President Obama has returned from his week-long trip to Asia empty-handed. No commitment by China to unpeg its currency from the dollar. (In fact, Obama barely even raised the subject with the Chinese.) No promises to rebalance trade. No promises to boost imports of American products. And now we see that his big plan to boost American exports (see https://petemurphy.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/obama-has-plan-to-boost-exports-i-smell-a-rat/) was nothing more than a vague hope. The whole trip was a complete waste of time – time that would have been better spent in the oval office, signing executive orders that could do far more to restore our economy and put us on track to a sustainable future for our children.
Speaking as an independent who voted for Obama, primarily because of his promises to do something about our trade imbalance, this is what I find most disappointing – that he has the power to single-handedly accomplish what needs to be done. Sure, Congress moves at glacial speed on issues like health care reform and global warming, but Obama doesn’t even need the help of Congress to address our most critical issues. He doesn’t need Congress’ help in changing trade policy. He has full authority to impose tariffs and bring millions of manufacturing jobs back home. He has full authority to halt the annual importation of a million more oil consumers, a million more carbon emitters and a half million laborers to compete with Americans for a dwindling supply of jobs. All it takes is the courage to sit there at his desk and sign the executive orders. In one eight-hour work day he could completely change the trajectory of the American economy and help put us on a path to a sustainable future. Instead, he does nothing.
During the campaign, his interest in and admiration of Lincoln was widely reported. But it was not eloquence or diplomacy that made Lincoln a great president. It was action – bold action that angered many but, ultimately, was in the best interest of his country. He abolished slavery, resulting in a split in the union. He led the nation through the bloodiest war in history. He blockaded confederate ports and imprisoned confederate sympathizers. At one point, he even authorized the naval bombardment of New York city to put down an anti-war uprising. He authorized his generals to completely destroy the civilian infrastructure of the confederacy to assure the finality of its defeat. Lincoln made gut-wrenching and often unpopular decisions that changed the course of history, not just for the U.S. but the entire world.
President Obama has similar opportunities. The global economy has been collapsed by an over-reliance on faulty economic theories, developed by people blind to the economic consequences of unending population growth. He was elected because we believed in change and hope for something different. We were promised action to correct our trade imbalance. But so far, all we’ve gotten is talk, diplomacy and now, as reported in the above-linked article, appeals for patience.
The American people are patient. We have the patience to allow action and change to produce the desired results. It’s the lack of action for which we have no patience.