‘Radical’ economic reform within Obama’s reach

As president, Barack Obama could radically transform the United States economy, but his policies aren’t progressive enough — at least not yet, according to journalist Robert Kuttner, author of “Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency.”

In his book, and at a labor delegate caucus panel Aug. 26, Kuttner explains the parallels between Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to combat the Depression and the current economic situation, and describes potential solutions for the economic woes that Obama will have on his hands if he is elected this fall.

While Obama was in some ways more conservative than his primary opponents Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Kuttner sees the potential for radical change under Obama — along the lines of a $200 billion economic recovery package that is far more pro-active than simply tax cuts and rebates.

“Sometimes Obama has a gift of intuitively knowing how to talk about what ails Americans and sometimes he just goes hope-y, and I think he’s got to do both things,” said Kuttner, adding that he had seen the presidential candidate do just that in a March 27 speech on the economy.

If Obama is willing to take up a progressive agenda, which would include investments in renewable energy, human services jobs and education on a scale too massive to normally be seriously discussed in liberal circles, he could persuade the American people to go along with a revolutionary plan, Kuttner argues.

While this is a radical approach to reinvigorating an American economy that is obviously plagued by problems, it would not be unprecedented, Kuttner says, pointing to how FDR and Abraham Lincoln both took bold steps to address the nation’s problems.

“In every single case, what needed to be done was more radical than the conventional wisdom,” said Kuttner, the co-founder and editor of The American Prospect.

The rising cost of health care and energy, along with shaky markets, less money in Americans’ savings accounts and more debt on their credit cards might convince the American people to take a chance on radical economic reform, according to another member of the panel, which was sponsored by the AFL-CIO.

“The American economy isn’t working for the working people,” said Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

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