Thursday, March 26, 2009

Campaign Promises

No President since FDR has worked harder to keep his campaign promises!
by Charlie Leck

Campaign promises are usually considered a joke. The American public knows that they are generally a tall story. Yet, those who campaign for office make promises the way a migrant worker in the fertile growing fields of California fills produce baskets. Obama certainly made dozens of significant promises during his campaign.

Yet, now that he has his administration up and running at a pretty good pace, it is becoming apparent that President Barack H. Obama appears ready to deliver on most of his promises.

That’s interesting because he had a ready out – a clear escape hatch – if he wanted it. “My goodness, whoever expected to inherit the kind of economy that we were given? In the face of this disaster, we cannot send to Congress much of what we hoped to send.”

I’ve tried to look at the heart of Obama’s campaign promises. It appears to me that the following four were at the heart and soul of his campaign.

Tax Cuts for the Middle Class
As President, Obama is adamant about this promise and keeps reminding the Congress about his seriousness. He understands the skill of jaw-boning. He guarantees Representatives or Senators that he will campaign against them if they don’t deliver in this regard. No one earning under 250,000 dollars a year will see a penny increase in taxes and many of them will see decreases. The wild-assed tax relief for the rich legislation of George W. Bush will not be allowed to renew itself. The wealthy will begin paying their fair share again.

Ending the war in Iraq
Interestingly, this is the most difficult of his promises on which to deliver. How do you go into a nation and make the mess that we’ve made – destroying a nation’s infrastructure, and its most significant institutions, and its general cultural body, and then just up and leave it? Obama has a military man heading Defense who appears to understand the will and desire of his President. There are now clear and straight-forward communications and discussions with Iraqi leaders. The job will get done, but not quite as quickly as Obama often implied during his campaign. As John McCain made clear, we’ll have troops there for a long, long time.

Health Care for All Americans
It is interesting that both major political parties are now beginning to understand that this is a problem we cannot afford to not solve. Health care is America’s biggest burden. It must be addressed and nowhere does the new President have a bigger opportunity for bi-partisan discussions and solutions. Nothing puts more of a drag on America’s economy than the high cost of health care – the most expensive delivery system in the world.

Rebuilding America’s Education System
And then come the big, heavy horses, galloping across the open field in a runaway. Who cares to step forward and try to stop them in their tracks? It is in the area of education that the will of both America’s people and America’s leadership will be tested? Is there heart enough to really solve this problem?

No problem facing America and its President and its political leaders is more crucial, more important to solve, and more difficult to tackle. America has fallen hopelessly behind more than a dozen nations in the quality of the education provided its children. Nations against which we will have to compete economically in the coming decades are producing brighter and more talented graduates. Nothing will hasten the decline of our nation as an economic power more quickly than our failure to squarely address this problem

To the job, President Obama has called Arne Duncan, who headed the Chicago city schools for the past seven years – the country’s third largest school system. He is hailed by some and seriously criticized by others; however, on this one, I trust our President and I’m willing to go with the choice. Duncan is not afraid of controversy and he understands the intricate forces that will array against revolutionary changes in our educational approach.

Duncan wants to reward terrific teachers and successful students. Why not? He wants to weed out bad teachers! Why not? He wants to encourage an alternative system of teacher licensure that will bring in the talents of people who just don’t happen to be formally trained as teachers? Why not? He wants to provide economic incentives for states to “think outside the box” and to “encourage them to do creative, innovative things through our Race to the Top program.” And why not? He wants our students to spend more time in schools – as much time as the other great nations of the world require their students to spend in school. And why not? He wants to raise the compulsory school age to 18. Why not?

The problem is carefully explained by Duncan, who says "we cannot afford to fail." He says that we need better training of students and better testing. He argues that we need to set the standards bar much higher. He states clearly that we need a national standard so we can accurately compare kids in New York and Mississippi, in California and North Dakota, in Georgia and Utah.

And why not?
Duncan himself explains most clearly why we cannot afford to fail and why we must now, at this moment, finally and forthrightly deal with this problem.

“There is an economic imperative – we have to do this. And there is a moral imperative – this is a civil rights issue. When we don’t educate and we have substandard opportunities, we perpetuate poverty; we perpetuate social failure. This is really the fight of our generation!”

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