Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Team of Whizzes

By BOB HERBERT

Barack Obama appears to have put together an extraordinarily competent team to cope with the crises abroad and at home — and to begin cleaning up the mess of the past eight years.
So why do I have this uneasy feeling?

Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Eric Holder, Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers ...
Competence is clearly trumping ideology in the next administration, and lord knows after two terms of Bush & Co. it’s time to get back to the idea of smart, capable people advising the president and executing his policies.

What I wonder is whether the members of this team, in addition to their grasp of the issues and success at achieving power, have a real feel for the needs of the people they are supposed to be representing.

I don’t doubt that they have the best of intentions. But the people at the pinnacle of power in Washington are encased in a bubble that makes it extremely hard to hear the voices of those who aren’t already powerful themselves.

On Monday, the president-elect introduced a national security team that will face a nightmarish array of challenges: the promised drawdown in Iraq; a worsening situation in Afghanistan; the crisis unfolding in India and Pakistan; and so on.

But it also has a responsibility to look out for the members of the military who are exhausted from years of valiant service. Many have served three and four (or more) tours in combat, and many thousands have been wounded in mind and body and are having a difficult time putting their lives back together.

So a challenge as important as the challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan is to send the message — and make it stick — that more Americans need to share in the sacrifices required to keep the nation and its interests secure.

President-elect Obama campaigned on the mantra of change. For years the federal government catered increasingly to the interests of the wealthy and the powerful. This reached a destructive crescendo when the ideologues and incompetents of the Bush administration came to power.
That is what needs to change.

Will this new Obama team, as brilliant as it appears to be, begin addressing on day one the interests of those who are not rich and who have not had the ear of those in power?

I think about the cops and firefighters and factory workers and schoolteachers and hospital aides and bank tellers and truck drivers who are having trouble making ends meet, hanging onto their homes, sending their children to college.

Will this new administration really be looking out for them?

One of the reasons the economy is so deeply in the tank is that ordinary Americans have not received a fair share of the economic advances of the past several years. You don’t hear much about this. Americans have been working harder and harder, and more and more efficiently (we are now the hardest working people on the planet, having passed the Japanese in this category), but ordinary workers have not been paid for this enhanced productivity.

As my colleague at The Times, Steven Greenhouse, pointed out in his book “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker,” published earlier this year:

“Even though corporate profits have doubled since recession gave way to economic expansion in November 2001, and even though employee productivity has risen more than 15 percent since then, the average wage for the typical American worker has inched up just 1 percent (after inflation).”

That was part of a pattern of gross unfairness that has been unfolding for some three decades. No wonder people have depleted their savings and maxed out their credit cards.

The crisis now, of course, is not that wages are stagnant but that the jobs themselves are disappearing. It’s not just change that the nation needs, but big change.

President-elect Obama has talked of a “new dawn of American leadership.” Three-quarters of a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt promised a New Deal and said his biggest task was “to put people to work.”

That’s as appropriate a cue as any for the next president. I hope Mr. Obama’s “new dawn” portends more than just a few nibbles around the edges of change. We need change that brings about more shared sacrifice in wartime and tough times, and a more equitable distribution of the nation’s resources all the time.

I want to know who in the Obama administration will be listening to the young girl on the South Side of Chicago whose future is constrained by a lousy public school, and the factory worker in Toledo whose family’s future has been trampled by unrestrained corporate greed and unfair trade policies.

All the evidence is that the next administration will be competent and smart as hell. Now I’d like to know for whom they plan to deliver.

How is the new administration going to listen to the people's concerns?
How might surrounding himself with Washington's Elite backfire?
Is the average person going to be represented in government? Do we want the average person represented?
Are the American people smart enough to truely govern themselves?

21 comments:

W Brown said...

How is the new administration going to listen to the people's concerns?

How might surrounding himself with Washington's Elite backfire?

Is the average person going to be represented in government?

Do we want the average person represented?

Are the American people smart enough to truely govern themselves?

M. Frank said...

By surrounding himself with Washington's elite, Barack Obama is risking the approval of the average American, who may feel that his administration doesn't care much for the average person. These people may not feel properly represented and fear that the elite members of his adminstration won't be looking out for them.
The average person will still be represented in the government by their senators and representatives. The average person doesn't know how to manage a stimulus package or a bailout, or a war in a foreign country. We have the right to express our opinion in our country and let our ideas be heard. If Americans dislike having the smartest and most knowledgable people running our country, they should let their voices be heard.

Anonymous said...

I happen to think that the advisers that Obama chose will be good but might come with some risks. For example if one of those advisers make a choice that can effect everyone in the U.S, it probably will.The bad part is if the choice the adviser is making is wrong for us and doesn't share it with Obama, we can be in great danger. To me, there is a trace of the average person in the government. In class Alex D. mentioned that theres at least one person that started out as a middle class citizen became one of those high class rich government officals. I one-hundred percent agree with him. Hands down. There are many people that start at the bottom and work there way to the top when it comes to every-day life.

-Ethan Rosenberg

Sanaa Elissa Awan said...

I believe that Obama's choices for his administration should be more diverse. He should select people of various classes so everyone is represented.

I disagreed with Matt B. in class today. He believes that experienced officials will be better in our government. I believe however that re-electing the same people will not give us new perspectives or give equal opportunity.

Any person could b out there trying to excel in life to get into office as well. If people keep that mentality there will not be change, which is definitely needed in our current economic crisis.

C.Jones III said...

Today in class my Matt made a good point by saying that Obama made a good choice by surrounding himself with the elite, because you need the best to teach people not just a random person. I agree with this because sorry to say but we as a Americans watch too many movies and think that the one that leads us should be from where we're from, or just like us and just because the rich is doing better than us, We don't think someone with more money than us should tell us what to do. But i think thats exactly who we need to listen to because they must have done something write if they have for filled the American dream. I think it's time for Americans to man up and listen because they made it to where you want to be and the only way to get there is with their help.

A. Hughey said...

Todays class was extremely interesting (especially about what Mr. Brown pointed out about us doing nothing as middl class men). but I have to agree with Cleveland when he said that we should let these rich politicials do their job. I mean like he said whatever it is their doing, their obviously doing it very well.. And i also had to disagree with Sanaa to a small extent. But she mentioned that America needed to be taught how to spend their money wisely. I had to laugh at that statement because truthfully America is very stubborn and no matter how much you teach and drill into them , in tghe end they are still going to do whatever they want. Thats why have of us are here to begin with, its a free country and we have the choice to do whatever we want with the money and earrings that we make.. And alot of people would say that if Uncle Sam can take money from their daily checks and put it towards the ecomony, then our help isnt really needed. It may not be true but thats just how Amercia thinks.......

Hemant S. said...

I honestly dont think that an average person can go into office and do a better job than the people that Obama chose. And for them not thinking about us, I don tknow if im right but I think that those rich people he chose get richer from us when we buy their products or something like that. I really dont know, but im thinking about Bill Gates. When we buy something from Microsoft, he gets money. So those guys will want to try and help us to help them. I believe it was Mr. Brown who was comparing Washington's Elite to sports. He said if we put all the best players in one team, it doesnt mean that they will be the best or something like that. We really dont know if thats true. Take the Boston Celtics. They brought in two players from another team, who happen to be the best player from that team, and added them. The Celtics now have three of the best players in the entire league and in that same year, the Celtics won the Championship. We really dont know what could happen. Those three guys wanted to be the best but all aim for the same goal.

a.potter said...

I agree with Alex and Ethan. No one is born a billionaire unless their parents are billionaires. People become billionaires by making smart choices. There are risks to having surrounding yourself with Washington's Elite. People will think no one cares about the average person because they are not rich like Bill Gates.

n.demetrius said...

I think it is good to have someone that is rich and can manage money well to be in the the new administration. Obama has promised us change, and if they aren't on the same page as him he will make sure they will be. From what I heard in class as well, I feel that we have to become smarter when managing our money as well, and not always looking towards the government to help us.

N. Budhu said...

I feel that President Elect Barack Obama is making the right choice in choosing Washington's elite. I agree with M. Frank that we need more than average people to run our country. The reason why such intelligent people who know their craft are going to help run our country is because they know what they're doing. I feel comfortable knowing that the country is in the hands of Washington's elite as opposed to having a cashier from the Home Depot running things.

a.pervaiz said...

After reading the article, I had agreed with what Alex had said when "Every normal citizen moves their way up, from middle class to High class". I happen to think that we should give the advisers that Obama choose a chance to see what they can do. It is a risk, but come to think of it, this risk can be a positive one. Even professional's can make mistakes and not have an idea sometimes, so why not give someone new a chance? Whenever choices are made, they should go over and think about it for another time, and see both the positive and negative aspects of the choice presented.

a.pervaiz

U. Cheema said...

I don't think Hillary Clinton will change one bit and continue to fight for the average person. She was a former First Lady/Washington Elite.

In Clinton's 2006 Senate re-election win she carried 58 of New York's 62 counties including 40 largely rural counties in Upstate New York. And also won 67 percent of the vote. In her political carrer she has always heard the voices of the average person.

Majority of the people President-Elect Obama is surrounding himself with have been part of the Clinton Administration. I doubt it will backfire and he'll bring the change needed on issues of the Econmy, Health Care, Energy, and Foreign Policy. I'm counting on his experience as a community organizer and helping out average people in Southside Chicago to be there with him in Washington.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that Obama is picking Washington's elite as his new administration. They can all do something and think up ways to help America, but I also think that maybe by doing this peoples' voices won't be heard. Some people are afraid that they might be ignored because the administration won't hear what they want to say. That may happen because most of them don't know what the average american goes through, but if Obama knows what he is doing by picking these people,maybe we should give them a chance and see what they can do for us. They should be able to see what we need and what we don't.

-j.canales

Matthew Barnett said...

As i said in class i still believe that Obama is doing the right thing. Obama is bringing change to the white house already by not electing all of his friends, but also electing opposite party members. Obama wants to fix this problem with the best set of people in the world that he can find. If the world wasn't in such a crisis then maybe he could've picked a couple of new people to work their way up in Washington. However since the world is in crisis and needs help fast i am all for picking an elite team, and i beleive that they will listen to the voice of the people because we control their future in 4 years to come. Picking this team is like being the boss of a company and wanting the "RIGHT PERSON,RIGHT NOW" beacause if u hire someone with little experience they're bound to make a mistake so u might as well hire the best the first time to do the job right.
Being surrounded by Washington's Elite will not backfire on him because their is no one there in dire need of money because they all have riches. The only problem he may have is controlling the clash of ideas and opinions. Since they wil have such high expectations the government will be in some ways forced to do the smart things, and also acknowlege the opinion of the average person.
I think not only the average person wants to represented becasue they need the help the most, but also America as a whole need improvement and help. We as America to me cannot really govern ourselves, but we need to make smarter decisions on who governs us.

L. molina said...

After reading this article I believe that Obama did make the right choice when he picked the officials, though I also feel that he should have chosen some average class people. This is because right now is when we need all types of change that'll actually help our country out. So if we have different groups of people throwing in ideas and working together we could actually have a change that'll benefit everyone in the country not just the high class but also the middle class and lower class. Meanwhile If we just have the high class people they wont really care about the lower classes or what will benefit the people they will be more focused on what will benefit them and forget about the average people’s voices.

L. molina said...

After reading this article I believe that Obama did make the right choice when he picked the officials, though I also feel that he should have chosen some average class people. This is because right now is when we need all types of change that'll actually help our country out. So if we have different groups of people throwing in ideas and working together we could actually have a change that'll benefit everyone in the country not just the high class but also the middle class and lower class. Meanwhile If we just have the high class people they wont really care about the lower classes or what will benefit the people they will be more focused on what will benefit them and forget about the average people’s voices.

k.weston said...

Barack Obama stated that when he goes into office he wants a “change”. The question is will place former Washington insiders in his cabinet will this constitute a change. My thought about this is that if he uses the Washington insiders then they will listen out to the voice of the people and they will try to provide based on what the peoples needs are with the guidance of our new president. Secondly his cabinet members are consisted of both democrats and republicans. This in itself is a change from the normal operations in Washington. This is an opportunity for both parties to participate in a bipartisan way in resolving issues concerning the people.

-k.weston

Melissa B. said...

Barack Obama surrounding him self with washingtons elite might backfire because he might think they probably are going to help with the problems we are going through.But i think they might turn around and do things do benifit themselves and the rich instead of helping out the midle class and the poor

Omar Francis said...

i think the new administration is going to have a hard time\ listening to the concerns of people because as we discussed in class they are all high class and richer so they are going to have a hard time relating to the middle and low class for they dont know the strugggle.it may back fire back on obabma because they might not listen to him.No the average american will not be represented.Yes the average american should be represented.

K. Singh said...

The discussion we had in class was very interseting. Many people had different opionions. But in my view I believe that Obama is doing the correct thing by picking Washington's elite as his new administration. I think it's a good idea because as a country wouldn't we want smart people who know what they are doing. I mean like we would rather have people who graduated from Harvard running the country then people regular joe's. It would make me feel safer and not worry as much about the country since we have people who know what they are doing handling the country. Some people say that this might be a risk, yea it might be but it's more of a reward then risk situation. I believe that Obama should be picking Washington's elite as his new administration.

t alexander said...

I think people are rich because of their parents. Nobody is rich by themselves. The people who is really smart and do hard work they might be millionaires. No one cares if you rich or poor. The people who makes choices to do right thing.