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March 4th, 2009
04:35 PM ET

Dear President Obama #44: Let's pop over to the pub

Reporter's Note: When the President asked normal Americans for suggestions on how to run the country, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting a letter a day from me. That, however, is what he is getting.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Good to see you sitting down with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talking economics. I know a lot of folks might think that sounds about as exciting as plowing through amortization tables, but I find it encouraging despite that strange Brit habit of calling cookies “biscuits.”

Why? Because, as I like to say, globalization is about a lot more than cheap sneakers.

As much as our fellow Americans are worried sick over the economy here, I am pretty convinced what happens with the economy over there matters almost as much. Over the past few decades we have intertwined our American economy more and more with the lives of people on distant shores. Whether they are making things cheaply for us, or buying things we make, we’ve strapped ourselves into the same economic straightjacket and I’m not sure we could pull ourselves apart if we tried.

Plenty of folks are unhappy about that, and plenty of others say it was inevitable; but opinions either way won’t change the facts: Here we are, and all we can do is try to work our way forward as best we can. And have you looked lately at how many other countries are launching their own big stimulus plans? Germany, China, Italy, Spain, France, the EU, just to name a few. The simple truth is, even if our stimulus works like a charm, if their plans tank we could still be in for a world of hurt. So making friends on the foreign front is probably not a bad idea.

That said, I must warn you that it’s going to be tricky. One of the easiest mistakes for a world traveler to make is to assume that every culture, in some fundamental way, is like his or her own. That’s true to a point: most people in this world want some degree of peace and prosperity; they love their children, enjoy a good meal, and at one point were glued to Baywatch. But beyond that, the cultural and economic interests of others do not always mesh as well with ours as we might think. We like oil from the Saudis, for instance, but deplore their views on women. We enjoy inexpensive manufactured goods from the Chinese, but cringe at their record on human rights.

My point is whether those issues are something we want to tangle with or not, the more tightly we bind ourselves to other cultures through our economics, the more likely we are to be drawn into their often troublesome political landscapes. We may have little choice but to make certain deals now; but just like using a credit card, we can’t make the mistake of thinking the bill will never come due.

Hey, next time PM Brown comes around, call him Murphy…see if he gets the joke. Ha!

Call when you can.

Regards,

Tom

For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. N

    I hope he also talks to Mr. Japan and Mrs. France, they too, know what they are doing.

    I wonder if he was embarassed. At one point in time we were the popular kids in the global class, now we are almost at the point of being desperate. Call him Murphy? ha ha ha that was good.

    March 4, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  2. Kim

    A few VOC's,HZS,NH3's with 25 cent a pig and you've got Iowa State University on Pig Odor research ! Go Iowa State University ! What's the next ear mark ?

    March 4, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  3. Paul

    Why did we let Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, he is NOT our President?

    March 4, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  4. Jody Reed Alpena Michigan

    We have to start somewhere. There is so much work to be done and our new president is working. Imagine if everyone started to work at this mess, well? It might actually get cleaned up. It takes a village.and in this case it is going to take the world.

    March 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  5. Kim

    Will the Pig Odor research work for the smell ? How are they going to make a pig farm smell good ? 9000 ear marks ? That's to many and Hello Joe ! Tom Harkin made his point and people are trying to sell homes near pig farms in Iowa. What company is on the solution for pig odor research ?

    March 4, 2009 at 8:35 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    Tom

    Good letter. It seems like globalization isn't all that its cracked up to be, doesn't it? I doubt we will ever get to the point where our economy stands on its own again – we are too wedded to cheap products from overseas and cheaper labor from there. Our dollar isn't even doing that well right now – my daughter is in the British Isles this week and emailed me to say that the exchange rate is murder right now. It wasn't that long ago that the exchange rate favored us – not now though.

    March 4, 2009 at 8:27 pm |
  7. KatchProFILMS

    O.K. ... just one more... just one...concerning AIG - the humongous Stimulus Package and it's (re: insurance company's) recent acquisition of... what?! A 20 Bill "chunk" of that?

    O.K. ... now... going back to those "pedicures"... again, it is not clear to me... were those, indeed, "FISH pedicures"?

    (Again, as an American, I, clearly, have the right to know.)

    March 4, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  8. KatchProFILMS

    ps What a coincidence! A few years ago (in, around the R. King riots)... in Los Angeles, I was an Assistant Mngr To an Espresso/Continental Pastry shop (day job... incognito) on Wilshire Ave while preparing to do a crash Film course (aka: George Lucas) @ USC... well, then the "riots" happened... and that was that.

    But, you know (coincidently) ALL my clientele were primarily the Bay Watch people... cast/crew shooting from Santa Monica Boulevard/Beach. (They were VERY finicky - as you could well imagine... made me memorize their drinks. Trying.)

    (I am NOT going to sendthis... but, I might do it anyway. Who knows?)

    March 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  9. KatchProFILMS

    You know, the whole idea of a "World Bank"... or even just a few (re: USA) is, I think, a good one (we have WAY to many... like, maybe, 80% too many - banks).

    HSBC is a good bank (of that caliber; Canada).

    I've noticed renovation going on in a new Branch (re: HSBC) in downtown Seattle... I have ducked in (I'll certainly throw a chunk in).

    March 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  10. Denise Tunstall

    Dear Mr. President,

    I am truly happy to have you as our 44th President. At this point its not about being black or white, its about leading our country. I support you 100% and I stand by your resent decisions in regards to our economic state. Hey, I figure we need to try something different because it just might work. Just always be led by the God within you and never give in to the pressures and policies of every body else. You know what they say, "you can't please everyone all the time"!

    I pray daily for the protection of yourself and your family as I do for my own. I have faith that God will help you lead our country in the right direction.

    I also continue to believe that God will always bless America the greatess country I know!

    Godspeed, President Barack Obama!

    March 4, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  11. Um...David

    Someone must have been sick they day they taught math in school. 400 million Americans at 1 million dollars each does not equal $400 million dollars. $400 million dollars would give us each $1. Spend it wisely.

    400,000,000 x 1,000,000 = $400,000,000,000,000 NOT $400,000,000

    March 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  12. Maria

    A new regulation should be applied on Foriegn countries investing in USA.

    March 4, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  13. James in Nebraska

    @DAVID GARCIA

    400 million x 1 million is 400 trillion.

    I'm to the point where I don't think it matters what we do. The ball is rolling down hill so fast that we can't stop it. We just need to let it hit bottom and work with other countries to get each other up and running again. We're all in the same boat.

    March 4, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Todd

    Hi, my main question is concerning policies so far on giving all of these large companys billions of dollars to try an stimulate our country again, why not think about this for a minute and please let me know...

    Why not give every homeowner in the US who pay taxes and trying to survive with their homeownership who make less than $150,000 a year, a stimulate payment of atleast $40,000.00 so they can stimulate our country alot faster, since people like us can catch up on our mortages, taxes,bills, etc. then even if some of those people are already ok with their payments as such, maybe then they will go out and buy new vehicles and such, and jump start the economy alot faster then forking millions and billions to already very rich people...

    March 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  15. Mari, Salt Lake City

    @ Michael C. McHugh....... Kudos! Your comment is excellent. Why should we, the U.S. not want to work together for the betterment of the entire World? We are all in this together...... we fail...... everyone fails...... we succeed then everyone succeeds.

    I am amused by the GOP crying "the Socialists are coming!" Because, I am old enough to remember that they have ALWAYS cried "WOLF!"

    Here is a list of programs that the GOP called "socialist" :

    Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, Unemployment, Welfare, Public Housing, C.H.I.P. (healthcare for poor children), Minimum Wage..... to name a few.

    March 4, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  16. Patricia B. Martinez

    Lets go Barack! Cut taxes for the "OVER 65 MAKING LESS THAN $50,000". We will help you out by spending those taxes locally each in our own communities!

    March 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  17. Patricia B. Martinez

    I voted for Pres. Obama. One of the reasons was his oft repeated comment during the campaign that "over 65 making less than $50,000 a year will no longer pay taxes". I don't know how many of us there are, but this promise would give this retired 69 year old lady an extra $400 a month to fix my South Florida roof, fly to visit my grandchildren more than once a year, hire someone to cut my grass every month and go the the beauty parlor once in a while. Assuming there are enough of us surely these extra monies would make a good first step to shoring up our local economies. My little city is only 4 square miles, and I know at least 45 people in this category not even counting myself!

    March 4, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  18. donald barth

    You should be having more economists on and please stop the republican diatribes on the deficit. How do they think we got here! You need to be more fair in your reporting

    March 4, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  19. DAVID GARCIA

    OUR STIMULUS PLAN IS APPROX. 864 BILLION DOLLARS CORRECT. THE POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES IS APPROX. 400 MILLION.
    HELLO! WHY DOESN'T OBAMA GIVE EACH AMERICAN 1 MILLION DOLLARS. OF COURSE THIS ADDS UP TO 4OO MILLION DOLLARS. WAY BETTER THAN 864 BILLION! OR HOW ABOUT 2MILLION DOLLARS FOR EACH AMERICAN.YES THAT'S ONLY 800 MILLION DOLLARS, STILL BETTER THAN 864 BILLION.
    OF COURSE THIS IS COMMON SENSE THAT I HEAR NOBODY TALKS ABOUT. GIVE US THIS MONEY AND AMERICANS WILL STIMULATE THE ECONOMY, BY SHOPPING,BANKING,INVESTING IN STOCK MARKET AND EVEN BUYING AMERICAN CARS.

    March 4, 2009 at 10:30 am |
  20. Jim Carroll internet free press.com

    THE WARREN BUFFETS AND HIS KIND
    If the Warren Buffets and his kind can drive the
    STOCK MARKETS low enough, they will then
    buy up enough of it for a song; and they will
    become TRILLION AIRES.
    The best advice that I could give stock holders:
    don’t buy on margin, don’t sell your stock and
    buy as much as you can afford.
    Is there a conspiracy going on in the stock markets?
    What is going on in after hours trading?
    What kind of wheeling and dealing go on after the bell
    rings at four PM and everyone claps their hands wither
    the market is up or down? Who is watching the AFTER
    HOUR TRADERS?

    March 4, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  21. Don

    Big meetings, little talk.
    Where is the big talk?

    1. Trade imbalance, how do we balance trade to eliminate a currency drain of a trade deficit nation without the need to replenish its currency through increased debt with the trade surplus nation?

    2. Mark to market calculations, how do we prevent this calculation from creating a chain reaction of currency absorption within the global financial system needed to make balance sheets balance in lieu of lending that currency?

    3. Interest pyramid of the global economy, how do we eliminate the pyramid where new debt is required to provide currency in an economy which allows older debt interest obligations to be paid?

    4 Currency values, how do we charge interest to regulate inflation in an expanding economy vs paying interest back to regulate deflation in an shrinking economy?

    We fail to identify the biggest problems, so we surely cannot solve them. The other smaller problems almost disappear when the big problems are solved.

    March 4, 2009 at 10:17 am |
  22. m

    I think Americans have gotten a little full of themselves. Having traveled to many foreign countries, they aren't as in envy as people like to believe. They don't necessarily want to come to America for the lifestyle and other aspects as you might believe. In many cases it's because of the prosperity and to earn money to send back home for the sole purpose of survival.

    I was present when the Berlin wall came down and talked to a number of former East Germans. A large number of them said people were mistaken in believing they wanted to live in the west. They made it very clear they loved their country, but just wanted the freedom to see other places. However, they had no intention of leaving.

    The long and the short of it is don't confuse other countries wanting access to the wealth of America as wanting to be like us. If America wants to take credit for being THE world leader, then we have to take responsibility for THE world crisis. It's hard to deny that the collapse of our economy at the hands of greed and corruption has cascaded throughout the world. I hardly think it's something to be proud of.

    March 4, 2009 at 10:13 am |
  23. Michael C. McHugh

    I have been working in foreign countries for 14 years, so I know just how different all of us are in language, history, politics, culture, even with countries closely related to us like Britain, Ireland, Australia and Canada.

    We're not yet ready for one-world government, but we have to take some steps beyond the anarchy of laissez faire and competing nations, This is like the Progressive Era in the early 20th Century, when we set up the Federal reserve, Federal Trade Commission, put in an income tax and so on. Now we'll have to start putting institutions like that in place on the global level.

    I have no way of knowing what form those will take. People will be working on these global issues long after we're dead and gone. If we do set up something like a global reserve bank, then the developing countries will have to have a real say it how it's run. They will have to get some benefits from it.

    So will we. I definitely don't look at this Global New Deal as just some type of giveaway by the US. We need help, too. Frankly, we need a bailout of our own. We need some world central bank that will help us get out from under these huge debts that we will never be able to repay on our own. We couldn't raise taxes high enough to pay off trillions of dollars in debts.

    So if there's going to be a new global system, I want it to help America as well as other countries.

    March 4, 2009 at 10:00 am |
  24. Rachel

    Good Morning Tom
    I watched you last night it was a good analysis.

    But back to Mr. Brown and Mr. Obama meeting. This is what I say. Look I know we are in a hard times but this is what everybody likes about Americans and our presidents that is we are the greatest country in the world. But I have a problem with our president when it comes to how he is interacting with world leaders. He need to get used to the fact that America is the leader of leaders.

    What I am saying is despite the economy please do not make this a habit that not having a dinner or things of that nature. Look I am not saying that have expensive dinner but have a nice gesture that everybody is dreaming of being a part of history.

    Oh well have a hot dog and chips but keep the tradition.

    Tom When the president call would you please tell him my concerns you know me better than he does.

    Regards,
    Rachel
    Atlanta GA

    March 4, 2009 at 9:57 am |