Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
Sept 9, 2011
Mr. President: There is a disconcerting disconnect between words and
actual actions that is now almost a hallmark of this administration -- from the
campaign rhetoric contrasting with the continuity of Bush policy through
cabinet officers chosen, to now. The speech on Thursday noted the Warren
Buffet complaint that his tax rate was lower than his secretary's. Yet nothing
in the Jobs Bill will change Mr. Buffet's tax rate. Of course, something could
have been done earlier, i.e. letting the Bush tax cuts lapse, and it might
even have saved us from the debt ceiling agreement which now threatens
to hurt the most vulnerable in our society.
The market has not taken the Jobs Bill very well. The very next day the Dow
Jones Index fell over 300 points with worries over Greek debt
overshadowing it. No one is sure how much of it will get through Congress
anyway, and people have lost confidence in the administration.
Critics say the last stimulus did nothing as unemployment remains
stubbornly above 9 percent. It is not actually true because a million or so
new job seekers enter the market each year, a natural demographic
consequence. Thus for the unemployment rate to stay constant at least that
many new jobs had to have been created. This stimulus is about half the last
In the package about $100 billion is allocated to infrastructure projects, yet
the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates $2.2 trillion is needed. It
has to be done and the unemployed are ready and waiting. Where could the
money come from? When people are put to work, they generate their own
momentum through a multiplier effect leading to more governmental
revenue and private sector growth. The key missing ingredient seems to be
leadership and the drive to take bold steps.
We were told in the speech that China was building high-speed rail and
there was no reason for us to be second class. But it will cost about a half
billion dollars per mile, and will also generate thousands of new construction
jobs and thousands of permanent jobs. It will transform the economic
landscape for generations to come; moreover, it is a greener technology
than airliners or automobiles. But talk is hardly likely to get us there.
Those of us who care for the vast majority of peace wanting Israelis, who do
not support the extreme right-wing and orthodox groups running Israel
(because they can topple governments by withholding support even though
they are a small minority), are concerned at the attacks today on the Israeli
embassy in Egypt and the creeping pariah status. Anger has been rising
since Israel killed five Egyptian border guards on the Egyptian side of the
border. Its best Middle East ally, Turkey, has just cut ties because Israel will
not apologize for the killing of nine Turkish citizens on the aid flotilla to
Gaza. Had they listened to Judge Goldstone instead of castigating him, and
had we not supinely followed their lead, Israel's responses could have been
better calibrated, and they would have greater respect in the world. And the
hopes for peace in the region would be much rosier. There has to be peace
for the millions of people, Arab and Israeli (Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist
and others), living cheek by jowl in an area the size of a large metropolis.