expected to somehow heal the country’s wounded markets and deliver millions of Americans from insolvency.
It’s an intimidating set of challenges, to be sure. And over the past 11 weeks, Obama has set the foundations for an executive branch that will aggressively pursue his policy agenda. Many of his preparations for office should reassure Americans that the next administration will address their myriad concerns, though there are still some major questions to be raised.
Many of Obama’s appointments in the past few months, such as Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, signify the new administration’s aim to reinvigorate the government as a place for promoting big ideas and solving the nation’s problems through a clear and transparent process.
Despite these laudable moves, Obama has slipped in other ways. He has pointed to his economic stimulus package as the administration’s top priority, and yet, Americans should be concerned with the way that plan is beginning to take shape.
The president-elect has gone to great pains to ensure the plan’s quick and easy passage through Congress, but in doing so he has made some questionable concessions. His intention to load the bill with tax-cuts, which is targeted to appease conservative critics, is particularly troubling. Such a strategy won’t likely produce short-term relief — people are more likely to save tax-cuts during a recession than to pump that money back into the economy — and will undermine the bill’s effectiveness as a tool for securing our economy in the future.
The government’s ability to reinvigorate markets is often overstated and — especially in this particular recession, where the scope is global — Congress will be hard-pressed to deliver results immediately.
Rather than doling out tax cuts, the new administration should advocate a far more radical approach to the problem. A stimulus plan that emphasizes the transformation of our economy to be competitive in the 21st century is imperative. That means engineering the country’s infrastructure to use energy in a more clean and efficient manner, re-imagining health care and revitalizing our lagging educational system. None of these objectives are easily achieved, but they are vital to the future of the United States.
We have high hopes. The ball is in your court, President Obama.