BBC BLOGS - Justin Webb's America
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Change we can believe in?

Justin Webb | 03:20 UK time, Monday, 8 December 2008

This is the point. No-one else seems quite to get it. Obama's infrastructure plans - if they come off - are of Eisenhower proportions (he built the roads - well the big ones). They entail a new mindset that builds America and doesn't object to paying for it. It's a mindset that could lead to change American children can believe in. I am not suggesting that the jobs side of infrastructure improvement is unimportant - plainly it is hugely important. But the long term benefits could re-shape the nation.


  • 1. At 03:52am on 08 Dec 2008, hontogaijin wrote:

    i like the idea. the only thing i would like more would be a better national transit system; but i'm not ignorant to the fact that it's quite impossible to implement such a system effectively. the united states is simply too big and spaced-out between the larger cities to have it work in the same way it does here in japan.


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  • 2. At 04:04am on 08 Dec 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    I hope that we can believe these ideas that are being talk about, will be forthcoming.

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  • 3. At 04:33am on 08 Dec 2008, allmymarbles wrote:

    Obama is wise not to particupate in the Bush bailout, since it is a Bush bailout, at least until January 20th. Finally there is talk about getting rid of the heads of the three auto companies. Failed CEOs are not capable of resturcturing. Now if they can control what the banks do with our largesse....

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  • 4. At 05:18am on 08 Dec 2008, OldSouth wrote:

    Justin, good points to consider. In the interest of full disclosure, I attended a school built by the Works Progress Administration(WPA), live near a state park built by the CCC(Civilian Conservation Corps), and this computer is powered by electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority(TVA). The local federal highway was dramatically improved in the '30s by the Roosevelt administration, and I travel on interstate highways built by the Eisenhower administration.

    So, I am a beneficiary of those initiatives, without a doubt.

    But Roosevelt ran against Hoover complaining of the deficits the incumbent had allowed to occur, only to ramp up federal spending to hitherto unprecedented levels. And, more sobering to consider, all the patchwork of 'alphabet agencies' did not lift the US out of depression, with some accounts suggesting that FDR may have actually extended it with his attempts at direct the economy from the top down. What actually cured the Depression was World War II (at least for the USA!). But the trail of sorrows those years left behind for the rest of the world can't begin to be described. And, we left behind a lot of our own children, with terrible suffering inflicted on families back home. (My mother still mourns the friends she lost from high school in North Africa and on D-Day. My dad and his friends carried the scars of profound survivor's guilt home with them from the Pacific theatre, and all their children suffered with them profoundly.)

    I have thought much about this, and I think we lost so much as a culture under FDR, the architectural examples cited in the Chicago Trib article notwithstanding. I once lived in, and often now visit neighborhoods that predate his imprint, and I am always moved by the beauty and variety of the architecture, and the sense of stability and 'home' that is exuded by these places, still cherished by the residents who inhabit them. They are not wealthy yuppies for the most part, but people raising families in the local churches and schools. After 1930, and especially after 1945, so much of that was lost, and has never been regained, only retained here and there in some of those special places.

    Aside from the fact that this new round of spending, actual and proposed, will saddle my children(and theirs) with crushing debts, I think the approach of Federal intervention practiced by FDR, carried forward by several subsequent presidents, and advocated again by BHO, will not have the desired effect, and may well be counterproductive on a cultural level.

    Thanks for a very good comment--you always stimulate thought. Don't let people call you names for your troubles.

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  • 5. At 05:29am on 08 Dec 2008, Catafourry wrote:

    Eisenhower wasn't a phony, though.

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  • 6. At 06:29am on 08 Dec 2008, upstater wrote:

    I completely agree, Justin! I believe Obama has both the brains and the strength of character to pull this wonderful scheme off.

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  • 7. At 07:35am on 08 Dec 2008, Parrisia wrote:

    Obama vows to do many things without telling us where the money is going to come from. The US external debt is already huge and the global economic crisis has made lenders/investors very hesitant to buy anything including US government bonds. So brace yourself for a huge disappointment cause in spite of all the excellent intentions, very little will be eventually achieved

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  • 8. At 08:39am on 08 Dec 2008, gunsandreligion wrote:

    I'm actually impressed by the man I didn't vote for.
    Building infrastructure which solves some of our
    energy and transporation problems could be a
    tremendous boost, if only it was a kosher bill.

    That is, without a lot of useless pork which
    constitutes a new form of welfare.

    As far as no one being willing to buy our bonds,
    it may be a case of a rush to the bottom of the
    barrel. While things may look bleak here, they are
    beginning to look ever worse elsewhere.

    China, which needs a huge growth rate to sustain
    their political stability, is not doing the right thing.
    They are still devaluing their currency so that
    they can export to us, instead of growing internally.

    Russia has been clobbered by the combination of
    the credit crisis and falling energy prices.

    The mainland Europeans have suddenly
    acquired a humble attitude of cooperation
    with us, if not with each other.

    Even Dubai is having a real estate crash.

    So, once again, the Americans get a free ride,
    for now.

    The thing that scares me is, what if he does fix
    the economy, and he really is a closet Marxist?

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  • 9. At 09:13am on 08 Dec 2008, Pancha Chandra wrote:

    Of course the long-term benefits will be a real boon. President-elect Obama is showing tremendous resolve and it is out of these plans that America will resurrect itself. The infrastructure plans will change the face of America. Positive thinking based on careful costing and budgeting: imaginative, pragmatic measures is what the new administration is determined on implementing. Obama will succeed: his optimism is necessary in this period of doom and gloom;

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  • 10. At 09:57am on 08 Dec 2008, watermanaquarius wrote:

    Parrisia # 7, and OldSouth # 4
    Found this link which might give possible answers to the questions you pose, regarding infrastructure work proposals and paying for such projects.
    This piece is about a Federal Tax Proposal, from your Environmental Protection Agency, to tax farm animals the same way as cars. Bottom of the same page [ science videos] reports Portugals attempts at doing their bit to become more self-sufficient on providing renewable energy.Every little helps.
    Just a load of gas?
    Tackling health and the Ecology both fit in with Obamas plans,.and a fitter America will have less difficulty in tightening its' belt. You gave your all in WW II in heart body and soul, so reaching into your pocket to support your own country seems the least you can do. No pain- no gain.
    gnr # 8 suggests "mainland Europeans have suddenly acquired a humble attitude of cooperation with us" [the US.]
    May I also humbly request a cooperation from your side in saving the planet while we still have one.

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  • 11. At 10:26am on 08 Dec 2008, tuairimiocht wrote:

    "The US external debt is already huge and the global economic crisis has made lenders/investors very hesitant to buy anything including US government bonds."

    Actually, the yields on US treasuries and UK gilts are at record lows. Further, the recession might help Obama to become a great president, since it underscores the need for better healthcare and infrastructure in the US.

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  • 12. At 10:30am on 08 Dec 2008, KAS1865 wrote:

    Obama keeps producing plans and schemes but I contually see one major flaw, where is the money coming from?
    Its fine for justin to say "a new mindset that does n't mind paying for it" but Im not so sure.
    It's unlikely that even the tax and spend, Democrats/Liberals are going to pass the budget of such a project.
    The American people are already being squeezed so unless Obama's Administration is going to divert funding from elsewhere I can not see it happening.
    I have a feeling that this will be the case with many Obama's grand plans.
    I suppose, in line with most Democrat Administrations, he can cut spending on the Military before he surrenders in Iraq but that too will be unpopular.
    Poor Obama, in league with media, has conned the poor American people.
    This reminds me of the New Labour ploy, here in the UK, of making grand announcements only to scale down their plans or quietly drop them all together.

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  • 13. At 10:55am on 08 Dec 2008, dceilar wrote:

    #8 GnR

    The mainland Europeans have suddenly acquired a humble attitude of cooperation with us, if not with each other.

    I heard on the radio this morning that European countries may not be so co-operative to each other as we first thought. The British PM, Gordon Brown, is meeting with the current EU President, President Sarkozy of France, and the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso today without the German Chancellor, Merkel, being there. The Germans accuse the rest of the EU (and by implication, the USA) of 'acting like lemmings' in 'a senseless race to spend money'.

    The era of co-operation is a bit of an over statement. Personally, I think the Germans are making a mistake.

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  • 14. At 11:16am on 08 Dec 2008, TheFirstRalph wrote:

    How to write a Justin Webb post about Obama:

    Stage 1: Obama makes a 'policy' statement that's vague on detail or how it's going to be paid for.
    Stage 2: Nobody in the press corps ask a difficult question.
    Stage 3: Justin eulogises about it on his blog.

    How to write a Justin Webb post about a Republican.

    Stage 1: The Republican announces a fully costed proposal with pages of supporting data.
    Stage 2: The press corps ask every difficult question they can think of, and a few silly ones too.
    Stage 3: Justin points his browser towards the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos.
    Stage 4: A bit of cutting and pasting later and Justin has a mixture of half truths, urban legend, and partisan hyperbole to post.

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  • 15. At 12:04pm on 08 Dec 2008, tucsonmike wrote:

    I am gaining more respect for Mr. Obama. We do need the work on the infrastructure and I hope he can pull it off.

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  • 16. At 12:32pm on 08 Dec 2008, Reuben wrote:

    German Chancellor Merkel has the most sensible aproach: we can't spend our way out of this recession, that's how we got here in the first place. we need to make signigicant changes like making the global conglomerates that export jobs pay huge punitive fines equivillent to the salaries they aren't paying, so that it's no longer profitable to export jobs.

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  • 17. At 1:01pm on 08 Dec 2008, dsanthony wrote:

    As America should have learned in the 1930s, these public work projects do not really improve the economy. While a few hundred workers in a community may get short term jobs repairing roads or improving buildings, they are back on the unemployment line once those individual projects are completed. These projects, like the WPA under Roosevelt, are feel-good, busy work for the laboring classes, but do not affect the underlying economic structures.

    These projects also keep alive the disproven theory that government spending can run the US economy. If this is Obama's big idea of change, recreating the National Recovery Act of the 1930s, that is change America can't believe in.

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  • 18. At 1:02pm on 08 Dec 2008, MarkofSOSH wrote:

    Reminds me of the old Keynesian story about the man digging the hole.

    Seems like in Obama's case, the man will actually be 'digging the hole' for a reason.

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  • 19. At 1:18pm on 08 Dec 2008, SaintDominick wrote:

    As opposed to the financial bailout, which entails giving money to greedy and often unscrupulous financiers with little to show in return, an investment in infrastructure would produce tangible results that we could all benefit from.

    Although the focus is mostly on rebuilding the network of highways and bridges built by the Eisenhower Administration (one of my favorites), the fact is that the proposal that is being drafted also includes badly needed improvements to our school system, installation of a network to service hybrid vehicles, investment in alternative energies, and making electronic access available to all segments of our society.

    As Justin pointed out, creating jobs is only one facet of this initiative, the main benefit would be our ability to survive and compete in the 21st century. Personally, I hope we can get rid of our 19th century telephone poles, not only because of aesthetic reasons, but because they are plain dangerous in places such as Florida where I live.

    The issue should not be whether or not we can afford to pay for this program, if we can spend hundreds of billions of dollars "bringing democracy" to the Middle East (or whatever the real reason for that crusade happens to be) we surely can afford to spend money in modernizing our country. What we can not afford is letting our infrastructure become a third world model, or continue to ignore the education and health care crises that threaten our future and weaken our ability to compete.

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  • 20. At 1:24pm on 08 Dec 2008, DavidGinsberg wrote:

    Hi Justin, I think you are mistaken about the impact of this proposal. When Eisenhower and FDR commisioned big public works programmes it was a lot easier and quicker to get them moving. All I can see this money being spent on is legions of planning lawyers, personel officers and Health and Safety experts. You will the creation of another huge monolithic federal agency burning it's way through large amounts of cash without achieving a great deal. If you look at the most impressive public works and engineering programmes around the world this is done largely on the back of cheap labour. The USA doesn't have this unless the Obama plan is dismantle the border with Mexico. This is the sort of announcement you get when a government is looking for easy sympathetic headlines.

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  • 21. At 1:59pm on 08 Dec 2008, Interestedforeigner wrote:

    17. Anthony.

    Walk across the Golden Gate bridge.

    Walk along the roadway on the top of the Hoover dam.

    Tell me that they do not leave you feeling in awe of our predecessors.

    These were the projects that were built by an America on the cusp of greatness.

    Not worthwhile projects? Not good investments? What other investments have paid dividends like that for 70 years?

    Go to the Rockefeller Center. Does it not even now lift your heart? (Not a public work, fair enough, but still).

    China would not now be trying to build the equivalent of an interstate highway system a la Eisenhower and a vastly upgraded railway system if those had not turned out to be one of the best investments in reducing internal trade barriers of all time.

    Lift up your heart, man. America has a deep well of talent, and an ability to renew and re-invent itself like no other nation.

    Its not about the government running the economy. Its about building confidence. Right now everyone is afraid. Afraid of losing their job. Afraid of losing their house. Afraids of not being able to pay for retirement. When people fear the future, they don't spend any money. The economy is contracting like a deflating balloon, and it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's when the government should step in with firm resolve, a steady hand, and a brave heart. "Even though you be afraid, show courage, that you neighbors may take heart from you and find their courage, too." So that people will invest, take normal business risks, employ others, purchase goods from their neighbors and believe that the future holds the prospect of brighter days.

    "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

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  • 22. At 2:15pm on 08 Dec 2008, chronophobe wrote:

    Re: 4 OldSouth

    I enjoyed reading your thoughtful post. It immediately made me think of Robert Crumb's beautiful set of comic panels, that originally came out in 1979, called "A Short History of America. He added three more panels in 1988 (these are rather diminished black and white scans of his colour originals).

    I'm not so sure Roosevelt was the cause of the cultural changes you lament, so much as he was simply the midwife, as it were, of modernity. Same could be said of Ike, whose Interstates really ushered in the Era of the Almighty Automobile. One of the things I like most about Crumb's drawings is the way he pays close attention to the disappearance of public transit . . .

    Canadian Pinko

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  • 23. At 3:22pm on 08 Dec 2008, regular_josephina wrote:

    Sounds good to me - some of our roads & bridges haven't been repaired since they were built in the 50s. We drive our new shiny gas guzzling SUVs on crumbling bridges and then wonder why they collapse.

    In other news, this from msnbc on blackwater security shooters:
    Unfortunately, these guys chose to surrender at the wrong courthouse. Salt Lake county is very Democrat - Utah's only Democratic Congressman represents that area. They didn't quite do their research on that one... oops.

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  • 24. At 3:33pm on 08 Dec 2008, SaintOne wrote:

    #8 GNR
    "The thing that scares me is, what if he does fix
    the economy, and he really is a closet Marxist?"

    Ok, what is scary about fixing the economy? Not really sure about the Marxist comment either.

    I like the rest of your arguement however, apart from the bit about China. I'm sure they just need the military and police forces to maintain political stability!

    #12 KAS

    Buy you don't question where Bush got 700 billion dollars from? Hm....


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  • 25. At 3:41pm on 08 Dec 2008, LesMajestey wrote:

    As to "where will the money come from?"

    As always, from the printing presses, bearing the legend "full faith and credit of the United States".

    Economists (not associated with the government payroll) will tell you that government bonds are guaranteed certificates of confiscation.

    Poor China!

    Paper is just fine as long as it is accepted as a medium of exchange. (Most here are too young to remember that many cities and states had their own coinage and some notes in those times).

    And, the government can make sure that it is the only legal tender.

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  • 26. At 4:20pm on 08 Dec 2008, happylaze wrote:

    Glad to see the angle on this post good one Justin.

    The money could come from the selling of patent rights on the green technology america will market.

    when we get some.

    21 interesting forner
    "Lift up your heart, man. America has a deep well of talent, and an ability to renew and re-invent itself like no other nation."

    well said
    between that and this

    "As opposed to the financial bailout, which entails giving money to greedy and often unscrupulous financiers with little to show in return, an investment in infrastructure would produce tangible results that we could all benefit from."

    we have a solution.

    If you want to Create wealth you have to Create something.

    Something Real helps.
    Something real that is needed is even better.

    We know what we need and have for some time now(well some have), we know it is not Hummers but better roads so you do not feel like you need a hummer. If your real lucky a bike path.

    Obama has always said this is what he wanted to do , even before this "new crisis" hit. Now as with his "not going to war " he has shown the ability to think ahead not just react.

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  • 27. At 5:02pm on 08 Dec 2008, gunsandreligion wrote:

    #10, waterman, about saving the planet...

    Having a dullard like Bush in office was actually
    a good thing for the environmental movement,
    because it has produced this enormous groundswell
    of public sentiment supporting green causes.

    One cannot have a decent plot without a bad guy.

    And, you might not be aware of it, but a lot
    of good green technology is being developed
    here, especially in California, in spite of the
    federal government.

    Chronophobe: Crumb was, as usual, on target.

    I once saw some photographs of some paintings
    done by an artist in the 50's depicting the enslavement
    of mankind by the automobile. (I don't really
    hold this point of view, I love cars.)

    They were really exquisite, Dali-esq things.

    Anyway, the auto companies hounded him by
    intimidating galleries from exhibiting his works.
    I don't know if the paintings still exist.

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  • 28. At 5:26pm on 08 Dec 2008, Cassandra wrote:

    Bush and his cronies painted us into a dark, tight corner and we're going to have to go through hell and high water to get ourselves out of it. I didn't start out as an Obama supporter, but have grudgingly wound up as one. (It's so nice to hear coherent sentences.) For all our sakes, I hope everyone cooperates to help our once (and future?) great country out of this mess.

    #10 - "May I also humbly request a cooperation from your side in saving the planet while we still have one."

    Sorry, they probably won't understand. Nice thought though.

    Appeal to the Right this way: Developing green power will create a lot of jobs. Money. Profits. I can hear their little hearts warming right now.

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  • 29. At 5:30pm on 08 Dec 2008, timohio wrote:

    re. 4. OldSouth:

    I understand the sense of loss you express and agree with you, but I don't think that you can blame it on Roosevelt or any other political figure.

    In the 1920s and 30s most of the manufacturing sector (which produced most of the jobs) in small to medium sized cities consisted of small to medium sized companies that were locally owned or even privately owned. Even the big automakers in Detroit were locally owned and/or managed.

    In the boom after World War II there was a gathering momentum towards consolidation of ownership into larger publicly held corporations with headquarters in a smaller number of large cities. That has continued today in the shift towards multinational corporations. Jeeps are now made by Chrysler, not Willys-Overland. Even if the manufacturing jobs remained in place, the management of the companies was centralized and the research, development, and product design became centralized with them. So you have a gradual brain drain out of the smaller cities.

    At the same time, the managerial class in these huge companies were moved around to different plant sites, often for only a few years at a time. In contrast to the earlier period of local ownership, not only these managers but also their families failed to establish deep roots and connections to the town or city where they temporarily lived. Corporate managers had more loyalty to their company than to their community, and there was no sense of individual responsibility for the actions of the company. This is the origin of the post-war "company man." The mind-set was a lot like soldiers and military families, who have more loyalty to the army than to the community where they are temporarily based. A lot of the environmental and social abuses we complain about today have their origins in this loss of commitment, control, and responsibility.

    At the time, this was not seen as a negative. It allowed people who might otherwise have spent their lives in a single small town to see more of the world, and it certainly gave them a better standard of living. But it also led to the increasingly homogeneous nature of American middle-class society.

    People were more comfortable living in homogeneous suburbs that looked just like the last suburbs they lived in. So you get suburban sprawl. Residential architecture became standardized. Landscaping became standardized. Shopping malls and chain stores across the country were built to standard plans. You began to see a standardized suburban lifestyle. Regional differences began to be blurred. And everything got boring. And a lot of people today like it that way (go figure).

    The hopeful sign I see now is that some young people are deliberately choosing to live and bring up their children in central cities. Older people are choosing to retire to the smaller houses in the older parts of cities where they are closer to cultural attractions. And I think the middle-class jobs of the future will once again be in smaller companies that are locally owned. So a generation from now, things might look very different.

    So don't blame this on Roosevelt. We did it to ourselves.

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  • 30. At 5:37pm on 08 Dec 2008, mdalerwill wrote:

    Re #4 OldSouth,

    I'm trying to see your way of thinking, but I am not seeing the connection between building infrastructure and cultural erosion. Perhaps you could elaborate?


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  • 31. At 5:53pm on 08 Dec 2008, happylaze wrote:

    29. At 5:30pm on 08 Dec 2008, timohio

    wow that was good.

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  • 32. At 5:58pm on 08 Dec 2008, mdalerwill wrote:

    Re #17 dsanthony,

    My apologies to anyone who has to read my rehashed remarks after previous discussions on this topic with DougTexan.

    First of all, these would not be "short term" jobs. If the money (wherever it's coming from) were used to build only shelf-ready projects, you are still easily looking at years to get through the sheer backlog that state and local governments have in their systems. If the money also allows for the design, etc., of new projects, we could be talking about a decade or more easily.

    "Busy work for the laboring classes" includes work for engineers, architects, resource analysts, accountants, clerical workers, historians and archaeologists, environmental scientists, aside from the people who will actually get their hands dirty in both public and private industry. And I'm only thinking of road jobs when I list the occupations that would benefit. What other kinds would be needed for building energy infrastructure, for instance?

    Then there will be the on-going maintenance and operations of these projects, generating employment in the much longer term.

    Then, as someone already pointed out, some infrastructure is actually so outdated or in such disrepair as to be unsafe. Can you honestly find fault with investing in, say, seismic retrofits?

    Will this improve the economy? Well, it will generate jobs and sales of everything from raw materials to partially pre-fabbed construction elements. Will it be enough to repair the damage done by the dismantling of our manufacturing sector? Who knows.

    The real issue is how far down beneath the sofa cushions we're going to have to go to fund such a program.

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  • 33. At 7:32pm on 08 Dec 2008, Gary_A_Hill wrote:

    It didn't take the US Supreme Court long to laugh the Donofrino lawsuit out of court.

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  • 34. At 8:08pm on 08 Dec 2008, MagicKirin wrote:

    ref #28

    How come no one wants to assign blame to two Democrats who are more responsible than Bush?

    Chris Dodd who took a sweetheart loan from CountryWide one of the main villians in the housing crisis.

    And Barny Frank who blocked reform at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

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  • 35. At 8:23pm on 08 Dec 2008, proles wrote:

    Another 'hometown cheer' from the Obama claque back in the Windy City, complete with the obligatory deference to the Daley political machine. The Eisenhower era was a different, simpler - but no less dangerous - America. The US enjoyed unprecedented prosperity in the post-war boom that ended forever in the early 70's, never to be seen again. Since then , America has gone from being the world's largest creditor nation to being the world's largest debtor nation. And Obama Copacabana doesn't have anything like the personal or political stature of Ike. It's only predictable however, that in the afterglow of the election that there should be grandiose notions of sweeping progress - as well as alot of old style pork barrel mauevering. It's unfortunate that it should take the form of more roads and highway construction boondoggles instead of a truly sweeping conversion to mass transit alternatives. These indirect subsidies to the auto and oil lobbies go back at least to FDR. A government bias in favor of private transportation and all the sprwal and spew it creates, is not "change we can believe in". Anyway, there's plenty of money to pay for new infrastructure. All that needs to be done - for more reasons than one - is cut the insane military budget. Now that would really be "change we can believe in". But something neither Obama or Biden or Clinton or any of the Duopoly Party honchos ever want to talk about. Instead they plan to increase it! After an old, white male and ex- general like Eisehower himself warned about the perils of the military-industrial complex. And now the shining, new 'inclusive', ' multi-cultural,' imperialists "entail a new mindset that builds" the military-industrial-complex of the 21st century "and doesn't object to paying for it". That's "a mindset that could lead to change American children can believe in"???

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  • 36. At 8:41pm on 08 Dec 2008, Reuben wrote:

    As much as I've distrusted BHO for his leftist politics, this looks promising.

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  • 37. At 8:48pm on 08 Dec 2008, timohio wrote:

    re. 31. happylaze:

    "wow that was good."


    The part of the picture that bothers me personally is that the increasing concentration of capital in a few large centers means that local philanthropy is fading in many parts of the country. When local manufacturing businesses were locally owned, the business owner had a stake in the well-being of the community. Communities may have been dominated by a few wealthy families who may have looked down on everyone else, but most of them felt that their standing in the community depended in part on their support for museums, orchestras, hospitals, libraries, schools, etc. They may have treated their employees like dirt, but they did pay for things of lasting value to the community. Many of the things they helped build are crumbling now, just like our roads and bridges.

    Where I live, those first families still exist but they don't have nearly the resources they once did. So non-profits of all kinds instead try to raise money from the local officers of major corporations which are headquartered elsewhere. And corporations don't engage in philanthropy; their donations come out of their advertising budgets. They don't think in terms of building community resources, they think in terms of ad placement. So, unless your city happens to be the headquarters for a major corporation that is not going through bankruptcy at the moment, your local charities and arts organizations are going to have a lot more trouble maintaining funding.

    Those individuals who are wealthy in global terms do donate, but the donations go to different things. I give Bill and Melinda Gates a lot of credit for what they are doing for things like AIDS research, but I wish that more of their wealth had stayed in small towns and cities in the first place to support local projects. Is it really best to have all charitable giving in the hands of a few super-rich individuals or the mega-foundations they have created? Even if those foundations are governed by boards of well-intentioned people, you have a handful of people determining the fates of non-profits all over the country.

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  • 38. At 9:05pm on 08 Dec 2008, dceilar wrote:


    Will this improve the economy? Well, it will generate jobs and sales of everything from raw materials to partially pre-fabbed construction elements.

    Agreed with your comments, but you forgot to mention that these skilled workers will also be spending their wages and thus will be stimulating the economy in their own way.

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  • 39. At 9:51pm on 08 Dec 2008, watermanaquarius wrote:

    I am a great admirer of American patriotism, noticeable in so many facets of your society and daily lives, sadly lacking or solely reserved for sporting events in many countries in Europe. Pleased too, that with every day that passes, as a Republican, you are coming around to a greater acceptance of Obama, and yet still maintain your doubting Thomas stance, because, as you say, between rhetoric and a workable kosher outcome is an immense gap.
    What I noticed # 8, {which I hope you will forgive me if I am reading between the lines}, is almost a glee at things going belly up everywhere else. You still have a tight hold onto your "USA and them" attitude where the problems are not just reserved for you, and I do hope you will soon try thinking "us" more.
    We are all in this sinking boat together, around the world.
    Perhaps being the top dog for so long it is understandable the USA wants to be regarded as the Captain again, where in the distant past we {USA + UK] conquered the world together. Here is another fine mess youve got us into But placing the causal effect of our current problems today at Americas door is unjust, since all our countries did their bit in dragging us down to this present position.
    Hoping you will become a "world" citizen soon, or do we have to send another solo heavy over and conquer you as we did in the past. And your army
    wma .
    -Thanks for the Ecological good news # 27.

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  • 40. At 10:16pm on 08 Dec 2008, Gary_A_Hill wrote:

    MK (#34), I don't mind blaming Democrats for part of the problem. I'm an independent, not a Democrat. The problem started during the Democratic Johnson administration, who privatized Fannie Mae for reasons related to budget considerations during the Vietnam War. Privatization was the beginning of the problem. The Chief Executives of Fannie and Freddy were making many millions a year before their downfall, compared to the Fed chairman, who makes a little less than $200,000. How can anyone look after the public interest when their personal stake is so large?

    Here's my radical independent proposal, which neither Democrats or Republicans would go for. Get rid of Freddie Mac, merging it into Fannie Mae. Restructure Fannie along the lines of the Fed, with responsibility for maintaining an orderly mortgage market, much as the Fed maintains an orderly money supply. No executive in Fannie should be paid more than their counterpart in the Fed. The stockholders take a hit for this. Too bad; they're probably already under water anyway.

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  • 41. At 10:31pm on 08 Dec 2008, watermanaquarius wrote:

    timohio # 29
    Nice piece Tim. But one small disagreement.
    Although Chrysler took over the name, do you honestly regard those luxury Oxford Street shopping trolleys as a jeep!
    Chalk and Cheesey
    Progress does not always retain the heart and soul of an old product or old building.
    If you get the chance, take a ride around the block in one of the real ones, because despite the absence of a shock absorbent suspension it exhibits its own unique all round climate control air-conditioning system. An experience not to be missed that will live with you forever.

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  • 42. At 10:36pm on 08 Dec 2008, gunsandreligion wrote:

    #36, GreySquirrel, I don't believe that
    Obama has appointed a Secretary of Labor.

    That's the important post as far as the
    Left is concerned.

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  • 43. At 10:44pm on 08 Dec 2008, ladycm wrote:

    Anything at this point is better than the lumbering dinosaur known as George Bush and his republican party. Invest in nfrastructure??? Finally, an idea that puts the middle class back to work and not a 700 billion dollar bailout that was handed out so fast the treasury lost count of the money. The money was handed to people who were already rich; in the spirit of republican capitalism. I'm tired of waiting, January 20th cannot come fast enough.

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  • 44. At 11:10pm on 08 Dec 2008, allmymarbles wrote:

    4, OldSouth.

    Yes, those programs of FDR's were very successful and Obama is wise to follow the same course.

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  • 45. At 01:02am on 09 Dec 2008, Cassandra wrote:

    Re: "It didn't take the US Supreme Court long to laugh the Donofrino lawsuit out of court."

    It took longer than it should have. The one in PA was dismissed. Silly, desperate people clinging to the last vestiges of an unrealistic hope. They won't have the guts or the honesty to give up, and their grandchildren - should the rest of us be unlucky enough to have this group continue to breed - will still be reading posts by grousing old codgers decades from now.

    While the rest of us are moving on and (hopefully) doing whatever is needed to breathe life back into our country, the extremists will keep doing their worst to make the gullible among us stumble.

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  • 46. At 01:18am on 09 Dec 2008, timohio wrote:

    re. 41. watermanaquarius:

    "do you honestly regard those luxury Oxford Street shopping trolleys as a jeep!"

    Ah, you do have a point. Jeep, for its sins, with the Jeep Cherokee did invent the SUV. Literally. Once Jeep sales took off, everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. There are smaller Jeeps around, but they are mostly overpowered, gas guzzling things. I sincerely doubt that any of them get closer to off-the-road driving than accidentally straying off their suburban driveways. If you want a Jeep that reminds you of the World War II Jeeps, the Wrangler is the closest thing. The problem with Jeeps is that people are buying them for their image (I could go off the road, if only I wanted to), but along with the image comes a lot of steel and a gas-guzzling engine.

    But the poor Jeep has been an unwanted child passed from relative to relative. Jeep was a product of Willys-Overland in the 40s, but passed to the short-lived American Motors (whose only other well-known product was the Gremlin. The usual comment about the Gremlin was "Where's the rest of it?"), only to be bought by Chrysler, then Chrysler bought by Daimler. A case in point about the consolidation of American industry.

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  • 47. At 04:27am on 09 Dec 2008, SunshinePlus wrote:

    This change is positive because the product is needed and the workers need the jobs. It is long past the time that Americans take stock of their domestic needs and not the voracious appetite of the international arms manufacturers. The focus needs to be redirected to peace. This is a good start.

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  • 48. At 12:12pm on 09 Dec 2008, vasobre wrote:

    I like that Obama is planing to invest American taxpayers money in AMERICA! I believe it will improve the determination of American people to strive for humain long term goals and achievements of revolutionary proportions (i.e. different\renewable type of energy, space settlements) of which they are greatly capable. I hope his administration manages to shrug off incompetent leaders of large American corporations who forgot basic interests of American workers and nation they represent. American soldiers need to reinstate their dignity by developing highly sofisticated facilities in America for space exploration and global defense, not being used as mere mercenaries in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo or wherever..
    World needs strong America, not strong international coporations.. So nobody can bomb the statue of liberty and try to impose religious laws in 21st century, no matter how profitable it may be to some!

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  • 49. At 2:30pm on 09 Dec 2008, DennisinOhio wrote:

    I am quite certain the government is the most inefficient manager of wealth and in creating good things - private enterprise is the best way and individual human effort usually works even better. Since we have (so far) committed the federal government to either loan, stimulate, bail out, etc, as much as 7.5 Trillion USD, an amount equal to 2.5 times the entire US budget annually for federal spending, might it not be a bit more efficient to just give each man, woman and child in the US an amount of about $25,000 and let them spend it as they wish? Of course, it could be taxable, and that revenue would balance the budget back a bit and the rest would be spent as people need to spend it, paying off debts, buying a car, retiring a mortgage, etc, and the economy would leap. Already, vast Billions have been expended with no visible result. Since the overriding problem that caused this mess was overappreciated assets of all types, particularily homes and commodities, the economy will continue downward until these forces have completely unwound, so we still have quite a ways to go before an economic recovery can set in on it's own. Massive government stimulus didn't pull us out of the Great Depression - WWII did that - and it took a full 25 years for the equity averages to recover from their highs in 1929. With gas now at the lowest price ever in the USA (adjusted for inflation) and yet no one waiting in line to buy it, we are witnessing a total economic collapse that the Messiah will be powerless to correct. Yes, the average 1st world family lives at a very high level of luxury and comfort, but much of this was on borrowed money and unsustainable expectations. Now the air is quickly leaking from the overinflated balloon - the results in the years ahead will not be pleasant for anyone!

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  • 50. At 4:03pm on 09 Dec 2008, happylaze wrote:

    timohio 37

    again thanks for the letter.

    I wish more thought like you.

    I live in a valley (willamette) where all the food could be grown for all the communities in the valley but guess what?
    5% comes from the valley.

    Several Billion is spent on food annually and 95 % is brought in.

    We grow grass seed instead so people can have a nice lawn. In where ever .

    If food was grown and processed here ALL the valley would be rich.

    The dairy industry requires more than cows .

    Tanks have to be welded (dairy tanks).
    Anywhere I went in europe there was some company making Dairy grade vessels,tanks.

    Not so in the valley.
    Most dairy comes from elsewhere.

    Thats my 2 cents keep up the posts with the most.

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  • 51. At 4:06pm on 09 Dec 2008, happylaze wrote:

    Q all

    through out all this turmoil is it true that those that will benefit the most are LAWYERS.

    Every bankruptcy every bitter battle for the last market share?

    So can we introduce another factor in to those that get rich.

    No one wants to bail out GM but I bet the legal fees of wrapping it up will be pretty damn high.

    Is it fair they charge hundreds per hour, thousands even?

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  • 52. At 4:48pm on 09 Dec 2008, mdalerwill wrote:

    Re #49, DennisinOhio,

    I am skeptical that a direct payment to citizens will help the situation, unless we're talking about some ridiculously large amount of money ($25,000 wouldn't cover my school loans). Friends and I were just discussing that option this past weekend. Unfortunately, they would all do what I would do: pay off bills. What money I might then save in, say, monthly credit card payments or school loan payments would then go into savings and/or paying off more bills. Only a very small percentage, if any, would go toward new spending. So essentially, it would be like putting the money in the hands of the banks anyway, and so far that has done nothing to get the economy moving again.

    However, if we put people to work over, say, the next decade with an infrastructure program, we give people a reliable income source for an extended period of time. People might feel more comfortable with taking some of what they earn and spending it on new goods and services.

    Will it work? Don't know. Will it work in time to save the big retailers and/or the mom-n-pop shops and family-owned businesses? Hope so.

    However, we have been living in a make-believe credit-fueled economy for so long that we may find nothing works short of returning to our manufacturing and innovation roots, and that could take a long long time.

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  • 53. At 5:26pm on 09 Dec 2008, mdalerwill wrote:

    Re #50, happylazy,

    What you say about growing and providing locally makes sense, but I'm not sure it would work (for the economy, that is). I live in an area that is predominently agricultural. We usually have the highest value ag industry of any county in my state. We do have dairy operations as well, though the county just to the south of us has just an enormous concentration of dairy.

    Unfortunately, it has not made for a rich economy, even in good times. Most ag jobs are low-paying and seasonal-only, leaving families on aid the rest of the time. Many farmers (though certainly not all) themselves are having a hard time competing with cheap imports and transportation costs (even with cheap gasoline), so those who might have been doing extremely well a decade or two ago are leaving fields empty or trying to sell to developers. Regional policy institutes have suggested that the answer lies in value-added processing operations and specialty foods, but this has not materialized on any significant scale.

    Dairy has its own problem, namely air quaility regulation. Due to our topography (also a valley), pollutants tend to build up and just sit atop the landscape, so we are always struggling with air quality attainment issues. New ag regulations come down the pike regularly, many of them seeking to levy fees on dairy cattle and on new or expanded dairy operations in their permit stages. Of course, your topography may not have the same effect, but your community might still want to be careful about the exact concentration of dairy operations you want to encourage.

    Of course, there is also the energy conservation angle of growing and consuming locally, which is a good thing but another matter altogether.

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  • 54. At 5:28pm on 09 Dec 2008, happylaze wrote:

    52 mdalerwill
    So essentially, it would be like putting the money in the hands of the banks anyway,

    But a thought hit me.
    Money would be in the banks and people would be out of debt.
    now that's a good thing.

    If we bail the people and they do bank it then the banks get all that dosh.

    which we are doing anyway.

    But people get out of debt.

    that is the solution.

    saying that I am not in one penny of debt so it will not help me.(no credit rateing no debt given lol)

    I agree with the infrastructure idea though as Ed points out lets not forget the planet this time.

    But the Bail out to wall street should be funded by allowing people to make payments.


    I'm not sure .
    I got to go not hit anything

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  • 55. At 5:46pm on 09 Dec 2008, mdalerwill wrote:

    Re #54 happylaze (sorry for misspelling your username in 53),

    Yes, I think it would be a very good thing for people to get out of debt. I think we've got to encourage people to stop consuming for the sake of consuming and stop using their credit cards and home equity to do it. However, I also suspect that we won't see the effect of that kind of change on the economy for many years or even a generation, while people wipe out debt and build savings and equity.

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  • 56. At 6:54pm on 09 Dec 2008, happylaze wrote:


    no offence at the spelling. today for example it is perfectly appropriate.


    I 'd totally agree about peoples spending.

    I don't understand how Banking got to be so ,,, wrong.

    but I still wonder if this money instead of going to banks to pay off "bad debts"
    could it not go to the people to pay off " bad debt"

    A twoforone solution.
    though I suspect that ,my people not banks idea does not work in reality .

    but it seems that banks don't have money because people can't pay their debts.
    so we could help banks by sorting people.

    Or as I would prefer stop bailing out banks.
    (I have no stocks or 401K).

    I have no house or debt. It would not benefit me at all.
    in fact it would perpetuate the system where I as a poorer person trying to start a business would be given a disadvantage as money is normally loaned to people that frankly have enough.

    Even though as the recent events show, they make no better choices as where to spend.

    So it all really hasn't effected me more than dropping gas and food prices .
    Oh and some commodity prices that effect my trade.
    Yipppeee. would be the short though on that . the long one would be -I'll have lots of cheaper to build goods but no one to buy them.
    even though they last for years and are made from recycled materials.

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  • 57. At 7:37pm on 12 Dec 2008, priva4221 wrote:


    Two salient points which the Obama team will have to contend with.

    1. Infrastructure materials costs (concrete, steel, machinery, and so forth) were much less proportionately in the '50s. Obama will have concrete, steel and other costs now linked to oil - which will be up by January, back to $70 and rising.

    2. Infrastructure in the '50s was hard surfaces. Much of infrastructure today is fiberoptics, FAA computer systems (ATC), computer analysis of future transportation needs, and even weather prediction. These are high expenditure component items, less manpower required.

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