Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Robert Kuttner: An Open Letter to David Axelrod

In this open letter to Obama advisor David Axelrod, Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect and author of Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, offers his insights into what the president must do, and what the president must appear to be doing, in order to rally public opinion and force Congress to take further, and more drastic, measures to prevent another Great Depression.

From the Huffington Post:

Dear David,

President Obama faces two huge challenges in the next few months. One is dealing with the reality of an impending depression. It will take much stronger medicine to avert a depression than the measures taken to date, and the president needs to rally public opinion if he is to persuade Congress to act at the necessary scale.

The related challenge is about appearances — about whether middle America feels that the federal outlays are trickling down to regular people. So far, bankers seem to be getting too much and Main Street too little.

The two challenges are related. If the solutions are not bolder, they won’t cure the crisis. If the public isn’t persuaded of the need, Congress won’t act. If the economy keeps sinking, the people will lose confidence in the president’s leadership.

And if President Obama doesn’t boldly address both challenges, his presidency is in trouble. I take heart from some of the subtle shifts in the president’s positioning in recent weeks, but he needs to go farther, and move faster.

At the core of both problems is the sinking economy and the fact that he hired a team of orthodox economic advisers to fix it. A radical crisis requires radical solutions, but the economic team has been far behind the curve in the remedies it has put forward, both in the reality and the optics.

The Reality: To prevent a slide into depression, you will need to spend roughly another three trillion dollars of public money in order to pay for a second stimulus package (at least a trillion) and to recapitalize the banking system (as much as two trillion.) Neither Congress nor public opinion is remotely prepared for that action yet. No one but the president is capable of the kind leadership necessary to move public opinion in this direction, and Barack Obama is a better teacher than most presidents. But that money needs to be understood as practical help for ordinary American families, not as more bailout for the culprits who created the mess.

Faced with three trillion dollars in additional needs, the administration has only $350 billion at its disposal — the as yet unspent TARP funds. Right now, the administration seems to be trying to spend that money several times over — first as an equity guarantee to anchor more borrowing from the Federal Reserve as the core of Tim Geithner’s latest bank rescue; then as a source of public funds for the auto restructuring; and again as part of the plan to refinance mortgages and prevent foreclosures. This string is more than played out. There are limits, financially and politically, to the use of the Fed as all-purpose piggy-bank. At some point very soon, Congress needs to be brought back in, because your efforts require both Congressional support and a lot more real money. And Congress will only act if the people understand the stakes.

The political reality is that the economy needs to be on the mend by mid-2010, or the Democrats will lose seats in the mid-term election. But most informed observers think that if present trends continue, the economy will not be in recovery by Election Day 2010. If the Republicans eat into what is now a bare working Congressional majority, you will face legislative gridlock. And the perception of a weakened presidency will become a reality — portending even worse political news for the president’s re-election in 2012.

Right now, the president has enlisted some Republican governors like Charlie Crist urging diehard GOP legislators to back his program. That’s a trifecta. It splits the opposition party, reinforces the perception of Republican obstructionism in Congress, and vindicates the president’s bipartisan overtures. Well done! But this will last only as long as President Obama’s program seems to be working.

Read the whole article here.


Author Petra Kuenkel: The Art of Leading Collectively

More than ever before, there is a focus on new, collective forms of leadership—and an urgency to get collective change processes underway, all over the world. What’s behind the recent push to move collective leadership to the fore? Whether we find ourselves in societal or organizational change, it requires collective energy and drive to bring […] Read More

10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More

Top 8 Chelsea Green Books the Self-Styled Oregon Militia Should Read

The ongoing armed militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is showing no signs of ending — so, rather than send them snacks, or sex toys, we had an idea: Send them a book! Better yet, send them several Chelsea Green books. Don’t worry, we’ve picked five key titles that we think […] Read More

Author David Stroh: First Steps to Becoming a Systems Thinker

Systems thinking is often seen as something relegated to scientific and business analysis – economics, resource depletion, and climate. However, Systems Thinking for Social Change focuses on how to use systems thinking to make breakthrough progress on intransigent social problems. We asked author David Stroh how this approach can make an impact, and how readers […] Read More

Use Systems Thinking to Make Lasting Social Change

What can be done when our best intentions create unintended problems—such as temporary shelters increasing homelessness or food aid accelerating starvation?After decades of helping change-makers in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors address tough social problems, systems-thinking expert David Stroh shares the pioneering framework that both demystifies systems thinking and shows how it can lead […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com