Obama is set to release his latest budget in less than two weeks. On the heels of bipartisan failures (ie. the sequester, the fiscal cliff, the debt-ceiling), one could say that in a sense Obama needs to redeem himself. Despite frequent calls to tame unruly government spending, the reality Obama must stand for is what he knows is right: now is the time for government to spend and invest more than ever.
If Obama fails to champion his own roots in doing so, he risks long-term economic damage. A budget anything less than massive plans for structural re-building of the American economy will effectively throw a struggling millennial class further into desperation. The current economic slump points to a darker, less romanticized, underlying tension; the tension emerging from the millions of Americans who are grasping aimlessly for a future.
As if by some stroke of surprise, unemployment is still “stubbornly” high. Economists are forecasting about 2.4% growth in GDP in 2013. There’s a couple reasons to be worried about this. First, economic forecasts are about as reliable as tomorrow’s weather. That is, others are more skeptical on the projected growth rate. Secondly, most of this GDP growth will be going to the hardworking Americans who deserve it most. Psych!
(Credit: New York Times)
And about that gosh darn unemployment rate; if only everyone would just give themselves jobs, then all our problems would go away! The Great Recession has statistically ended, but its impact on workforce is just beginning to reveal its own cruel depths. The actual employment-to-population ratio — which often reveals more to the dismay of politicians — is the lowest its been since 1977. Yes, the percentage of people getting up for work everyday relative to our population is the lowest it's been in 45 years.
The fact of the matter is grim: the current economic downturn is exacerbated by structural, chronic deficiencies. If the economy gets another band-aid, the wound might swell to its full misery in 20 years. Jeffery Sachs, a Columbia economist, noted in a recent op-ed three priorities the U.S. must adopt: infrastructure, energy, and job skills. Frankly, if Obama’s budget fails to target these long-term issues it will be increasingly hard to tell which party he represents.
For the sake of clarity, look at Germany. Its obvious their youth unemployment is better than ours. Why? Germany injects job skills at a young age. Through government partnerships with private corporations, Germany has a well-developed apprenticeship practice. Outside of those fortunate enough to take unpaid internships, these opportunities for experience plainly do not exist in America.
Any promising news that emerges regarding our current GDP and unemployment is buffered by the long term consequences boiling beneath today’s surface. Therefore, President Obama must follow what he undoubtedly knows is the wisest choice: present a budget with tangibility, substance, and foresight. President Obama, it is high time you notice the aching backs of middle class on which you constructed your campaign narrative. The time of “hope” and “change” is long gone: now is the time to make progressive ideals a national reality.
Here’s the kicker: Obama’s approach in achieving his ideals has been flawed from the get-go. Too often temporary measures like the stimulus and the jobs plan have been offered. Such attempts have only served as pin-cushions for criticism. This strategy not only draws flak for donning the appearance of “the nanny state,” it fails to address the underlying issues by brushing over them completely.
The president has a long and arduous road ahead of him before he reaches time to unveil his budget. And while the president’s budget is usually more symbolic than practical, Mr. Obama has a bit of soul searching to do in the eyes of his progressive base. Yes, compromise is important. Yes, the Republicans must be heard. But above all, President Obama cannot afford another progressive let-down that has plagued his past. He must emerge as polished as his candidacy, like a phoenix from the ashes of past debacles.
It is time Obama claims his title. He is not just a leader of the people. President Obama was elected as a leader for the people.