February 18th, 2009
09:26 AM ET

Dear President Obama #30: No receipt, no refund!

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.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

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.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Joe Byron

    Mr. President,
    I thought before the election you were inexperienced and totally clueless. After a little more than month in office, is there any doubt? You said the American people, by virtue of your election, proved hope was chosen over fear, but the fear factor is exactly the ploy used to get this rediculous package rushed through Congress. Have the intestinal fortitude to show the American public the entire content of the pork laden so called stimulus plan. Forget FDR!! Look a plan that worked-Ron Reagan's

    February 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  2. Don, WA

    It has been said that "hunger is a great motivator." That seems to relate to what you're saying about human nature and not making it too easy for the banks and such. But more importantly it may also relate to that bowl of chili at Ben's you offered the president...make it a small bowl huh.

    February 18, 2009 at 8:40 pm |
  3. Peter Barrows Workman

    Mister president
    From before the founding fathers; all Judaic christian governments; have ignores the following words of Christ:

    Matthew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

    I demand, for the good of the world; you become a real world leader; remove the division from this country; as a pattern to have all other nations Follow! For the world is approaching desollation!

    February 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Lorelei

    Dear Mr. President,

    We know of several people that are going into foreclosure but no one person or the American Public is talking about their true feelings with the economy . Our mortgage payment is 1218.00 per month and we are current and have been for some time. Out of the 1218.00 payment we pay 637.00 in interest the rest goes of the 581.00 left over goes into the insurance , property taxes and principal. Our current rate is 6.75% on a thirty year note. We calculated that we pay 14616.00 a year in house payments and 7644.00 goes to interest directly to the mortgage company or the bank the remaining 6972.00 out of that about 2000.00 goes towards the principal.
    Now who is being taken advantage of !!!!!! The American public we have all the banks crying wolf and the Goverment wants the American Public to bail out the wolves that paid themselves with million dollar bonuses.
    At the same time these banks want to kick the American Public out of their homes and still continue to ask us to pay for a home for thirty years so they can continue to line their pockets.
    What is the answer to this problem? Hmmm Well!!! Let's See!!!!
    There are five things that the American Public needs for survival.
    Shelter a roof over their heads.
    Money to spend.
    It is not rocket science you lower the interest rates so that people can afford to pay the mortgage.
    This will enable us to be able to feed our families.
    Stop these big corporations that are asking for hand outs like GM for 21 more billion dollars do not enable them to shut down manufacturing plants or send jobs overseas while we the American people become homeless and starve.
    Gm stated that they would be closing 47 more plants world wide then why do they need me to bail them out.
    I do not want to support anyone that does not support our economy and I am sure that I am not the only one that feels that way about this current situation.
    Gm needs to start competing making smaller cars that are green not gas guzzlers.
    With a lower house payment and food prices and an effective work force ( This means putting people to work) the public would have more money to spend to stimulate the economy.
    What really gets to me Mr. President is that I have no confidence in our goverment it has nothing to do with you personally.
    I feel very let down as a citizen that when push comes to shove we the American People are the ones being knocked down.
    Never mind all the crooks on Wall Street or AIG or CITI or GM or Fannie Mae Or Freddie Mac etc........ or the million dollar bonuses some of these individuals paid themselves if it were some poor blow Joe we would be in handcuffs.
    Last but not least !!! Where is the money? Why are you handing out more money to these banks that are not making loans.
    Regulate the banks, find out who have their hands in the cookie jar.
    We the American Public cannot make the same mistake twice and look away anymore because we don't want to bother with such things.
    President Obama if you get to read this blog don't forget if you get overwhelmed with all that is going on and people want you to quick decisions? Don't. Ask for divine guidance from God, look up, he will steer you in the right direction and trust that his plans are for the good of all.

    February 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  5. Jack Flannigan

    Good advice, keep the receipts for future accounting. That certainly works well (actualy it is an absolute given) down here at my level and in our household. 'Twould be refreshing if the federal government had the same policy. Hey, if it works well with a moderate income and in a medium sized business it just might work at your level Mr. President.

    February 18, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  6. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    So let it be said; so let it be written; so let it be done--–and now we wait for the cuase and effect to happen.

    February 18, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  7. Kevin Austin

    Thank you Mr. President!! Keep up the good work???

    February 18, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  8. JJ McCanna

    Copies to The White House, Sen Reid, MSNBC, CNN

    One of my ideas for job creation:

    I want the US to run 3 to 4 lines of 30” diameter steel pipe from the Pacific Ocean to the Nevada Nuclear Test site where a desaltation plant, a nuclear power plant, and 6 to 12 each multi story hydroponic garden and fish life tank skyscrapers will be constructed. My plan is funish all of Southwestern US with electricity, water and food.

    This plan will require engineering piping design, environmental planning, thousands of tons of steel, Nuclear Power Plant engineering and design, desaltation plant design, and hydroponic skyscraper design.

    The fish life serves two purposes, fertilizer for the plant life and food for the population. These skyscapers can be researched in Popular Science magazine archieves since the idea is many years old.

    I won’t elaborate here, but this idea will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and could be duplicated in 3 to 4 other sections of the country as well as in Africa and other areas of the world where populations are suffering from drought and starvation.

    If you carefully analyze this idea you will realize that jobs from just about every field of endeavor will be created, skilled as well as unskilled labor, light construction as well as heavy construction, engineering, science, physics, trucking, as well as manual labor. You name it opportunity for all is involved.

    JJ in NV

    February 18, 2009 at 9:47 am |