Reporter's Note: President Obama says Americans should help with ideas about how to run the country. One of my favorite indoor sports is giving advice, so I am writing a letter every day.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Well, I must say, even though it has taken a few weeks, I feel as if you and I are making a connection!
I said you should stand tall for what you believe in, whether or not others follow (Letter Four); and bingo, you slam through your stimulus bill despite grumbling from both parties. I suggested you spend more time among normal Americans (Letter Ten), and pretty soon you were cavorting around the country like a member of the Wally Byam Caravan Club. I exhorted you to lay off the fear talk a tad (Letter Twelve), and darned if you didn’t sound more optimistic when you did the big signing ceremony in Denver.
Maybe we just think alike, or maybe all of this is obvious advice, but for the moment I am going to sleep well thinking that I’m doing my part to help our country too. (Only without the big house, the private jet, the security posse, and Joe Biden trailing me everywhere. BTW: You’ve looked a little annoyed when he’s around lately. Has he been punking your basketball game?)
Anyway, sensing the depth of our growing relationship, I want to forge right ahead with my latest suggestion: Start keeping your receipts.
In 1982, in a different recession, I spent a lot of time visiting state and local government agencies. Every story I wrote ended the same way: They say they need money. Then, when it became clear they weren’t going to get any, I started asking, “OK, but without the money, what can you do?” And suddenly I began hearing all sorts of great, innovative plans to respond to recessionary times beyond just waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon a’comin’ down the street.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand the economic theory that says we should spend buckets of money, if we want to get the old economic jukebox cranking again. But with the signing of the stimulus bill, as so many of these political pundit types keep saying, you’ve started to “own” this problem. That means, for good or bad, you will be held more and more accountable for how all this money is spent. And with all those hands out, it would be awfully easy to drop a few nickels in places you might later regret. On top of that, if too many people start feeling the money is too easy, human nature suggests some of them and their agencies will stop trying to be innovative; they’ll just wait on the check from their rich Uncle Sam. And what if the money just plain runs out? Aren’t we going to need a lot of clever people with some non-monetary ideas to solve our problems?
Again, I’m not saying spending all this money is good or bad; that is for you and your political pals to hash out. What I am saying is remember, when it is time for taxpayers to run the audit, your political checkbook will be on the table.
Want to meet for a bowl of chili at Ben’s? I’ll buy!
Call when you can.
For more of the Foreman letters, click here.
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