A plan for the 44th president

During the last year I listened to Bill Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life,” which served as a first-person refresher course on the eight years of his administration.

So, as President-elect Barack Obama began to name his transition team, it was easy to recognize that many team members, including its leader John Podesta and Obama’s chief of staff-in-waiting Raum Emanuel, were holdovers from the Clinton White House.

Friday night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews reported that 31 of the 47 persons named either to Obama’s transition team or staff have Clinton administraton ties. These include all but one of the persons on Obama’s 12-member Transition Advisory Board and both of his White House staff choices.

Did these 31 persons leave the Clinton administration with the bad taste of sour grapes? Hardly.

John Podesta, who was Clinton’s chief of staff from October 1998 to January 2001, after serving in other administrative positions, is described on his official biography site (LINK) as:

“ … known for his straight talk, acerbic wit and fierce defense of the Clinton Administration.”


Podesta, it turns out, might just be the most influential person occupying Obama’s thoughts as he prepares to move this nation, finally, into the 21st Century. Let me explain.

On 6 November 2008, CQPolitics – Congressional Quarterly – reported:

“President-elect Obama has announced the leaders of his transition team, and it's a mix of longtime Senate aides, friends and top officials at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that has been a major influence on Obama’s policy proposals.” (LINK)

John Podesta is president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress (CAP), currently on leave of absence while he heads up Obama’s team. He is the author of numerous books and articles promoting the Center’s progressive agenda.

So, just how influential are Podesta and CAP on Obama’s thinking?

What follows is reading for persons dead serious about the “changes” Obama has promised and where they will take this country – persons with a natural curiosity about the forces which might influence these changes.

It has been my experience that 99 percent of blog visitors never click on provided source links, so I am publishing here, in its entirety, a three-part series of articles (LINK) from CAP’s “The Progress Report.” (See “Fair Use Notice” in left sidebar.)

The articles, which might occupy a half hour of your time, are self-explanatory and present a “progressive blueprint” for the future of the United States of America:



November 12, 2008

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Matt Duss

A New Progressive Direction

Editor's Note: This is the first in our three-part series on "Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President."

The disastrous foreign policies of the Bush years have created an opening for the new administration to show that progressive ideas are better able to secure and protect America in the 21st Century. A joint project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the New Democracy Project released a new book titled Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President, which contains a series of innovative and necessary proposals to change direction on a range of policy issues confronting the United States. The section dealing with national security suggests ways in which we can better secure our homeland and frustrate the efforts of America's enemies abroad. It also re-conceptualizes national security to include issues such as global poverty and development, noting that radical ideologies often take root in environments of insecurity and deprivation. Importantly, it recognizes that developing and implementing these new policies will require repairing America's image in the world, reestablishing American leadership seven years after President Bush arrogantly declared "either you're with us, or you're with the terrorists."

CONTAINING THE IRAQ FALLOUT: The invasion of Iraq was an attempt to deal with a 21st Century problem -- amorphous networks of transnational terrorists -- using 20th Century methods such as "shock and awe." The cost in lives and treasure as well as to America's reputation has been enormous. In one chapter of Change for America titled “Containing The Terrorist Threat,” Jessica Stern, a former director at the National Security Council, writes that "the new president will inherit a system still oriented toward meeting threats that emerge from...static national powers, rather than transnational groups." Stern notes that an unfortunate side-effect of the Iraq war is "the excellent training the insurgents have received...against the best equipped military in the world." Stern proposes working with Iraq's neighboring states "to prepare a strategy for dealing with the inevitable 'blowback' from the Iraq war," such as foreign fighters returning to establish networks in their home countries. "Efforts should be put in place now to monitor the movement of insurgents who leave Iraq," Stern writes. "This will require both bilateral and multilateral intelligence efforts, with special emphasis on inevitable efforts by the Islamist extremists to set up virtual training camps on the Internet and seek financing and recruits online."

SUSTAINABLE SECURITY: Confronting future threats before they emerge requires more than the relentless application of military force, it requires addressing the economic and humanitarian issues that create the conditions from which threats arise. In the chapter “Reducing Global Poverty Is A Moral And Security Imperative,” Gayle Smith, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, notes that "the risk of war increases in direct proportion to the levels of poverty." Smith proposes creating "a new U.S. Global Economic Development Agency -- an independent, cabinet-level agency focused on global poverty alleviation goals...building capable states [and] creating the conditions under which social entrepreneurship and open societies can thrive." Smith also suggests that the president look for ways to coordinate private and public sector activities, to "use U.S. assistance to seed innovation, and to leverage U.S. aid in support of new development models...The new president can use a variety of policy tools and resources to encourage greater innovation and experimentation, as well as foster cross-sector partnerships between social enterprises, corporations, philanthropists, and government."

RE-ESTABLISHING AMERICAN LEADERSHIP: Because the partnership of the international community is essential for global security, the United States must seek to repair its image and restore its leadership role in the world. This means more than simply doing better public relations; it means developing better policies that don't alienate America's friends, or needlessly provoke America's foes. But better public diplomacy is key to bringing about the international cooperation that is required to manage shared global security concerns. In the chapter, “Public Diplomacy Can Help Restore Lost U.S. Credibility,” Doug Wilson, a former senior adviser at the United States Information Agency, writes that "to be effective, public diplomacy must help U.S. policymakers communicate U.S. values and motives to shape foreign policy understanding and then integrate foreign public opinion into the policymaking process in order to help realize our national security and foreign policy goals." The new administration should "determine how best to build upon historically successful approaches -- such as educational and cultural exchange programs -- with 21st-century strategies and communication tools."


November 13, 2008

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers

Reorganizing Government For The 21st Century

Editor's Note: This is the second in our three-part series on "Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President." See part 1 here; part 3 will appear tomorrow.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton vowed to start building "a bridge" to the 21st Century. President Bush's White House, however, has moved backwards in time, operating on a 20th Century model. Yesterday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), with the New Democracy Project, released a new book called “Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President.” The book outlines new ideas for governing in the 21st Century, updating the White House to reflect this century's priorities. John Podesta, president and CEO of CAPAF, and Sarah Wartell, executive vice president for management of CAPAF, explain that creating new White House offices and retooling existing ones "ensure[s] that a limited set of key objectives receive ongoing heightened attention" and allows the new president to make his priorities clear and begin setting his agenda from Day One."

URBAN POLICY: President-elect Barack Obama's Chicago background means that he will bring a fresh, pro-city perspective to a position that has not seen an urban face in decades."To find a nominee with as strong a city pedigree as Obama's, you have to go back to New York Gov. Al Smith, the Democratic candidate in 1928, or even further, to Grover Cleveland, who had been mayor of Buffalo," the Washington Post wrote. Obama has already indicated he will create a White House Office of Urban Policy, a move Bruce Katz, vice president and founding director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, and Henry Cisneros, former Housing and Urban Development secretary, endorse in their chapter on revitalizing and updating the department. Metropolitan areas, they note, "have become the engines of national prosperity;" as such, federal policy "needs to shift from an outdated focus on 'urban policy' to an expansive, asset-driven perspective of 'metro policy.'" The Office of Metropolitan Policy would work with key cabinet agencies, such as the Transportation Department, and "would actively engage the true metropolitan experts -- local corporate, civic, and government leaders -- in the design and implementation of new, cutting-edge policies."

TECH POLICY: Science and technology "are the engines of our economic growth," writes Neal Lane, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) under President Clinton, but "we risk falling rapidly behind many other parts of the world" in discovery and applied technology. The OSTP should play a central role in the next administration, and should serve in the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, and the National Energy Council. "After eight years of political interference by the Bush White House" into science, Lane writes, the 44th president must ensure that policy decisions "will be informed by the best scientific evidence and analysis." Lane recommends issuing an executive order within the first week of the next administration that emphasizes his commitment to relying on the best scientific evidence. Obama has already proposed creating a "chief technical officer" and wants to aggressively expand rural broadband connection. He has indicated he would move swiftly to overturn Bush's ban on embryonic stem cell research, which Lane says should be done within the first week of his term.

ENERGY COUNCIL: CAPAF Senior Fellow Todd Stern and former Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes write, "Transforming the energy base of the economy will demand top-level participation across the executive branch." The National Energy Council should thus include the secretaries of most cabinet agencies. We cannot transition to a low-carbon economy without enormous technological innovation," the president should also create an interagency Energy Innovation Council "to develop an integrated, multiyear national energy research, development, and deployment strategy." Stern and Hayes urge the next president to pledge to introduce energy and climate change legislation within his first 100 days. "The scope of this challenge is huge," Stern and Hayes acknowledge; climate scientists warn the world will face catastrophe if it doesn't immediately and seriously confront climate change. "Along with finding the right people to staff his Administration," Time's Joe Klein writes, "Barack Obama's most important job now is to find the right words to inspire the nation to undertake this next great cause."

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP: At the start of his campaign, Obama pledged to create "a new Social Entrepreneur Agency to make sure that small non-profits have the same kind of support that we give small businesses." He has promised to expand programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and to create a new Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Michele Jolin, a CAP Senior Fellow and the former chief of staff of the Council of Economic Advisers, advises the 44th president to create a new White House Office of Social Entrepreneurship to spur "greater innovation, creativity, and success in the non-profit sector." The "non-profit sector can be a source of innovation and experimentation," a testing ground for new government solutions. Jolin warns against creating a bulky bureaucracy or picking specific "winners;" instead, the government should "invest in a range of solutions designed to meet national goals." "In short, the new president needs to focus on creating a policy environment that...fosters new entrepreneurship, improves nonprofits' access to growth capital, and removes outdated tax and regulatory barriers to innovation." The new White House office should create an annual multimillion dollar prize "for developing the most creative, sustainable, and high-impact solution to a defined social challenge," Jolin suggests.


November 14, 2008

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Pat Garofalo

A Pro-Growth, Progressive Economic Agenda

Editor's Note: This is the third in our three-part series on "Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President."

On Election Day, 60 percent of voters said that the state of the economy is "the most important issue facing the nation." With a resounding progressive victory, the new administration has the opportunity to implement pro-growth, progressive economic policies to get the economy back on track. This week, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, along with the New Democracy Project, released a book called “Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President.” The book outlines new ideas for governing in the 21st Century, and offers suggestions on how to make the economy work for everyone, rather than catering to the richest Americans and largest corporations as has been the policy for the last eight years. In the book, Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Fellow Gene Sperling explains that "the 44th president must work with both sides of the political spectrum to design policies that boost shared prosperity by strengthening and growing the middle class, not policies that just focus on growth or on equity alone." "Strong and dynamic growth," Sperling writes, "is critical to ensuring the United States always makes room for anyone from anywhere who is willing to work hard and play by the rules without having to force existing groups to settle for less."

MOBILITY AND EQUITY: In their chapter on equality and mobility, Peter Edelman of Georgetown University and Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink ask if America is headed towards a "new gilded age," pointing out that "the American Dream -- that we can all move up the economic ladder -- is far from reality for many people today." Currently, income inequality in the United States is at its highest level since 1928, and only "7 percent of children born to parents in the bottom wealth quintile make it to the top quintile in adulthood," while "36 percent of children born to parents in the bottom wealth quintile remain in the bottom as adults." And, U.S. tax policy exacerbates this disparity. "Out of the more than $200 billion in tax incentives offered each year for savings, only about 5 percent goes to the bottom 50 percent of Americans." Edelman and Blackwell write, "The first step is to restore a progressive U.S. tax system in the wake of the Bush administration's tax cuts, which poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the hands of the wealthiest Americans and corporations." The next step is to ensure that all Americans have both living-wage incomes -- through a minimum wage indexed to inflation -- and adequate savings to fall back on. Finally, the next administration must expand educational opportunities through a national commitment to pre-kindergarten, as well as expansion of after-school and out-of-school programs as well as programs that reach at-risk and disconnected youth.

A GREEN RECOVERY: As CAP Vice President for Economic Policy Michael Ettlinger notes, "No source of jobs is poised to be generated by the unaided private market to replace the jobs lost in home construction, the financial sector and the other areas dramatically affected by the current recession." Therefore, a set of policies aimed at creating jobs is essential to jumpstarting the economy. In her chapter on global competitiveness and trade, CAP Senior Fellow Laura Tyson argues the next administration should invest in a green recovery, creating jobs while simultaneously moving America towards a low-carbon economy. She writes, "Policies to accelerate the development of clean energy alternatives will help create green-collar jobs and build U.S. competitiveness in what promises to be one of the fastest-growing areas of the world economy over the next half-century." CAP reports that a $100 billion investment over two years in a green recovery program would create 2 million new jobs. "We identified $50 billion in programs that are ready to go immediately," says Bracken Hendricks of CAP. "The package would create 2 million jobs across the skill spectrum, from blue collar to high tech, and in almost every area of the country. There was huge congressional appetite for this even before the economic crisis hit."

LONG-TERM PROGRESSIVE GROWTH: True long-term economic success requires both "a growing middle class and rising living standards." As Ettlinger points out, "The economic weakness of recent years was papered over by personal debt underpinned by artificially high valuation of homes and other assets. ... A lesson to be learned from this period is that economic growth that is not buttressed by growing middle-class incomes is illusory -- a house of cards bound to collapse." Thus, CAP has released a Progressive Growth plan aimed at creating long-term opportunity through green recovery, implementing health care reform and labor law reform, as well as enabling all Americans access to a quality education. Sperling writes that the new economic agenda "must focus on policies that both raise the economic tide and lift all boats -- boosting productivity and our gross national product while fostering the shared prosperity that defines our nation's values." But, these efforts must also be "paired with a serious commitment to long-term fiscal discipline" through a willingness to confront ineffective domestic and military spending. Implementing the policies outlined here -- as well as many others -- can lead to an economy that excludes no one, to the benefit of everyone. (End of three-part series.)


A few months ago I listened to an unabridged copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” a record of President Lincoln’s campaign and cabinet. Goodwin’s book is now much associated with Barack Obama as he plans for his administration.

As a Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter who voted for Barack Obama, it is encouraging that the president-elect has the good sense to tap resources from the most successful Democratic presidency since FDR’s.

Bill Clinton hoped his presidency would be America’s “bridge to the 21st Century.”

With the devastating effects of 9/11 and an eight-year Bush administration that bridge became an open drawbridge from which plummeted America’s image, achievements and aspirations – into dark waters of despair.

Can America now meet the aforementioned daunting challenges and emerge a better beacon for the world?

Yes, it can. But only if Americans are willing.


airth10 said...

It is a lengthy article BJ. But before I finish reading it let me agree with something you said, that the Obama presidency will truly be the beginning of the 21st century. The Bush administration was really of the last century, if not the one before.

B.J. said...

You are right, Airth!

As for “lengthy,” anything online which is more than two paragraphs in length is rarely read. I didn’t say that. Tom Brokaw did. Actually, the post is 6 1/2 pages in Microsoft Word, set on 10-point Verdana bold font. Amazing how people will read all sorts of goofy stuff forwarded via email, but are overwhelmed by an in-depth post, LOL.

By the way, I just finished listening to Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House” – all 900-plus pages! Wonder in this “instant gratification” Internet society if anyone still reads books?!?!


Frodo Da Vinci said...

Music is the Art of the 21st Century. It goes beyond the blend of color, light, and expression found on a canvas. It was borne from the revolutionary aspect of human sensual interaction. It is also limited in duration.

The longest song as part of American Art remembered is Don McLean's "American Pie." It would be flippant to say that one can only dance so long before taking a toke. It would be fair to say however, that because there is so much to see, and to hear, that attention necessarily is drawn away. That, dear reader, is why Frodo has adopted the vignette, to music.

The above being said, consider why the newspaper dies before our eyes. Frodo laments the absence of factual reporting, and admires the dedication of those who try, desperately, to keep substance in the dialogue. They are losing however.

Don't be frustrated because so little time is spent on words. How long can you stare at the Mona Lisa?

B.J. said...

Perhaps when there is no more oil and no more electricity, and people are using candles again and content to amuse themselves in simple gatherings, the Jane Austens and Charles Dickenses and William Wordsworths will return, and the word will make a comeback. Maybe in my next life I will come back as 19th Century landed gentry. In the meantime, I have books.