Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama's Green Deal

What a sight to see our President-elect on Youtube no less announcing his plan for 2.5 million jobs over 2 years. It's as if he's in the White House now, jumping out of the block as the current occupant dithers and waits for Jan. 20. If GWB and DC aren't going to actually do anything except fill up the executive mansion with carbon dioxide, then why don't they just...leave!

Jobs are needed now. The financial markets are still on life support and aren't getting enough oxygen. The nation's infrastructure is crumbling. As Ernie Banks would say, "it's a great day for a ball game, let's play two!"

First, let's stop talking about the New NEW Deal. Obama is not FDR. He's a centrist Democrat with University of Chicago and Goldman Sachs economists behind him. Let him put a stamp on the "Obama GREEN Deal." Branding is everything in this marketing-driven culture. Right now, he's got it. He's the go-to guy. He's going to make the world forget about the Michael Jordan-Chicago connection.

Here's what I think the Obama brand should stand for in the Green Deal:

* Rebuilding infrastructure. New York's water tunnels are leaking up to 36 million gallons of water a day. Roads, bridges, tunnels, urban transit systems and sanitation plants all over the country need fixing. That will put a lot of people to work and provide a genuine public service over decades. This is not "make work" like the Works Progress Administration.

* Smart Grids. The way we get electricity is pretty much the system set up by Sam Insull in the early part of the 20th Century. It's haphazard, prone to breakdowns and needs to be attuned to our information age. That means delivering power to where it's needed -- automatically.

* Comprehensive Green Cars and Transportation Networks. I'm not one who subscribes to the "magic bullet" concept for fixing Detroit. Before you have plug-in cars populating our roads, you need smart grids, clean power, longer-life/lighter batteries, cheap solar charging stations and some other transportation options. What about fuel-cell buses? What about all-electric/maglev commuter trains? That's all part of the solution and it will take more than a Detroit bailout to rework the current melange of bad choices.

* Green Rehabs. Inner cities are desperate for decent-paying jobs rebuilding homes and apartments. Green housing is energy efficient, durable and costs less. Chicago alone has more than 10,000 vacant lots while leading the nation in murders. You want to break the cycle of gang violence? Give them decent jobs and a future. None of Obama's Green Deal plans will be a success in my book unless school kids can walk down the streets of Chicago unmolested and live to a ripe old age.

So the Green Deal is about more than jobs. It about more than rebuilding. It's a transformation from a country that wages wars to gain the illusion of national security to one that wages peace by making people take care of what we have and needs to preserve for future generations. How did we lose sight of that?

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