A Centrist Agenda for Obama

It is difficult to overstate the pride and the hope that accompanies the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States. As America’s leader, he brings youth, intellect, optimism and empathy to the world stage; he represents many of America’s greatest virtues; ability to change, desire to improve, belief in progress, compassion for everyone. Barack Obama is the latest wonderful surprise America has delivered to the world; he is American exceptionalism incarnate. The City on the Hill celebrates today, as a new page in history is turned. Obama’s victory showed the world the good character of the American people.

With a Democratic Congress, and an enthusiastic following rarely seen, Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to deliver on his promises of change. In the spirit of bipartisanship that has inspired the best of Obama’s deeds, as well as those of his challenger, here is EcoWorld’s centrist agenda for Obama’s Presidency – with right-of-center notions mingled with left-of-center notions. Those on the left will no doubt find many of these suggestions difficult – they will be joined by those on the right who find difficulties with all the rest. This agenda is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather, at least somewhat pertinent to the green and cleantech issues we cover.

Barack Obama


(1) Health Security: Make Medicare available to anyone who wants to pay the premiums, regardless of their age or work status. Make all healthcare expenditures deductible. Make Medicare coverage portable going into or coming out of private insurance plans, and allow private insurance plans to compete with Medicare. Don’t create any new administration, allow Medicare to take care of all of this. Allow Medicare to offer coverage to private companies who find their package competitive with private insurance plans. Fund this through collection of premiums and by raising the cap on Medicare withholdings.

(2) Retirement Security: Merge all public employee defined benefit plans in all states, counties and municipalities throughout the United States with Social Security, liquidate public employee pension funds and invest the proceeds into the Social Security fund. Have one, upgraded retirement security formula – based on Social Security – apply to all workers, public and private. This restores solvency to all state and local governments. Fund benefit upgrades by raising the Social Security limit as much as necessary, possibly by requiring a declining percentage of higher income bracket increments without ever applying a cap.

(3) Military Strategy: End America’s neglect of strategic military spending – deploy the F-22 and F-35 jets and accelerate development of the next generation of flying machines and all promising innovations in this vital area. Invest in space industrialization, starting with a no-compromise national aerospaceplane design. Restore and extend American leadership in all aspects of aerospace. This is an investment that yields the dividends of technological leadership and spinoffs to our industries.

(4) Reject Protectionism. Invest in struggling major U.S. manufacturers by providing low interest loans. In companies where these loans are provided, take over their corporate pension funds by merging them with the Social Security fund and apply to these workers the same set of defined benefit calculation formulas that all retired workers receive through Social Security. This restores solvency to America’s largest manufacturers and makes them more competitive. Prove that American workers combined with American innovation are second to none. Global trade provides benefits to everyone.

(5) Revisit the Global Warming Debate: Start by appointing two international peer review teams of respected scientists, one of skeptics, and one of alarmists. Let them report and compare findings based on observational data and model simulations in an intellectually honest manner. Meanwhile, bann global warming related fees and taxes, they are being used to delay government budget and spending reform. Recognize the fungible connection between allowing global warming takings and avoiding public sector fiscal reform.

(6) Adopt Centrist Ideology: Embrace the American opportunity, and continue entitlement reform. Explain the corrosive effects of welfare, and continue the reforms Clinton initiated. Challenge disadvantaged communities to rise out of the cycle of dependence through their own initiative, and encourage a meritocracy where initiative is rewarded. Recognize corruption exists in all sectors, corporate, financial, academic, government – everywhere. Reform Wall Street but also regulate and reform unions, especially in the public sector where they have far too much influence.

(7) Practice Common Sense Environmentalism: End excessive zoning and land use restrictions based on extreme environmental concerns and restore property rights. This will help everything from housing to resource extraction to stay affordable, and nurturing a robust competitive market for supplying goods will help avoid future bubbles. Focus on eliminating genuine pollution instead of worrying about CO2, for example, upgrade coal emission scrubbers to parts per billion (from parts per million) levels of toxin removal. Investigate environmental groups and other nonprofits who use their tax deductible donations for partisan political activity.

(8) Set Realistic Infrastructure Priorities: Invest in practical, versatile infrastructure that people want. Instead of subsidizing ultra high density “transit villages” and building light rail, get government out of the housing business, and fund more and wider freeways and car friendly infrastructure. Fund research to develop next generation busses and smart cars. Rebuild our roads and bridges – trains can wait. Restore balance to the urban planning dialogue. Embrace supply side resource solutions; instead of rationing water, build desalination plants and upgrade sewage treatment plants for water reuse. And if rate-payers are going to foot the bill for windfarms and solar fields, invest as well in underground transmission conduits.

9) Develop all Energy Sources: Continue to encourage alternative energy, but also develop more nuclear power, natural gas and oil. Help the coal fired power plants completely clean their emissions (except for the CO2 which is probably just a harmless trace gas that plants require to live and that we can’t possibly significantly reduce in any case). Create energy and water abundance; in general, emphasize creating resource abundance through market competition. Invest in any cost-effective energy investments that can be performed in a relatively clean manner. Restore intellectual honesty to impact comparisons, for example, the relative consequences of developing 1.0+ million square miles of fuel-growing lands vs. 100,000 square miles of tar sands.

10) Keep the Dream Alive: Once America has rekindled a new era of prosperity, the most sustainable and best yet, we can further improve all the entitlements we afford, all the investments we make, and all the marvels our technology delivers. Maybe by Obama’s second term we can already afford to start programs to build bullet trains and bases on the Moon. As our prosperity grows, we will continuously upgrade our treatments for every human ailment, have increased options to rescue and protect charismatic fauna and their habitats; we can and we will manage our industrial, financial and natural ecosystems better than ever. America is the heart of the new world generation; we have proven this again with the election of Obama; it is our time.

The Question of Carbon Trading: There is one huge question relating directly to Obama’s agenda and green issues, and that is carbon trading. If carbon trading is done right, and if it is the only way to prevent global economic deflation, then we probably should get started. Despite some claims to the contrary, the impact of carbon takings and redistribution is regressive, and even via a market trading application creates new and burdensome requirements for business. It could destroy many small businesses, and so it should only be applied to the largest companies in limited sectors.

Equally vital, implementation of carbon trading should reject the excessive preoccupation with reducing CO2 emissions. The motivation for carbon trading should be to accelerate transition to non fossil fuel energy, not to reduce CO2 emissions. Any sort of carbon sequestration or reduction schemes, absent other benefits such as improved efficiency – should not be considered eligible as offset investments. Carbon auction proceeds should be primarily invested in alternative energy production and research and an upgraded power grid. Carbon trading will revive Wall Street and create a new asset class on which to collateralize capital formation. For the purpose of global economic recovery alone, limited carbon trading is possibly worth considering if it can be correctly applied.

A recent column by a decidedly non-centrist commentator, the occasionally offensive but always lucid Mark Steyn noted an Obama Presidency would usher in the 4th wave of socialism in America. The first would have been the New Deal, the second LBJ’s Great Society, and the third the stealthy infiltration of state and local organizations over the past 25 years. But socialism is governance, socialism is collective behavior, ultimately socialism might describe the ideology of any functioning social contract. Can both entitlements and takings apply in a flat, impassive way, with an equal formula granted every citizen? If so, then as technology and economic freedom increases overall productivity, the government can steadily offer more services and security without relying on greater takings, or on counterproductive and unfair redistribution in either direction. Socialism is a continuum, not a place. How much is the question.

If this version of a centrist agenda is not anathema to Obama and his top people, is not excluded from the table, then one might hope a new and uniquely American center can form. If the ideological opponents of Obama’s original constituency are not overwhelmed and silenced in a storm of righteous rhetoric accompanied only by new government takings, and instead are helping to write the new laws, and being listened to “even more when we disagree,” then there is hope indeed. To make the next quantum leap, Obama must aspire to construct a transcendent center.

5 Responses to “A Centrist Agenda for Obama”
  1. Klockarman says:


    Regarding #5 on your Centrist Agenda for Obama:

    As much as I’d like to see this happen, I think that idea has a snowball’s chance in an ice-free Arctic Ocean of actually happening. All we hear is that “the debate is over”, and “the science is settled”. Now that the Dems have the WH and Congress in their control (despite not having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate) I can’t think of a reason that they would back-track on “the science is settled” now.

    I think that the Progressives believe that in Obama, they have the man most capable of seducing regular folks who would normally run the other way from collectivist ideals into accepting those same collectivist ideals wrapped up real pretty in his message of “change you can believe in”.

    The only way I could see Obama adopting a centrist agenda would be if his Progressive agenda got mugged by reality on the way to paying for the whole bill of goods.

    But, time will tell.

  2. edward says:

    Obama may indeed turn out to be a Clinton like centrist. He is obvisouly very smart, and probably won’t make the left wing mistakes Clinton made in his first two years. His appointment of Rambo as his chief of staff encourgages me, as Emannual was a big supporter of free trade and welfare reform that Clinton successfully got through Congress despite opposition from the left wing demos. The very best thing is: can we now get over our stupid obsession with skin pigmentation and affirmative action? This will be SO good for our country— I didn’t support Obama because I thought he was basically a socialist, but Bush is the guy who has turned us into a socialist country already.

  3. Ed Ring says:

    A recent email received posed seven questions regarding ‘A Centrist Agenda for Obama,’ requesting clarification. Here are the questions to the editor, with answers (in italics).

    Great work. Some of my thoughts:

    1) Obama and the Dems owe the unions for election support and success, past and future.

    Probably 3x was spent on Obama vs. McCain; dollars for Obama came from Wall Street at a rate at least twice what was contributed to McCain. It may be unions represent a much lower percentage of Obama’s contributors compared to the percentage they represent of overall contributions to democrats.

    2) We risk some criticisms for socialistic leanings moving health and retirement to the Government.

    True. But private health and pension plans can still compete with and supplement social security and medicare – and we consolidate all the government funded plans into only these two entities. All citizens retain the right to opt-in and out of medicare at any time depending on whether or not private plans can compete or not. Social security is already here. By consolidating public employee plans with social security we improve government efficiency and provide all American workers with the same level of taxpayer funded benefits.

    3) Mfg. executives testify (plead) for a bridge loan.

    Bailouts need to be contingent on lowering all worker wages to the rates paid workers in non GM/Ford/Chrysler auto manufacturing plants operating in the USA. Bailout also needs to be contingent on the government immediately taking over and renegotiating the automaker pension plans, and downsizing their overbuilt dealer networks.

    In the application of these plans, some sort of negotiated progressive grandfathering could be implemented, where beneficiaries nearing the end of their career would retain more of their previously negotiated benefits than new hires according to a sliding scale based on years worked.

    4) Exects, and Dems argue against Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 in many ways is a terrific option for the big three automakers, but a government bailout along the terms described here would be far less disruptive to the economy and in some ways, would pave the way for faster future growth for these companies as well as set a precedent for rebuilding U.S. manufacturing in general and reforming the public sector.

    5) I’m betting that they all secretly recognize the benefits of bankruptcy as the only way to relieve the huge fixed legacy overhead costs burdening their attempts at competitiveness.

    See above. Chapter 11 would enable all the automakers to break long-term leases that are forcing them to pay over market rates, and restructure and write-off more of their debt. But choosing Chapter 11 would not give Obama the opportunity to enable the automakers to rebuild under a whole new set of more equitable rules with respect to the role of the government and labor in private manufacturing. If a bailout is done right, it is preferable for the automakers. And Chapter 11 could be harder on the overall U.S. economy.

    6) When early retirees pick up social security at 65 don’t they become double dippers?

    Yes, but this is why every American worker should have social security as their primary retirement security government funded defined benefit plan. Anything else any employee gets either in public or private employment should be considered supplemental, with the annual funding required for these supplemental benefits – retirement, health care, and other benefits – included whenever calculating their annual compensation.

    7) I think we have similar conditions with police and fire to name a couple.

    Absolutely, but these similar conditions apply throughout the public sector. Clearly as taxpayers we should be willing to pay some premium to public safety personnel – the question is only how much becomes too much. This is a touchy subject but obviously must be addressed in this deflationary economic environment, along with general public sector reform.

    I was trained on the principle of “How much and for what”. I fear much of our current economic trouble stems from greed and hide the ball mentality. Not much reality there. American success to a large extent was built on the old New England philosophy: use it up, wear it out, fix it, or do without.

    Hope all is well with you.


    And you.

  4. Dave says:

    Buffett says the government should insist top executives at Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC invest a significant percentage of their own net worths in the Detroit-based companies, ensuring both executives and taxpayers would share in any profits or losses.

    Unions too.


    Google News

  5. Dave says:

    I think that the only viable partial solution to climate change is the Trans Global Highway. I think that that President Obama should consider is the Trans-Global Highway, proposed by Frank X. Didik a number of years ago. Didik, if you recall, was the founder of the Electric Car Society in the early 1990′s and is a major EV advocate. According to Didik, the proposed “highway”, which would contain roads, rail roads, water, oil and gas pipes as well electric and communication cables. The highway would use and standardize the existing road networks and build new roads as well as a number of key tunnels. Interestingly, the longest Tunnel in the proposal, would still be shorter than the longest existing tunnel today. It would seem that there are many advantages to the construction of the Trans Global Highway including vastly lower cost and faster shipping, better allocation of resources, the ability of utilizing raw materials and much lower carbon emissions, than the existing transportation system. The highway would open up a new era of international cooperation. The Trans-Global Highway site is located at http://www.TransGlobalHighway.com


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