The Obama presidency will be shaped in many ways by how it spends this stimulus. I am sure he will articulate the right goals. But if the means — the price signals, conditions and standards — that he imposes on his stimulus are not as creative, bold and tough as his goals, it will all be for naught. In sum, our kids will remember the Obama stimulus as either the burden of their lifetime or the investment of their lifetime. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
I think Tom Friedman understates matters here (which is unusual for him). Aside from some unexpected crisis (which of course is likely), Barack Obama’s presidency will not merely be “shaped” by how it spends this stimulus – but it’s historical significance will be determined by how it spends it. As David Brooks reccomended last week, channeling David Porter of Harvard Business School: “do nothing in the short term that doesn’t serve a long-term goal.”
Health care. Green energy. Energy infrastructure. Transportation infrastructure. Education. Barack Obama has laid out clear goals in all of these areas except the latter.
A crisis is always a time of opportunity – for mischief or ill gains if used exploitively; for needed reform if used wisely. Coming into office, Barack Obama will have more opportunity than any president – I would argue – in history. What Obama is able to accomplish with this opportunity will be his legacy.