Barack Obama's action-heavy beginning to his presidency has not been without its controversy. His decision to continuosly bail out banks while sanctioning auto companies (and even personally firing GMs CEO) has left many wondering how vast the future discretion of this administration will be in controlling once privately owned businesses.
Gitmo's closure represented the administrations prevailing sentiment about the use of torture, but some feel these measures will open the floodgates to terrorists and other enemy combatants who have largely been silenced on U.S. soil since 9/11.
The reversal of a ban on funding international family-planning clinics that offer abortions and abortion counseling has also been a source of controversy. While pro-life supporters have taken serious issue with this decision, Obama has claimed that these agencies "also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls," and that a blanket ban on these agencies does more harm than good.
While these issues are all immensely important in their own rights, the talk of the nation has been centered on the ominous "stimulus bill" that astounds even the experts in its unprecedented scope.
Opinions on the nature of the bills' provisions cover the entire spectrum of political ideology and economic theory. But let's be honest: no single person has the answer; no group, political party or special interest group has the answer. We can all only make educated speculations on the short and long-term effects of the bill.
Well, I am here to give exactly that, my educated speculations about what works and what doesn't in Obama's brain child.
Some have argued Obama did not apportion enough money directly towards infrastructure, which would create immediate construction, technician and engineering-related jobs. If we look at the numbers, this is clearly not the case. More than $26 billion is set aside for direct infrastructure tax cuts that will create jobs requiring blue collar and white collar workers. Other provisions of the bill, such as the investment in sustainable green technologies and various transportation infrastructue will create immediate jobs and maintian existing ones.
More money for infrastructure would be an irrational investment at this time. Many of the jobs that these investments will create will be temporary and blue-collar in nature. What happens to these workers when the projects are finished? We will once again be faced with specialized workers who may not be able to integrate themselves back into the private workforce. Some short-term solutions like this will help our economy, but too many will likely have an adverse effect on our long-term economy.
Where Obama has succeeded is in his committment to education, the energy crisis and health care. With the crisis in finance and the stock market behaving erratically, we have seen their fickle natures. The financial sector of our economy is not real; it's all market speculation, consumer confidence and principles like supply and demand. No real, tangible source of money is involved. A collective decision to reduce the influence of financial markets in our economy can only benefit the U.S. and the world in the long-term.
Education and literacy are the landmarks of a modernized global power. De-emphasizing education in favor of areas such as defense would be the downfall of the U.S. It has been proven time and again that an educated population results in a more productive workforce that excels in a broad range of fields from technology development and medicinal research to humanitarian and peace efforts. We need teachers who will truly challenge students, educational programs that will broaden the horizons of children instead of just encouraging trade specialization and schools that will really prepare their students for the challenges of the 21st century. The educated person generally has a much greater potential of overcoming societal oppression, poverty and discrimination.
Energy is another area where Obama has succeeded in crafting the stimulus bill. The market's near collapse has diverted our attention from the energy crisis that persists and worsens every day. The market can always recover, companies can always collectively decide to keep the jobs that hardworking Americans are losing every day, but we can no longer ignore the energy crisis that will not recover on its own. We are not finding any new sources of oil. Scarcity of oil will hit us like a gas-guzzling semi-truck if we do not address the threat it presents. Gas prices no longer need to be the barometer of our concern about energy policy. By creating sustainable energy initiatives, Obama will be doing his part in protecting the integrity of our environment, 1000s of jobs and the long-term security of humanity.
I have long held the belief that we should take care of the sick. It's a shame that we live in a country that won't consider a medical patient's needs when he or she doesn't have health insurance. Without ensuring the well-being of our own population, how can we expect to be an agent of peace and prosperity across the world? How can we expect our workforce to be productive and happy? The selfishness astounds me, in that we refuse to pay more in taxes to support a national health care system. I have heard all of the arguments against a national health care system, and all of them are flat-out garbage. NOBODY should be subject to eternal debt because of his or her medical bills. Period.
Obama's plan isn't perfect. Nobody's is, and I guarantee you my assessment of the situation will not come completely to fruition. But for now, emphasizing education, effective energy policy and reformed health care could put the U.S. and the world on the right path to a peaceful, loving society in which we all wish to live.