Saturday, December 26, 2009
Dear President Obama: My New Year's Wish
This is not a fan letter. Neither is it hate mail. It's a wish, a hope, a dream for the next three years of the Obama Administration.
It's no easy job you took on. It's complicated by an uneasy legacy from the past administration, one which has weakened our international reputation, increased the mistrust Americans have of our politicians.
You campaigned on change. It was the centerpiece of your platform. Simply by being who you are, being a very different style of president, you've delivered.
But not the way many of us who supported you hoped for.
You promised to bring our soldiers home. Instead, you're moving them to Afghanistan. Is it a strategically logical move? Perhaps, in traditional thinking. But it's no change. Change would have been to put a small, well funded group of covert ops experts to work on the terrorist problem, and divert the rest of the massive funds we spend on computerized warfare to humanitarian aid.
Shore up the education system. Rebuild the countries. Establish reliable food and water systems. Be the good guys. Make it impossible to argue we're not. Win hearts and minds in a real way, not with a few half-hearted efforts to understand the culture. Despite the enormity of the job, I'm betting it would still cost a fraction of what we're spending on our wars and it would be a godsend for our own country; allowing the thousands of our own soldiers whose lives we're maiming to instead believe in the possibility of their own futures again.
Your first months in office have been a big disappointment to me and many others who hoped for real health care reform.
You're accomplishing something - yes. Is it better than nothing? I have my doubts.
It discriminates against women, against gays. It doesn't offer health care to all. It gives the bloated health insurance industry what IT wants. It doesn't give us what WE wanted.
Sadly, it appears this half-assed health care is what you envisioned all along. That isn't what you told us. We didn't make up the promise of the National Health Insurance Exchange. You told us you intended to create it.
You promised you'd open the doors to prescription drugs from other countries, lowering the cost of medication for millions. That door is shut tight.
The winners here are the establishment - the insurance industry, the pharmceutical companies. The American people lose again. Because we allow ourselves to be ignored.
You took office in a financial crisis. You bailed out your administration's cronies on Wall Street, bailed out the firms that created the crisis, bailed out the auto industry. A bailout for Americans losing their homes? Lip service.
Loan servicers make more money if they pursue foreclosure. So they say they're participating in HAMP, but in truth they far prefer to foreclose.
I've been in the midst of that process, taking that proactive position we were all told to pursue. Staying current on my payments, watching my savings disappear, filing form after form, mailing file after file to IndyMac bank in hopes of getting a loan modification. It's been well over a year. They're still asking for more paperwork, pretending they don't have forms they've had on file for months.
Meanwhile, they got bailed out by the feds and bought out by OneWest. Fannie Mae, which owns my mortgage, is a bottomless pit of fiscal mismanagement which has a limitless budget of bailouts from the taxpayers. That would be me.
I've given up. There will be no cushion for me and for millions of others who are selling their homes, short selling, losing them.
Where is comprehensive financial reform? Where is the oversight?
I live in New York. My state is slashing funding, delaying payments to localities, and they're forced to try to make up the difference. Who will pay for this? I will. My neighbors will. We are the source of all the funding that government demands. Don't you see it? And yet jobs are disappearing, salaries have been flat for years while costs have risen so quickly that our dreams of a home of our own, a car that has fewer than 150 thousand miles on it, our hope of retirement are gone.
My children must borrow money to go to college. I cannot afford to pay their tuition. They will graduate with massive debts, which I will only be able to pay for them by winning the lottery.
We spend billions on a war that we cannot win. We will spend billions to bail out businesses that have cheated their way into near-bankruptcy. We will spend billions on a health care plan that won't cover everyone. And the next generation is lining up at community colleges, hoping to get a seat at the only affordable higher education opportunity there is, knowing that a four year degree means borrowing tens of thousands of dollars.
Don't you see how backwards this is?
Is America truly leading the way in developing sustainable energy? Is it developing a sustainable, growing economy? Are we moving forward or backwards?
There is a deep well of righteous indignation all over this country but you don't see it. You may find it swallows you whole in the next election.
Mr. Obama, I haven't given up on you. I think you're a decent man. I think you really want to create a legacy of positive change. You need to reconsider your course.
Your advisors are Washington insiders; the very people who've created the corrupt, old-boy network that's given us every abuse of power for the past twenty years or more. Their loyalty is to America's corporations. They're the wrong people at the helm.
You don't need them. You need to surround yourselves with great minds, open minds, people with ideals who refuse to accept the cynical "business as usual" and "it can't be done" mentality that sucks Washington DC down like quicksand.
You had us. You had our support. You are squandering that incredible privilege and for what - influence? Influence comes from grassroots support. Mobilize the American people and no amount of lobbying can compete. A second term? Look at your poll numbers. No amount of campaign funding is going to get you into office a second time if we don't believe in you.
The Republicans are unifying. They all see a clear threat to their philosophy of government and they will whip their voters into a solid voting bloc. Your base is disintegrating with each disappointment, each wrong turn.
Yours is a young presidency. There is time to change, time to set a new course.
We want to support you. We want to help. And we desperately need your help. We need an advocate in the Oval Office, not an adversary.
You work for us, Mr. President. And I know you know that. That should be the bottom line of every decision you make. Every single one. "Does this make a real, positive difference for the American people?" And coupled with this question should be a second one: "Is there a better way?"
I wish you the very best for the coming year. And I'm hoping you do the same for us.