Dear President Obama

The following message was sent to President Obama, but, sadly, was never even acknowledged.

I first supported Obama in January 2007 and despite my concerns, I still support him for a second term. All I get from him, and the campaign, are requests for money. I gave in six figures for the 2008 election.

My opinion today is that he does not need massive money, despite Citizens United, Rove and the Koch brothers. What he does need is something along the lines of what follows.  Tom Friedman in The New York Times of Wednesday, June 20, appears to agree.

This was intended to be a private communication to the president. As it appears he has not seen it, I hope that The Huffington Post may reach his eyes and ears.

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Dear Mr. President:

You are a busy man and I do not want to waste your time, but I have what I believe could be a truly important, even original, idea. I (and many others) have been very concerned for some time that you may be so shielded by the bubble, which is inevitable, that you may not see entirely the larger context of a world that views you as clearly as you seemed to when I first knew you in 2007.

I worry that you are not presenting yourself, and your message, clearly or in the right ways.

It appears that the campaign may be placing too much reliance on the numbers in the key states with targeted messages. Hopefully that will work in those places, but that often makes you look like an ordinary pol in other places.

That could lead to unexpected/foreseeable shifts against you in other places. What I outline does not have to render the narrower strategy as inappropriate and could be very inexpensive.

I have always believed that a word to the wise is sufficient — so if you tell me that something like this could happen, I will disappear overnight — unless you ask for more.

A Future of Promise

There are only a few ways for a sitting president to campaign for reelection. Historical precedent is not much help because circumstances have been so different.

I have now decided that the best way for me is to explain to the American people how and what I have been doing and have achieved and what I promise to do and achieve in a second term.

I will do it repeatedly from now until the election and cover all the important issues in a rolling series of informal public meetings to allow for give and take with citizens.

My aim is to ensure that virtually all Americans who can vote will hear from me the case for a second term based on my record, whether they agree or not.

That way the American people will not have to decide and cast their votes based only on filtered and altered facts and views, which objectively is a risky thing to do.

My story has largely gotten lost in all the noise during the Republican nomination process and in the massive misinformation campaigns already being mounted by independent expenditures allowed by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

You will hear from me the reasons why I believe you will want to continue me in office; not why my opponent may be the wrong person, but why this is absolutely not a moment to change horses or jockeys.

I will largely leave it to others to fill you in more about the competition because I believe I can be the best advocate of my case to the American people and I do not want to confuse my positive story about our optimistic future with negativism, which we already have too much of in today’s world.

There are four basic categories of subjects, each of which I will explain in more depth in separate talks. All these talks and sessions will be posted both in print and video on Facebook, YouTube and my website, with search processes which will enable you easily to find the topics of your interest.

As I go forward, in future sessions we can address feedback from earlier sessions. That will include subjects that thoughtful people believe have been overlooked.

I want this process to be an in-depth, continuing conversation with you, the American people, resulting in your having a full and complete sense from me directly about my presidency and my promises to you for the future.

My campaign in 2008 was about change and hope. This campaign is about promise. It is about assuring you that staying the course will deliver a future of optimism for you and your children and grandchildren.

I will talk with you in a way that everyone can understand all the facts and their implications. I want to enable you to think objectively and clearly about all the choices we have made.

The four general topics are:

  1. jobs, the economy and debt;
  2. peace and security;
  3. what to do about our frozen political system, and
  4. the direction of the country and a future of optimism.


I will now give you a thumbnail — I hope, teaser — of each of those categories so that you will look forward to the next sessions when we will dig in more depth into all of those subjects.

 

Jobs, the economy and debt are all tightly related though different. What we do in government about one part of the system inevitably has an effect on all the other parts, which is why it makes sense to look at them together.  The bottom line is economic growth, employment trends and budget deficits.

 

They have to be taken in the context of extended time periods. For example, what happened in 2008 and 2009 did not suddenly just happen then; it began as far back as 2000. To overlook or forget that reality can be dangerous to the whole country. We need constantly to see everything in a time and topical context.

I was elected and took office in the middle of a runaway unemployment tsunami and credit crisis. In those moments that wave of unemployment and loss of investment capital seemed to everyone to be unstoppable as well as unpredictable. We immediately decided not to rely on luck and hope and took the strongest, fastest actions we could reasonably muster in short order.

That is never an exact science, but it made sense to go big. That, of course, opened the door to endless second guessing. Some people hoped for and expected a rapid snap back. They were largely ignoring the indisputable facts that the damage done in ’07 and ’08 was truly major and everywhere.

I will help you try to remember accurately what it really looked and felt like then to most people in the country. It was grim for everyone — not just those who were then unemployed.

If you feel today that you are not better off generally in most respects than you were then, you were either very lucky then, or your memory may be playing tricks with you now.

Indeed it pains me daily that there are still many very unfortunate unemployed fellow citizens out there. Take heart. The economy has been steadily growing since. In the past 26 months we have seen 4.25 million new private sector jobs created.

In future talks we will go into interesting details and explanations about all the elements that relate to the economy, jobs and debts and to you!

Peace and security are of vital importance to us all.

 

I see my main responsibility as Commander in Chief as maintaining peace and dealing with terrorism. I will not today take a trip around the world with you — that will come in a later talk. I will simply state the generally accepted obvious fact that the world is a safer place than it was in January 2009. I am confident that all objective Americans agree.

That, of course, does not mean that all risks are gone. They never are. It means we are on top of all the areas of possible concern and believe that we are containing and managing those risks in an optimum way.

The record is plainly clear: With the magnificent help of Secretary Clinton we have met all the basic needs of our international goals over the past three-and-a-half years. This is a very poor time to contemplate a change of leadership.

Our frozen political system is a big subject, which we will explain deeply and fully.

In my opinion, the root cause is “too damned much money” as Bob Kaiser of The Washington Post called it in his excellent book. I promise to make a major goal in a second term to address this question. I am likely, in a second term, to have a chance to name one or two new Supreme Court Justices. I am confident that a vast majority of the American people agree with me that there is real problem in money and politics. We have to find a way to rein in this corrosive process.

 

Money may be a wonderful thing when you have it. I know. I spent most of my life on the short end of that stick. I know today which end I prefer. That said, I see every day the damaging effect of money in politics.

We must solve this problem in order to have any chance to seriously depolarize our political world. But we can and will do that.

Some people do not like to talk about money. Sorry, but we have to and will.

Politics has become an advertising campaign. Advertising costs money. So politicians chase it. The biggest donors are often people with the most extreme views. Big money plus extreme views equals a polarized and frozen political system. Take much of the money out of the picture and free the system.

The direction of the country and a future of optimism require all of us to participate.

 

We all knew as children about the power of positive thinking. Therein lie the basic seeds of what is going on. We were riding for a fall, as events now reveal, in 2007. That fall bruised many of us and caused many Americans to get scared and worried.

That is one important reason why it was so vital to turn the tide early in 2009. As regular people hear news, their reactions inevitably are in the context of what they hear and see personally. Attitudes began to improve as the turn of the tide became more evident and permanent.

Our policies have absolutely turned the country around. There are miles to go that will be full of stimulating challenges and exhilaration.

I am counting on your good sense to judge wisely where we are now and how we are most likely to find our future of promise.

I am confident that with your backing I will find and we will make into law a Grand Bargain with the Congress covering virtually all our economic and financial challenges before the end of the year. That should clear the decks of most of our fiscal and economic baggage for fair sailing into 2013 and beyond.

It will be an interesting and challenging few weeks right after the election.

My purpose in this talk has been to launch a new style of campaigning which need not require lots of money.

 

I want to be positive all the way. I want to take you into my innermost thought processes, and I want you to see that everything I say to you is heartfelt and sincere.

Now, let’s get started toward our future of promise.

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A Wake Up Call for Obama

President Obama’s gaffe last week that “the private sector is in good shape” is more indicative of life in ‘the bubble’ that surrounds any president, than of any unfamiliarity with the facts.

His “clarification,” well expressed and reasoned as always, further revealed his state of mind.

He has evidently compartmentalized in his mind ‘unemployment’ separately from ‘the private sector.’ That is, partly, a valid distinction. A significant part of unemployment is in the public sector (where it continues to increase) but the greater balance is in the private sector, where it continues to shrink. The president clearly knows these facts well — in particular that job growth has been improving at a greater rate in the private sector than the public sector. Strangely, that distinction may partly explain his gaffe.

However, the bubble also may have also contributed to the distortion of his thinking by input from “corporate” America — the larger companies that penetrate his bubble regularly — as distinguished from the rest of the private sector (the small businesses made up of dozens of construction trades, shopkeepers, clerical workers, wholesalers, etc.) The latter, clearly, are not doing as well as big corporations, even though altogether they are, in fact, America’s greatest engine of job growth, which is the problem.

Corporate America can borrow money more easily than Small Business America. Corporate America can tough out rough times, while Small Business America bears the bulk of layoffs, bankruptcies and dissolutions. Corporate America fumes about regulations, but has the resources to navigate those headaches, while Small Business America often simply cannot cope with regulatory tangles and throws up its hands. The only place Small Business America has an edge over its Corporate counterpart is in numbers of voters, which is why the president’s gaffe set off such a wave of comment.

It is true that the president is on the road, making visits to lots of samples of Small Business America, as well as the corporate world. But he rarely sits down with and talks in any length or depth with ordinary folks — it is said there simply is not enough time in his days.

Several gaps in America today — rich vs. poor; college vs. no college; people with access to the corridors of power vs. those without; open minded people vs. closed minded — make it difficult to say things accurately, simply and clearly to a disparate population, which can lead to the kind of gaffe the president made last week.

Those gaps are not marked by red and blue uniforms. When a comment intended to be clear and correct to one constituency ricochets to another, political confusion and misunderstandings result to everyone’s disadvantage.

If the president were not in the bubble, he surely would have been much less likely to have misspoken the way he did.

His opponent is not yet in a presidential kind of bubble, yet he also makes similar mistakes regularly. The difference is that his mistakes are more important because they are substantive, and arise from his orientation about how he believes an economy can be made to grow. Apparently he believes that simply eliminating regulations and lowering taxes will rev the jobs engine. We must remember what happened between 2000 and 2008 as we consider what Republicans propose to do in the next four years. We have seen that movie before and the ending is ugly.

Happily, there is a solution to bubble-inflicted distortions. Less reading of briefing books and listening only to highly-educated advisers would be a good start. The president should get out and spend time (even overnight) in people’s homes and sit around their tables with food and beer and shoot the breeze and hear their stories — not on the fly from town hall meetings, where most people pull their punches, which can further amplify and distort a president’s perspective.

The wake-up call is to get out, get into the mud, and see and feel what it is like on the ground with the masses of America. While he is at it, he should tell them in plain language what he promises them for their future of optimism.

The River Runoff Phenomenon

Most citizens in advanced modern societies need and want many things, but also complain loudly and bitterly that they are surrounded by excesses, even corruption, incompetent delivery systems and abundant negligence.

Yet, if asked, those citizens, particularly if they are or will be beneficiaries, are outraged at the idea that their program(s) might not be available to them.

What are these programs? Social Security; health care, including Medicare; unemployment benefits; welfare; tax deductions for mortgage interest; agricultural subsidies; foreign aid; tax benefits for gas and oil interests — the list can go on for so long that you will get bored and stop reading. Add to this list any and all programs that you are aware of and they will almost surely qualify for the generalization above.

What can society do about this problem? Virtually all these programs were designed and directed to meet what were perceived, at the time they were implemented, to be worthy and important social needs.

The best example is Social Security, which President Franklin Roosevelt proposed in the 1930s. At the time many people became apoplectic, calling it rank socialism. Today only a very few people are left, even those who do not benefit directly, who think twice about the essentiality of the program’s existence. They need it, want it, and love to complain about its problems.

Of course, most of the problems that people love to exclaim and proclaim about are real and should be dealt with in an efficient and cost-effective way. Averting one’s eyes from people cheating the systems seems particularly wrong and unfair.

But if, for example, the legal/administrative costs of dealing with a leaky hole would be $10 million, and the amount actually being saved were only $3 million, policing, on its face, seems “penny wise and pound foolish.” Granted there are some people who might argue that to preserve the integrity of the program, it is worth that trade off to maintain the reputation of the program at large.

This is where the River Runoff phenomenon comes into play. Many years ago, a distinguished economics professor explained this thought process. He said that inefficiency, even some fraud, had to be understood and put up with, in order to enable society to address certain essential public needs.

The reasoning goes as follows:

Take any big river, say the Hudson; calculate the amount of water in the river, say one trillion gallons; and then dam the river and drain all that water out. The question is then, how much water does it take to refill the river? The answer is not one trillion gallons. The correct answer cannot be precise but would be in the range of 1.3 trillion gallons. The reason is that before the river can really begin to refill, its dry bottom has to become muddy again and all its tributaries, large and small, have to be refilled too.

The relevance to the opening proposition above is that to meet an important, even vital, public need (refill the river) one has to accept the proposition that part of the given overall cost has to be expected to exceed the amount that one needs/wants to actually reach the intended results.

That is an ugly and somewhat sad truth, but it may be something like a law of life. If we could ever come to grips with this law, we might all be happier, grumble less and get more done as well as more bang for the buck.