On walking AND chewing gum and the economy

The mantrum of the last few weeks is that Obama must focus only on the budget and, either explicitly, or implicitly drop a focus on climate change, energy independence, green jobs, just to name a few. The idea repeated through the right wing echo chamber is apparently that it is possible to do only one thing at once, that only once the most pressing thing on the list is completed is it possible to move to item number 2. And then 3. And then 4. . . .

Here are just a few examples of this new anti-Obama campaign
March 15, 2009 On Fox:

“They’re trying to do entirely too much and not focus on the job at hand.”
McConnell, speaking on “This Week,” indicated his party would not have a comprehensive budget alternative. Rather, he said Republicans would offer amendments to “reframe” Democratic prescriptions for the country’s ailing economic health.

Fareed Zakaria on CNN January 23, 2009

Zakaria: Oh, without question, the economy. This is a problem that isn’t going away. Banks are still reporting large losses, credit remains tight, home prices continue to fall.

It’s difficult to tell whether the measures enacted have not had time to work, or that they are not working. But the basic reality remains — the financial system is in crisis, and as a result, the American economy is in a dangerous paralysis. President Obama needs to focus like a laser beam on this issue above and beyond everything else.

March 9, 2009 CNN Money with Peter Peterson: Obama must focus on the economy.

The story revolved around a poll that demonstrated that the American people demand that Obama only focus on the economy, though it appears not necessarily to mean that. It might just mean people are most worried about the economy. But are also worried about many other things, just not as worried at the time survey was done.

In fact, in another earlier take on this survey, CNN’s story on March 5 was: Obama must focus on economy

Voters recently surveyed say the economic crisis should be the president’s priority, not health care or other issues.

But, again, was that really what was meant at the time the survey was taken or under all circumstances.

And most recently, we have the sports angle on this issue: Coach K on Obama: He should focus on the economy

This argument about a president’s having only one focus might have a certain appeal to the Far Right, given that this is the party of Bush, who could not watch TV and eat pretzels at the same time. Or it might have a certain appeal, because it means giving up any focus on new policies the Far Right does not want but that The People said they did want when they elected Obama.

And it is true that this argument might have a seeming plausibility for the average person. But I trust that most of us know this is one of the silliest arguments around. Here are some reasons why ordinary people know President Obama can walk and chew gum and attend to many issues at the same time.

Mom / Dad Reality

First, let me suggest that our basic experience is with parenthood demonstrates a reality we all know. Life makes us multi-task. The reality is: If we waited till the dinner was fixed (as the most pressing item) to start the laundry, pay the bills, check on what the kids are doing upstairs, and answer the phone, we would be living a totally disfunctional life.

The average person can multi-task, nay, must multi-task. If we can do it, then we expect the President to do it as well.

Yes, the budget and economy are major concerns. But so is healthcare, education, the environment, food safety, and much, much more. We need to have all of it paid attention to.

Fortunately, the President is not a “single parent” dealing with a chaotic household. He has lots of good helpers and can delegate the work to many assistants.

Synergy and Multitasking

Second, consider the average person who would actually try the recommendation of the Right Wing echo chamber and focus only on the person’s economy and nothing else. So our every person tries to earn as much money as possible, pay down debts, get the best interest rates possible, and so on – while letting go of other issues. So out of sight and out of mind are making certain that the house is ready for winter, that the furnace is repaired and the storm windows on. And also out of sight is going to the dentist and the doctor for a checkup. And the car is not taken in for an oil change – and the oil levels are not even checked. And the car and drivers licenses are not renewed, nor isthe care insurance.

Obviously, this person is headed for financial disaster when a tooth cleaning is not done and cavities and gum disease result in huge bills. And the heating bills will by sky high if the house is not prepared for winter. The car engine will seize, and let me tell you from personal experience, that is very bad and very expensive. And not renewing the licenses or car insurance can eventually lead to additional problems.

In other words, such a laser like focus on only one issue will exacerbate the very problem supposedly focused on.

So, too, if Obama does not pay attention to the healthcare crisis, to climate change and the health of the environment in general, to education, to the environment, to food safety, to all of it, the tab will be very high. If we are to dig out of the economic disaster we are in, he must pay attention to it all.

Most idiotic of all, the bloviators talk as if you could fix the economy in a vacuum. What that means is beyond me. What Obama is doing makes sense. He is taking that money and using it for many things, each of which has a different impact. But one big part of that impact is making us better off financially and economically. We will more likely come out of this mess sooner if and because money is spent on real things – on building infrastructure – both physical and intellectual. We will also have a better future once the economic meltdown ends if money has been spent for these things.

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