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2009/08/04

Obama, 2.0?

With its support at an all-time low, the Obama administration has started to feel the heat of politics. The American people have listened, critiqued, and ultimately sided with and put a lot of faith into Barack Obama. However, when the plans don't pan out, the finger-pointing inevitably begins. Starting with the economic stimulus plan - now we have all heard and mostly supported the plan, the reality of the situation is that unemployment is at an all-time high. In California, it is estimated 1 out of 10 in the workface is currently unemployed. This situation is worsened by the fact that Obama's plan provided for continued unemployment benefits (public assistance) beyond a typical 12-month period. While it was intended to provide relief to the less fortunate, less skilled segment of the workforce, I personally know a number of willing and able people that have lived on public assistance for more than 12 months simply because a) it is easier than going to work, b) one's unemployment benefits may be reduced once he/she has secured even a low paying job (wages from job + reduced unemployment benefits < full unemployment benefits), and c) 1st and 2nd extensions are not difficult to come by. In other words, in many cases, it actually pays to remain unemployed.

On the commercial and government fronts, the outlook does not seem to be any better. The stimulus plan has obviously not resulted in more jobs, and companies, I believe, are watching their dollars even closer. While companies have manage to maintain a healthy demand for the highly-skilled (and oftentimes already highly-compensated) segment of the workface, jobs for the average American have seemingly disappeared. Also, despite hearing so much about the "bailouts" available from the Federal government, California, as an example, has resorted to issuing notes (promises to pay, commonly referred to IOUs, or "I Owe You's") instead of cash to pay its bills earlier this year. While California's budget has purportedly been "balanced" in the last month, cuts across the board in order to accomplish this, ranging from education, health and human services (which, ironically, includes programs such as public assistance), to prison spending, are rather alarming.

Amidst all of this, Obama has refocused all of our attention onto his healthcare reform proposal. Heatedly debated, this proposal has even been coined as Obama's "Waterloo" (Napoleon Bonaparte's defeat in the Battle of Waterloo, circa 1815, put an end to his rule as the French Emperor). Obama himself has reported expressed that, should this bill not pass this time around (by August 2009), America may never be able to overhaul nor correct its healthcare system. In my next blog, I will attempt to explore the controversy surrounding Obama's healthcare proposal.

Steve Chiu

2009/02/24

The Thinking Man's President

Barack Obama comes into his Administration amidst significant challenges in the U.S. economy. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average just last week hitting a 6-year low, a national unemployment rate at a stark 7.6%, and both banks and consumers barely hitting the tip of subprime mortgage iceberg, it would almost seem as if the economy has already "check mated" Obama before he completes his first 100 days as President.

However, contrary to what most thought would be even remotely possible, Obama pushes forward even harder. In the brief 30-day period since taken office, he has frozen White House salaries, capped pay of executive of companies receiving federal aid at $500,000, and put into effect arguably the most extensive economic stimulus plans in the history of the United States by passing, signing into law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Worth $787 billion, Obamaユs stimulus plan is slated to boost unemployment benefits, fund healthcare, education, and expand on infrastructure - all while cutting taxes. Also, more recently, President Obama has announced that he is ready to take on the national deficit of $1.3 trillion, and vows to have already devised a plan to cut it in half in 4 years before the end of his first term as President.

I am not sure if all of Obama's tactics will work. However, it is readily apparent that he is thinking. He is thinking about what may work, and what may not work; he is thinking about what the role of the government might be, and about where to push forward harder, where to back off. Moreover, Barack Obama certainly is not shy or hesitant to take a stance - he decides, and decides fairly quickly. However, he does decide convincingly, and with determination.

Has change really come to America? It seems so, but only time will tell.

Steve Chiu

   
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