Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Obama's challenge: fix economy, save world"

For weeks there have been articles written in major newspapers and websites about what Senator Obama or Senator McCain would need to once they were elected President to help the economy. With the news of the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States being made Tuesday night, I thought it was important to get a different view about what this means to the nation and the economy.

Below is an article written by David Callaway, editor-in-chief of MarketWatch, late Tuesday night.

Obama's challenge: fix economy, save world
Commentary: But fix the economy first, voters demand
By David Callaway, MarketWatch
Last update: 11:28 p.m. EST Nov. 4, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Has it really been eight years? Eight years since that fateful Election Night when we all stayed up as long as we could through the dark hours without a president, only to wake up to some of the darkest years in our American history.

If we've learned one collective lesson, it's to never again say "How bad could it be?"

That's why the sense of hope that swept Barack Obama into the White House on Tuesday night could be felt around the world, from the celebrations in Kenya about how one of its descendents could be the first black man elected U.S. President to the parties in Europe, Asia, and around America herself.

At a time when everything looks so grim, the temptation to grasp at any hope is too good to resist. Obama offered that hope, and largely because of the economic crisis of the past several weeks, he was rewarded with an electoral landslide.

A furious rally on Wall Street helped kick off the Obama victory Tuesday, but as the President-elect will soon learn, Wall Street is a fickle mistress. He inherits a set of challenges not seen since FDR: a broken financial system, an ailing infrastructure, a growing environmental crisis, an economically-thrashed public, and two wars.

No president, even with an overwhelming majority in Congress like Obama will have, can ever hope to solve all of this. But progress can be made on all fronts. Indeed, just turning in the right direction on some of them would be a success.

On the economy, though, voters expect results.
  • Obama must solve a financial calamity that requires billions of dollars in spending that the U.S. doesn't have.

  • He must address a nation that feels overtaxed, yet is in desperate need of funds to save companies, jobs and homes.

  • The President-elect must realign a broken financial regulatory system without adding a crippling new set of regulations.

  • He must restore confidence in America's economy in a world that just got sucker-punched by an exported credit crisis.

  • He must pick a Treasury Secretary under the greatest global scrutiny a President has ever seen, not to mention cabinet posts for Defense, Environment, and even Trade that will take on strategic importance far beyond their historical legacies.

  • Most importantly, he must enact as many of the vital social programs as he can while also cutting the national debt and budget deficit.
All of this is a high-wire act to be sure. Obama will face wealthy and powerful opponents who will make beating John McCain seem like an Election Day basketball lay up. Inaction is what Washington thrives on. It's no coincidence that the stock market does best when the government is split between the political parties. This is exactly what Obama can't afford in his first 100 days, or even his first year in office.

After eight years of fighting as the loyal opposition and two years of campaigning for this historic win, Obama and the Democrats will finally get their chance to prove their case. That they will benefit from an economic recovery at some point in the next four years is a given.

And the stock market has fallen so much that it no doubt will also recover at some point in a first Obama term. So will commodities, and even the recently resuscitated dollar.

As he faces the nation in January on Inauguration Day, 76 days from now, Obama will carry the hopes of several previously overlooked constituencies -- blacks, Latinos, youths, foreigners, the jobless and homeless and health-care-less -- along with Wall Street, the rich and comfortable, and even the opposition. The one thing that unites all of these constituencies is economic progress.

No doubt his speech will be soaring and inspiring. But once he has made it to the White House, his actions will be measured far more than his words. This historic election will be a milestone in American politics. But Obama's real place in history will measured by whether he actually has the chops to reform and rebuild an economy -- the largest in the world -- gone horribly and irrevocably awry.

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