Monday, November 10, 2008

runs good; needs work

Things are likely to get worse before they get better. Millions of Americans, especially the most disenfranchised among us, children, the unemployed, and the elderly, are likely to suffer even more in the wake of the deepening economic crisis. Generally, they have little if any cushion to protect them and what cushion exists, is in danger.

It's not just the country as a whole that is ailing financially; a number of states are projecting huge deficits for the current fiscal year. Unprecedented ones. California, 11 billion dollar shortfall; New York, 2 billion dollars. And next year's budgets look even bleaker than the current ones. The solution for states is frequently narrow. In Missouri, for example, 90 percent of state revenues go to 3 programs: education, prisons, and health-care. In a Republican controlled legislature, one adverse to raising taxes and reducing prisons, it pretty much leaves education and health-care to take the brunt of the cuts.

Cities are seeing the fallout as well. The City of New York is looking at a 2 billion shortfall over the next 2 years. Kansas City recently announced that an additional 300 million in cuts could be needed this fiscal year (on top of previous cuts) as revenues continue to fall below projections.

In light of these troubles, the Obama transition team must begin to order the business of the upcoming administration. The economy? Global climate change? Dependence on foreign oil? Growing Russian hegemony? What should be addressed first?

It's still the economy, stupid. It's what brought the O-man to the office and if we can right it fairly quickly, we can more easily solve the other issues. Closely tied to any economic fix is the health of the auto industry. But if renewed growth in the auto industry isn't greener, and much greener than past growth, we'll have squandered a huge opportunity. The new administration must require quick and forceful changes in production models and increased mileage-standards. We must quickly move to very efficient automobiles. This helps to reduce greenhouse gases, create jobs, and move the country away from dependence on the our elixir of death known as oil.

The US economy is still one of the most robust economies in the world. We have an opportunity in the near term to once again lead the world but we must insist that the people's way, and not the lobbyist way, paves the road ahead.

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