It's now a year since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was past, and it has become an interesting political game piece of late. I'd like to not focus on the efforts of the right to distract deficit-conscious voters into believing what a mistake this spending spree has been and instead draw attention to work the still lies ahead. I'm no economist, but I believe we have a ways to go before we get out of this 'recession.'
I did not chime in with any personal critique of Obama's first year in office, but I would have said (and I know you will believe me) is summarized in sentiments expressed by Jon Stewart during a conversation with Bill O'Reilly of all places and by a memo in the Guardian UK by Clacny Sigal. My first thought on Obama's first year was that he came in expecting a coalition to move underneath him - that the swath of new voters would be energized to mobilize the range of initiatives on which he campaigned and thereby float Congress to meet those demands with legislation. There were two shortcomings on this: Congress and the public did not quite know what to do with Obama leadnig by proxy so to speak as opposed to leading with a strong executive hand (where Jon Stewart states 'that Obama came into office acting as if Congress were an equal branch of government'), but simultaneously, those who voted for Obama were all sitting back waiting for all these great initiatives to happen instead of hitting the pavement and being an active participant in the change that needs to happen. I believe if we go back and reread Obama's inaugural address, he stated then and there that this is going to take a lot of work. As a friend of mine pointed out, he also said hold him accountable, but he definitely said that the work was not his alone to accomplish. And this is the point that Sigal makes - those of us on the ground have not done out part.
Though I'm not often a fan of everything Thomas Friedman has to say, he is onto something this week. I like his notion of nation building at home - and it is definitely time for that. Our economy has shifted drastically, and the days of manufacturing and mass exports from the US are gone. A look at North Carolina alone reveals that manufacturing has moved not only out of state, but out of country. The push for reforming health care (still overdue), education and our energy demand is right on, and we all play a role in this.
So consider this some call to action: encourage health care reform so dislocated workers may actually venture to start their own business: there are numerous programs to help folks do so, except health care is not covered. Hound our Congressional folks to do their jobs, Republicans and Democrats alike, in helping the people of this country, beyond just their district or state, get back on their feet by passing an additional stimulus package that would genuinely create jobs, boost the emerging economy of tomorrow, and get capital flowing through the system again. And finally, always remember that your money is a form of your voice - supporting local businesses keeps that money local, even if it costs a little extra.