I wish we could give President-elect Barack Obama at least two or three weeks to revel in his extraordinary historic November 4 victory. Unfortunately our incoming president is going to have to go to work almost immediately - giving a whole new meaning to the phrase 'ready on day one'!
The cabinet has to be chosen. My suggestions for some of these positions would be, Tom Daschle, former Senator from South Dakota, Chief of Staff; Tom Corzinne, New Jersey Governor Secretary of Treasury; although it probably won't happen, Duvall Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts as Attorney General.
But I think that issue number one that has to be tackled as soon as he gets to work is employment. I believe it not only has to be an immediate hit (like a public works program), but it has to be long term.
It appears that the job picture may be more dismal than we imagine. The 'bad news; worst news' picture in September was A) the unemployment rate has grown to 6.1%. It means we've lost more than 760,000 jobs since January. B) the worst news is, the economy's in the tank!
The idea that if you give businesses a tax break, they'll use the money saved to create new jobs has not only been disproved by the past eight years (worker productivity up, job growth tenuous and vulnerable, wages stagnant); but it has also been shown by what banks have been doing with the $700 billion worth of bailout money.
No, our new president has to help create business opportunities for existing companies that result in the demand for new workers and create an atmosphere for entrepreneurial development in sectors of the economy that are currently underdeveloped.
One place to start is with the environmental industry.
We can't be fooled by slumping oil and gas prices (although, I have to admit it has been a huge relief!). The green collar jobs arena is both critical in helping to stimulate the economy and the redevelopment of our inner cities, as well as protecting the environment. This means that his appointments to the Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, even Secretary of the Interior and Department of Agriculture all become crucial in this regard. It will take creative synergies between these departments in order for this to be successful and comprehensive.
Our outgoing President is going to leave President Obama with a full plate of crucial issues. 'Most important' is going to be in the eye of the beholder and depend on circumstances that we won't know until January 20. But getting this country back to work with jobs that enable families to envision a stable future is crucial, and protecting our environment is key to the health of our planet and critical to the growth of our economy. Public investment in the environmental sector enables our country to impact all three.