Commentary: Our tough times demand Obama's multi-front approach

President Barack Obama. (Chuck Kennedy / MCT)
President Barack Obama. (Chuck Kennedy / MCT) Chuck Kennedy / MCT

President Barack Obama has drawn criticism in his first 100 days for trying to do too many things at once to repair the country.

But the first African-American commander in chief doesn't have much choice. Obama said at a news conference recently: "The typical president, I think, has two or three big problems; we've got seven or eight big problems. And so we've had to move very quickly."

Certainly the economy is ground zero. Obama's detractors think he should focus solely on reviving the banks and the credit markets.

If you think like a homeowner, it's fruitless to paint or put up drywall until the leaky roof is repaired. America's bad economy has swamped the rest of the world. Obama reasons he has to attack our many problems simultaneously to keep the entire structure sound.

But with limited resources, Obama has to choose wisely. And waning public support will threaten his success.

The so-called tea parties, which attracted people to protests nationwide last month, can't be taken lightly. People are upset over mounting multibillion-dollar bailouts, stimulus projects and executive bonuses.

Their discontent isn't out of line. A 250-page report to Congress from a special inspector general found that taxpayers increasingly are exposed to losses and the government is vulnerable to fraud because of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

But the Obama administration and Congress don't have a choice. They must do whatever it takes to drain off bad assets and pump up the economy. Obama has to do a better job selling his programs to the angry tea partiers.

Without that buy-in, the president will have trouble getting folks to go along with the rest of the difficult work.

That includes slowing foreclosures so more people can remain in their homes. The Obama administration has to reform lending practices so that subprime mortgage and other problems don't recur.

The U.S. automakers have to be encouraged to produce more economically efficient green cars. Energy plays a big role in the economy.

America needs renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and geothermal power. That would help reduce global warming.

Obama and Congress also need to forge a solid jobs creation program that gets people to work and reverses the high unemployment in the nation. New jobs are needed most in urban and rural areas.

Health care remains a major concern. An accident or an unexpected crisis such as cancer can financially wipe out a person or family even with so-called good insurance coverage.

Obama has to develop a universal health care plan for all Americans during his first term in office. In addition, he must tackle legacy problems such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Obama must secure the safety net in this country so that when people lose a job or encounter other hardships they will be OK.

Reversing the decay in urban areas requires business creation, housing and jobs programs.

Improving education and making college affordable for everyone should happen in the next four years. Educational opportunities now will make other progressive things possible.

In addition, Obama must offer more than lip service to immigration reform and barriers of racial and ethnic discrimination. The walls that separate us must come down. In today's troubled economy, it will take everyone functioning at full potential to thrive.

Rebuilding the nation's financial house also requires that Obama work to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, stabilize Pakistan and curb terrorism. His agenda includes renewed ties with our allies in Europe and new links to Cuba, Venezuela and other countries, calmed tensions with Russia and China, a negotiated peace accord in the Middle East and eased nuclear concerns with Iran and North Korea.

Whew! That's a lot. How well he meets all these challenges will set the course for our future.

Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Star’s Editorial Board. To reach him, call 816-234-4723 or send e-mail to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.

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