The Blog

Can Obama Channel His Inner FDR?

We've got a malfunctioning economy, gigantic deficits, madness in the Middle East, and political communication is now defined by attack ads instead of conversations. We desperately need leadership.
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As far as I'm concerned Obama's re-election campaign is the most important one since that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an extraordinary President who not only rescued America from the Great Depression but enacted the country's most important social programs, including Social Security, along with winning World War II.

At the conclusion of his first week in the White House, FDR gave his first fireside chat over the radio following bank reforms that some thought might lead to a run on the banks, according to the must read-book, FDR, by Jen Edward Smith. Public response was overwhelming. "When millions of people can hear the President speak to them directly in their own homes, we get a new meaning for the old phrase about a public man 'going to the country,'" said The New York Times. When the banks reopened Monday, not only was there no run on the banks, but the Federal Reserve reported that deposits exceeded withdrawals by more than two to one. Even the Wall Street Journal was impressed.

FDR also felt comfortable with press conferences -- he met the press twice a week -- a total of 998 times -- usually in the Oval Office, and always unrehearsed. Roosevelt enjoyed the sessions as much as the reporters.

So fast forward to now. We've got a malfunctioning economy, gigantic deficits, madness in the Middle East, and political communication is now defined by attack ads instead of conversations. We desperately need leadership. As for Romney, I can't get excited about his credentials because a) while he enacted health care reform in Massachusetts he's backpedaling and claiming that it should be up to the states b) running the Olympics is no-brainer -- let's face it, the male species will attend any sporting event no matter how pathetic it is; take the White Sox, please! -- and c) his track record at Bain was to downsize and outsource, not create jobs.

Here's what I can't fathom: What happened to the Obama who won the election because he dazzled the electorate with his eloquence? His keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention captivated viewers and elevated his status in the party. Presumably he beat McCain because he was a great communicator -- along with the fact that even Republicans were scared s#*tless of the risk that McCain would die in office, shifting the POTUS job to Mrs. Witless. So why, in this age of the Internet, doesn't Obama do weekly online "fireside" chats? He'd channel his inner FDR along with his inner "there-you-go-again" Ronald Reagan. I envisioning him saying something like this:

Hi, Guys -- sorry I blew it on my first debate -- I guess I was in a funk because I wasn't celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary with Michelle. So let me try this again. Here we go.

Here's the deal. If turning around the economy were easy how is it that virtually every other country in the advanced world -- including Germany and Australia, who were going gangbusters as recently as last year -- is in a slump as well? When the world economy goes global the rules of the game change and every advanced world-economy has been threatened since the beginning of this century, when Bill Clinton made NAFTA possible, along with China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Unfortunately rising economic tides don't lift all boats; the flight of jobs to China is why American manufacturing jobs are at their lowest level since 1941. So, Mitt, your obsession with China's so-called currency manipulation is absurd -- it's their rock bottom wages, not the currency, that's causing economic woes.

So how do we bring jobs back home? I like former Intel CEO Andy Grove's idea for creating a "scaling" bank whose deposits are funded by an extra tax on offshored labor and whose funds would available to companies that create jobs here. We also have to offer more visas to job-creating immigrants -- we limit visas to 65,000 a year when it used to be 100,000 in 1999. Canada and Australia are much more welcoming to talented immigrants. I also favor the Peters Outsourcing Amendment, which would require publicly held companies to reveal how many of their employees work overseas. Unfortunately, it was killed by a Republican-dominated Congress. If Americans refuse to buy products made overseas, maybe it will convince companies to "reshore" their manufacturing.

As for you folks who oppose Obamacare, here's my question? What's YOUR plan for the 16 percent of the population who have no coverage? Let them go broke paying their bills out-of-pocket? And you consider yourself religious? I've also helped consumers by creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will help educate consumers on how to avoid reckless bank and credit card companies. I wish the Dodd Frank law went further to prohibit future bank recklessness but unfortunately, thanks to contributions from the banking lobby, Congress rendered the law fairly toothless -- another huge setback that I plan to reverse. And I aim to boost Pell Grants so we can make college more affordable. I may not be perfect, but I'm fighting for your future and to restore America to its greatness.