Obama is determined to leave his mark

By Jack Z. Smith

Timid, he’s not.

President Barack Obama has come out with guns blazing in the first five weeks in the White House. Many Republican politicos, obviously in need of target practice after badly misfiring in the November elections, are doubtlessly hoping the new Democratic president will shoot himself in the foot politically.

Obama’s speech before Congress last Tuesday night provided further evidence that the new sheriff in Washington is going to take an ambitious, bold and aggressive approach toward governance. He seems fiercely determined to go down in the record books as one of the most transformative, forward-looking and truly effective presidents that America has ever had.

Being effective means getting results. Obama, who astutely grasps how America has gone astray in recent years and how it must change going forward, is adamant that the nation must re-chart its course and begin tackling some of its big, intimidating problems with a bipartisan spirit long missing in Washington.

Obama wants to reform health care and put the Social Security and Medicare programs on sound long-term footing. He wants to reduce America’s alarming school dropout rates and give more young people the wherewithal to attend college.

He wants to move swiftly toward cleaner energy and greater energy efficiency, while reducing our reliance on foreign oil. He wants to reform the financial services industry to help prevent future banking and housing crises such as the current bummers that have cumulatively reduced Americans’ net worth by trillions of dollars.

For now, Obama’s Job One is jobs, which are disappearing at the terrifying rate of several hundred thousand a month. That means many of us are spending less on clothes, cars and calamari. An unbridled continuation of this trend could send the economy into a devastating tailspin that would take many years to reverse.

That’s why the $787 billion stimulus plan signed into law by Obama was necessary. It has the potential to create or save the 3.5 million jobs he claims it will, while also expediting sorely needed transportation projects and other infrastructure improvements. That will gradually help resuscitate the economy, as should administration efforts to restore bank lending and encourage refinancing of home mortgages.

As someone who long has railed against rising federal budget deficits, I’m concerned about the huge costs of the economic recovery measures.

Budget deficit

I don’t think Obama will be able to cut the annual federal budget deficit in half in four years, and even if he does, it will still be troublingly high. Contrary to what Obama has indicated, I think Washington will have to raise income tax rates at least moderately for most American workers (not just the wealthiest 5 percent) after the economy finally rebounds. (However, enactment of badly needed tax reform — greatly simplifying the tax code and eliminating many loopholes — could enable us to avoid raising rates or perhaps even lower them slightly.)

If Obama is to prove a great president, he must continue not only to offer a strong helping hand from Washington in times of crisis, but also inspire all Americans to show strong individual initiative.

I liked it when he said in his Tuesday night speech that “dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American.”

I enthusiastically voted for Obama, although disagreeing with him on some issues.

I can’t say with certainty whether he will prove one of America’s greatest presidents, a one-term flop or something in between. But I sure like the guy’s style. I greatly admire his intelligence, moxie, grace under pressure, humor, drive, ability to unite people and resolve to put our nation on a better path for the future.

Hey, America, how about giving this young man a chance to succeed?

X Jack Z. Smith is an editorial writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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