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Republican Debate and Obama’s Job Speech

A friend of mine recently challenged me via Facebook to watch the Republican debate. I responded that I would if he would, in turn, watch President Obama’s jobs speech to Congress. My friend and I generally have opposite political views, so we took each other up on the challenge. The rules were that we had to watch both in their entirety (no edited, out-of-context sound bites) and no talking-head commentaries (Hannity, Beck, Colbert or Stewart).

So I watched them both. Last night. Via YouTube and the White House website. The nice thing about the internet is you can watch whenever you want. Without commercials, commentaries, etc. And my mind has been racing enough that I woke up this morning at 4:00 am with the debates and speech going through my mind. I finally got up at 5:00 and decided to start writing my opinions and observations. My wife had come home from a meeting near the end of my watching and asked if I was truly watching both with an open mind. I said, “I think so.” I’m not completely sure about that last one because we all have our biases and our opinions that are hard to change, but I tried.

I used to be what would probably be considered a Moderate Republican. But as the Tea Party rose and the Republican Party became more and more whatever they are, I left and voted for Obama in 2008. Or, to misquote Ronald Reagan, “I didn’t leave the Republican party, they left me.” Which leads in to my thoughts on the two topics at hand, since the debate was at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

Tom Brokaw had a comment about the debate format that rang true throughout the evening. He said they set up very strict rules on how the debate would run and then the candidates ignore them anyway. I found that generally true throughout the debate. The most frustrating thing was when a candidate would get a question and respond with “what I REALLY want to say is…” then totally go off on a tangent.

But I don’t want to get sidetracked with that. There were plenty of questions asked and actually answered to generate a good discussion.

Obviously, the economy was the major focus, as it was with Obama’s speech, too. However, probably the single most disturbing thing in the debate that I heard was that the economy was the ONLY issue. Pushed aside, denigrated, or ignored were the other two factors of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL): the environment and social equity. This was what bothered me the most. We should drill in the Everglades (responsibly, of course) to have domestic oil to help the economy. We need to first put up a fence along the Mexican border to keep people out (and, as Ron Paul aptly warned, keep us in) because of what they are doing to the economy, then deal with immigration issues. The economy is the single issue. If the environment or equity don’t fit the immediate economic model, let our immediate economic condition control.

I’m going to tie these together, but this seemed like a good time to segue to Obama’s Jobs speech. I’ve often recently believed and said that we need to increase revenue to get out of our economic mess. Not a popular idea in some no-tax-increase circles. But you have to increase revenue to make up the difference we currently have, regardless of how many spending cuts we propose. That can happen through higher taxes (Warren Buffet and other wealthy people seem to be on board with that) and/or through removing some tax breaks that are not needed anymore (a prime example would be the huge tax breaks oil companies still receive while at the same time reaping huge profits while renewable energy receives a tenth the subsidies and is labeled as “economically unfeasible”).

I’ve also believed for some time that spending money in this time to update our failing infrastructure (roads, transportation systems, electric grid, etc) is an opportunity we should not ignore. Look at history. Lincoln and the Transcontinental Railroad. FDR and the New Deal (granted, with mixed results) and Eisenhower and the Interstate Highway System. Granted, each of these men and “programs” did more than just stimulate the economy. They set the stage for better things. The railroad opened up the West. The New Deal programs resulted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and much of our ability to enjoy our National Forests. The Interstate Highways enhanced our ability for commerce and, simply, connected our nation.

The overarching similarity in all of these (and, I believe, in the proposal the President put forth the other night) is they weren’t simply focused on one thing. When we get that type of tunnel vision, when we look solely at the economic aspect without also considering the social equity or the environment, we will have missed the boat.

I could go on a lot longer with my opinions. But this post is already long enough I’ve probably lost some people.

Our society, our culture, our lives are much richer and vibrant when we take a full and interconnected view of what we are doing. I said I was going to tie these two events together and that is it. While economic recovery in our country is important, we need to guard against single-issue tunnel vision. Too many aspects of our lives are intertwined with each other. Let’s not get so bull-headed about just the economy that we also strip away the beauty of the natural environment or the dignity of another human being.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Nigwil says:

    We  need to ensure that any spend on infrastructure will have in-built the expectation of life-of-service to the country as the work done by those earlier presidents.  

    Back then a road line or railway would serve the nation for many generations, a dam or harbour too.

    But a multi-lane road or railway with no fossil fuel to run any vehicles on them them a total and criminal waste of remaining resources.  Every harbour in the planet will be useless; underwater, in three to six generations.  What use is a great hydro or irrigation dam if it requires electricity to work it; to move its control gates and control its operation – the electric grid will go down a week after the oil supply stops?

    So if we are to print money for great job creation works of national significance we have to ensure they are ‘Legacy Projects’ that will help our children and grand children; that they will say:  “These people in 2011 saw climate change, sea level rise and peak oil coming, and they left us all these useful bits of infrastructure and other legacy technology that have helped us make the best of the New Times.”  

    We have an amazing opportunity – a single shot – to make the best of the future.  Lets not screw this thing up.

    Good luck!  

    • Bill Randall says:

      I agree with you. We can’t simply have a single-focus “business as usual” approach. We need to be MUCH more creative and out-of-the box in our thinking.

      So, not only should we consider high speed rail, as one example, we need to invest heavily and quickly in renewables such as electric vehicles (and PV to charge them), a new power grid (DC vs AC), and other big picture things. Even if all the cars were electric and fully charged from PV, if we still rely on single occupant vehicles, we’ll still have the congestion and the paving and will have missed the larger point of it all.

      We need to take a comprehensive approach that does leave future generations that “infrastructure and other legacy technology” that you describe.

      I have no doubt that we CAN do this. My concern is if we WILL do it.