I've got my Obama t-shirt on today and my song of the day is celebrating the change that is going to come. I am eager to watch Obama speak tonight. I've watched (mostly after the fact via web video) many of the speeches in Denver this week. Frankly, I've not been particularly inspired. Although Bill Clinton's speech last night reminded me why I was such a big supporter of him in his time.
I am hoping that Obama can inspire me and the nation tonight. He's talked so much about change, but I think he needs to be really clear about what tangible change he wants to bring and how he's going to do it. Change as a slogan doesn't inspire me. A short list of top priorities would. You can't do anything if you try to do everything. But if you focus on a few big things, you can change a lot.
Here's my list of the five things I'd want to change if I was in his shoes:
1) Rid politics of the stench of money and corruption. I used to think we should have public financing of campaigns but I've come around to the point of view that giving money is a form of free speech. We should allow our citizens to give money to fund campaigns but all gifts should be anonymous. If you can't and won't get "credit" for your contributions (as is the largely case with the $10 to $100 gifts given over the Internet), then we'll have a much cleaner political system.
2) Get us out of Iraq. Regardless of whether this was a good war to fight or a bad war to fight, we've achieved most, if not all, of what we can and will achieve there. It's cost us about $600 billion so far and the cost is going up by about $12 billion per month. And most of that money is not going to our troops and our military operations. It's going to pay for private companies and bribes to keep the Iraqis from killing each other. It's ridiculous. I heard this week from someone's speech in Denver that the Iraqis have built up a surplus of close to $100bn from oil profits. It's time for them to be financing their own security and it's time for us to go. Their own leadership agrees with this view. We should have a firm timetable to leave and we should have the Iraqis start paying us $12bn per month for as long as we stay.
3) Cut the deficit. We've got an annual budget deficit of roughly $600bn per year. After leaving Iraq, we'll still be in the red by $450bn. I'd just roll back the Bush tax cuts and go back to the tax rates in place under Clinton when the economy and the rich were doing just fine. That would raise at least $200bn per year and probably more. Those two moves alone would cut the deficit in half. I'd go further and get the budget back in the black but that would not be in my to top 5 list of priorities.
4) Invest in alternative energy. I've heard Vinod Khosla say that we could turn the upper plains states into the next middle east with significant federal commitment and private investment in biofuels. I don't know if that's true or not, but we need a John Kennedy "go to the moon style" national commitment to eliminate our country's reliance on carbon energy in the next 10 years. In the process, we can create millions of new jobs, and maybe we can turn Sioux Falls into the next Dubai as well.
5) Change the healthcare paradigm. We need a market based solution that covers every citizen's health care. I don't care whether it's Obama's plan, Hillary's plan, or some other plan. But it should be market based, create incentives to continue to invest in and find innovative new treatments, and it should cover everyone. Plenty of countries have done it. It's time for the US to do it too.
I know that several of these are on Obama's list and that's why I am supporting him. I don't want more tax cuts for the rich, bigger deficits, a continued reliance on oil energy, more wars, less diplomacy, and a continuation of the existing health care approach. I want change. I hope Obama can convince the rest of the country tonight.