Things need to change. And I only hope the momentum that Obama has built from campaigning carry over to his first term. It's no doubt that the biggest and most daunting task for Obama will be to fix the slumping US economy. Now, I'm no economical genius, and I've never even taken a class in economics (something I'll change someday); but I do consider myself a bright cookie with some ideas. If Obama asked me for some ideas this is what I would say:
• Create an FDR "Alphabet Soup" type of public works project. Our country's infrastructure sure could use the help, and plus it would create thousands of jobs. Popular Mechanic's had a great article on just a handful of ideas. I know Obama is planning on starting a gigantic “green energy” project for our country’s infrastructure, and no doubt these programs will help.
• Create tax breaks for those who hire within the United States, increase taxes on those who hire abroad. Hiring outside of the country hurts the United States by siphoning potential US jobs out of the country, and for the negative effect of taking advantage of cheap labor in other countries. A tax on those companies that hire outside would simply help cushion the blow that these companies are causing on our economy, and encourage creating more jobs within the US.
• Make stronger penalties to companies hiring illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration and cheap labor exploitation are unfortunate truths about the society we live in. It's a very complicated situation with no easy answer, but no answer should include having the brunt of the punishments placed upon the less fortunate. Punish the companies, not the workers.
• Give illegal immigrants an opportunity to become citizens of the USA. This may be a broad stroke, but it’s a big problem, and I think this will ultimately be a good thing. All these people want to do is become contributing members of a society. By giving them all the opportunity to become a citizens, you would be adding more tax money into the system, and eliminate illicit activity involved in the conspiracy of illegal immigrants.
• Increase "sin" tax. Certainly with all of the financial woes going on plenty of people will be hitting the bottle. This indulgence doesn't exactly help our situation I'd imagine. Neither does smoking, or eating fattening foods. We're having enough troubles with our healthcare system, and I personally see nothing wrong with adding additional tax to sources that are known to add health problems within the population (e.g. alcohol, cigarettes, fattening foods, gambling, etc...). This tax would encourage better health, and alleviate medical costs.
• Cut farming subsidiaries, or at least change the system. This one may be a bit over my head (for I don't know the full spectrum of this topic), but hear me out. Firstly, farm subsidies only support large scale commercial farming and not the family farmers. It blows my mind we're so opposed to the big box shops (i.e. Walmart), yet we're turning a blind eye and allowing commercial farming to put local farmers out of business. Second, subsidies encourage quantity over ethical and moral farming. Every farmer is paid the same regardless if they're using synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, regardless if they're exporting and undercutting local farmers in third world countries (see Life and Debt, it'll open your eyes). Third, subsidies allow farmers to create cheap food and live-stock, enabling them to undercut farmers in other parts of the world. An example of this is milk farmers in Jamaica who need to dump their milk stocks because people buy cheaper powdered milk from the states. Lastly, cutting subsidies will prevent farmers from trying to feed and entire nation, creating an overabundance of food that is never used. Large scale commercial farming hurts local farming in the long run. We need to change current method subsidy program which encourages only commercial farming. (Two other resources I've used: Gristmill and The Heritage Foundation).
• Reestablish Skilled Labor classes in High-schools. With college becoming more and more expensive I think it's important that we provide the nations youth with feasible career paths outside of a higher education. While I cherish both my degrees, I don’t believe college is the right choice for everyone. I think there are plenty of options outside the higher education path, and by supplying younger people with multiple options you will help encourage those paths, and create more employment opportunities for high school graduates.
• Invest money into developing a cross-continental railway system.
This could be tagged onto the above idea of a large-scale public works project. First, I’m a huge mass transportation fan (especially the railway). Adding a more effective railway system would cut-down on car emissions by creating an affordable alternative to high gas prices. Better transportation to major cities would also cut on urban sprawl, as more people from out-lying towns would be able to work within the larger metropolitan areas. Second, a large public works project would create lots of much-needed jobs (no-brainer). And lastly, a cross-continental railway would create a worldly tourist destination in the states. We are currently seeing a boom in the tourism industry in America due to our weakened dollar, but why not create the infrastructure to keep this tourism strong? This country has so much diversity, and I think a cross-continental railway would be a great way to show it off. Plus it would add much needed income to towns all across the United States.
• Down-size the military, and transfer funds towards special-ops. I think (hope) that the time of large-scale army against large-scale army is over. Terrorism is our number-one enemy, and we need more intelligence than brute strength in this new world.
• Curb financial institutions from taking advantage of the public. The entire reason we're in this mess is the greed and corruption of banks and credit card companies. They had their chance, and they blew it. I think tougher regulations and a policing of their policies is needed for the good of the people. I know there are talks right now to make credit card companies have a fixed interest rate, and this is a good start. Too bad it won't go into effect until 2010.
Running a country is no easy task, and I certainly don’t envy the uphill battle Obama has in store. And while it’s much easier to come up with ideas than to effectively apply them, I think these ideas are good points to at least consider. So what do you say Mr. Obama?