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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So Exactly What Change is Obama Planning On?

So Exactly What Change is Obama Planning On?

         In the American democracy, we are in a debate about ideas.   In the world of Washington, think tanks are where these ideas are tested, propagated, blogged and released to the media.  So what is a think tank?   According to a research study authored by Dr. James McGann of the Think Tank and Civil Societies Project,  “Think tanks are public policy research, analysis and engagement institutions that generate policy-oriented research, analysis and advice on domestic and international issues that enables policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy issues. Think tanks may be affiliated or independent institutions and are structured as permanent bodies, usually a non-profit organization or foundation.”   For more info on the Foreign Policy Research Institute

         Quick highlights from Dr. McGann’s research on think tanks:  Over 5,000 worldwide, of which 1776 are in the United States, and 91% of these policy influencing organizations were created in the last 50 years.  The United States based think tanks make up about one third of the world’s think tanks.  Among the top thirty think tanks in the United States (as per research by Dr. McGann published under Routlege Research in American Politics, 2007), include the well-known organizations such as the Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute, Brookings Institution, Heritage Foundation, RAND, Urban Institute and the infamous Council on Foreign Relations.

What kind on budget and staffing levels do these think tanks have? University of Michigan has great web resource including direct links to home pages to think tanks. Some examples include the Brookings Institute  (founded in 1927, staff of 400, annual budget $48MM), the conservative Heritage Foundation (founded in 1973, staff of 200, annual budget $60MM), the American Enterprise Institute (founded in 1943, staff of 190, annual budget $28MM). 

So what exactly is meant by “Change Has Come to America?  (President Elect Obama’s opening line of his election night address)Let’s look at one of the progressive (liberal) think tanks in Washington DC, which 8 days after the election of Barack Obama, released the Blueprint for the new administration.   It can be found at or you can order online from    The US think tank behind this Obama blueprint is the Center for American Progress.     According to their web site, the CAP organization was founded in 2003 and is headed by Chicago native John Podesta.    Mr. Podesta is a former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton and (surprise) was recently appointed by Barack Obama as the head of his President-Elect transition team.   (See Fox News for interview transcripts)   If you’d like to check out John Podesta’s writing (as a liberal progressive), the CAP website has many of his “progressive” white papers.

         Back to the Blueprint.   Here are some pull quotes from the Obama “change book”.   Not exactly conservative policy positions.   The old tired “liberal Democrats policies” are now being recast as “progressive”, thanks to the work of the Center for American Progress.   Here is Obama change, in a politically progressive style we can believe in:

 On immigration, change means “in the short term, the 44th president must shift focus away from destructive workplace and neighborhood raids, and focus instead on abusive employers. This shift should be accompanied by an overhaul of the immigration detention infrastructure” Cecilia Muñoz, a noted immigration expert.

On voting, along the lines of Obama’s favorite group (ACORN) and other voting rights groups, and we quote from the Blueprint: In voting, the new president should lead the fight for universal voter registration, which would add up to 50 million American citizens to the rolls. He should also fix electronic voting and push for public funding of elections, with an emphasis on boosting the power of small contributors. And he can use the bully pulpit to urge the states to curb gerrymandering after the 2010 census and to move to a national popular vote for president. Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

         On health care, moving to socialized single payer system Making health coverage affordable would expand it, and covering all Americans would, after an up-front investment, reduce system costs. Jeanne Lambrew, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

         So according the Center for American Policy (CAP) blueprint for the 44th President, we are recycling liberal big government ideas from the 20th century under President’s Johnson, Carter and Clinton, and promulgating them as 21st “Change” Obama style.    Actually progressive policies is the term being used, as “liberal” is now out of favor, probably because the American people remember how most of the big government, higher tax “liberal policies” don’t work very well.  The “New Deal” of FDR is an old deal, being recast at the “New Deal” Obama style.   (See the recent Time magazine cover of Obama type cast as FDR)

         Seeing that recycling is a good green approach to the waste paper stream, it is good to see the progressive policies being championed by the Obama transition team that are simply recycled ideas from the last century.    We’ll see if they work (or don’t) this time around.

© 2008, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media,


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