Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dear President Obama

Our economy, educating our children, effective health services, mitigating climate change and a rational foreign policy... Your decision to run and the outcome of being elected President now makes these problems, or opportunities if you so embrace them, your executive burden, against which your legacy as Commander in Chief will be judged. There is no wiggle room. No legal arabesques by redefining the word”is.” You cannot shun this burden. You wanted it, so the job is yours.

I do not presume to know how to fix the problems our country faces, other than treat them as opportunities. Too often the experts, overconfidently, promote meddling, even when common sense and historical evidence contradict the outcomes of their resolve. What comes to mind are the unintended consequences and the chaotic interdependence of complex systems... our economy, educating our children, effective health services, mitigating climate change and a rational foreign policy... the outcomes of which should be in the best interest of our citizens, our nation and the world that we share.

My advice... be bold and act bravely, regardless of public opinion or political consequences. Our government and its politics got us here, with these seemingly insurmountable problems. Changing them to opportunities requires decisive policy action to nudge the outcomes in a “libertarian paternalistic” way... allowing us to make our own decisions, even if mistaken, but your administration can architect our choices to influence those decisions by building a solid knowledge base, sharing information, providing practical incentives and offering meaningful and timely feedback.

So here are some opportunistic thoughts:

Economy – focus on developing a national campaign towards producing and transmitting clean, cheap, renewable energy, creating new jobs here and building our economic leadership worldwide as the “best” producers and consumers of energy. See education, health, climate and foreign policy opportunities.

Education – increase incentives for States to experiment and innovate a coordinated delivery of k-12, vocational, university and postgraduate education so we can reclaim, as a nation, our stature in the sciences and engineering disciplines, promoting ingenuity and the land of opportunity. This is critical in sustaining our the organic growth in a global economy. See economy, health, climate and foreign policy opportunities.

Health – effect a fundamental change in our health care delivery model, where the patient and not the health provider controls the consumption of his/her health services and the willing price that is paid. A systemic change in the delivery model needs significant pressure from the Presidential bully pulpit, amassing enough inertia to realize a meaningful change against the push back of self-interest groups that today benefit from our chaotic, bureaucratic system. See economy, education, climate and foreign policy opportunities.

Climate – increase support and funding for research and development of clean and renewable energy options, its transmission, climate conservation and the efficient transformation of our smokestack industries, thus leading the world by example. See economy, education, health and foreign policy opportunities.

Foreign Policy – Whatever it is, it needs to be consistent. It needs to be communicated. And it needs to be based on our constitutional principles and humanitarian values. Instead of policing we should be coaching. Instead of judging we should be educating. And instead of threatening we should be influencing those that could cause harm. See economy, education, health and climate opportunities.


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