The most interesting element of president elect Obama’s speech on his stimulus plan was its focus on government accountability, a lack of earmarks, and tax cuts. Obama was trying to defuse the potential charge that he is a big government liberal by making an urgent but practical appeal, and promising to change the course of the economy.
The plan is based around several of Obama’s campaign promises, infrastructure improvements, investment in clean energy, modernization of medical billing, tax cuts, and increasing broadband access. All of these proposals represent a long term investment in the economy. The trick will be getting members of Congress to think long term.
Obama promised more accountability in his stimulus package than previous ones, “Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made transparently, and informed by independent experts wherever possible. Every American will be able to hold Washington accountable for these decisions by going online to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent. And as I announced yesterday, we will launch an unprecedented effort to eliminate unwise and unnecessary spending that has never been more unaffordable for our nation and our children’s future than it is right now.”
He laid out the consequences of letting this package get bogged down in Congressional fighting, “It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now. We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.”
This was a political speech that was designed to get everybody on the same team, and ready to act. It was smart not to get into the nuts and bolts of the plan, because it likely to develop and change while going through the legislative process.
The worst thing that Obama could have done was fall into the same trap as so many new presidents of the past by trying to order Congress to act. Obama has made it clear that his number one goal is to get something done. I believe he took a good first step in that direction today.