For instance, look at the most recent visible example of the work of governing that was accomplished outside the purview of Congress: the breakthrough agreement between the Administration and the American automakers to raise the fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg by the year 2025. In 2007 Congress enthusiastically passed a Bill raising the fuel efficiency standards to 35 mpg by 2020, the first such increase in 30 years and it was signed by President Bush. This new agreement between the Obama Administration and the automakers raises that standard by almost 20 additional miles per gallon! The agreement states that the standard can be re-visited later, but that’s not unreasonable given the amount of technological advances required to achieve the goal. It takes someone with more imagination than me to dream up a way our current Congress could have accomplished anything even approaching that significant an improvement. I doubt a new mileage standard could have even made it out of committee. And yet here we are with a newly minted benchmark for the future.
A Man With A Plan
One of the most dangerous threats to human life on this planet is Nuclear Proliferation. As someone who grew up being drilled to ‘duck and cover’ and hate the Communist Red Menace, the cultural programming of the Cold War required a focused conscious effort on my part to overcome. Large swaths of our population, and I suspect the populations of Russia and former members of the Soviet Union have never internally reset relations. It’s almost as if a part of our DNA was altered to make us preternaturally afraid of nuclear disaster. The importance of then Senator and now President Obama’s efforts to end Nuclear Proliferation can not be overstated. We often speak casually about how he sees the big picture. But he really does see the BIG picture and he knows the fate of all mankind is tied not only to the horrendous danger of the weapons themselves, but to the awesome hatred and insanity of those who wish to get their hands on those weapons to cause harm. I believe this is part of what drives him to eradicate Al Qaeda and any other terrorist organization with similar inclinations. To that end:
In April 2009, in Prague, President Obama spoke of his vision of a world without nuclear weapons even as he recognized the need to create the conditions to bring about such a world. To that end, he put forward a comprehensive agenda to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, reduce nuclear arsenals, and secure nuclear materials.
April 2009. Okay? In the fourth month of his Administration, President Barack Obama had the audacity to host theNuclear Security Summit, the largest gathering of Leaders of Countries (47) in America since 1945. From this Summit were produced two items: The Summit Communiqué and The Work Plan.
The Summit Communiqué in part does the following:
- Endorses President Obama’s call to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years, and pledges to work together toward this end;
- Calls for focused national efforts to improve security and accounting of nuclear materials and strengthen regulations – with a special focus on plutonium and highly enriched uranium;
- Seeks consolidation of stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium and reduction in the use of highly enriched uranium;
Highlights from the Work Plan are:
Ratifying and implementing treaties on nuclear security and nuclear terrorism;
Converting civilian facilities that use highly enriched uranium to non-weapons-usable materials;
Joint exercises among law enforcement and customs officials to enhance nuclear detection approaches.
This is an extremely ambitious undertaking that is being taken very seriously by the participating Nations. In December of 2010 it was revealed that 111 pounds of enriched Uranium had been repatriated to Russia from a total of 19 countries where it can be secured properly. The process continues; the stockpiles from 20 additional countries are undergoing this rigorous and dangerous process on a continuous basis. This is not renaming a Post Office or declaring National Corn Shucker Day. The only part Congress played in this was passing the Start Treaty.
The sheer size of the task of putting this Genie back in the bottle underscores the brilliance of the first steps that were taken to bring to consensus the political wills of forty-seven different world leaders. If Congress had been needed to accomplish more than just ratifying a treaty, none of this undertaking would have succeeded.
Changing Corporate Culture
One of the ways governing takes place in this Country is by moving Business and Industry to change how they do business. Lately I’ve been seeing a pattern of changes taking place initiated by the Corporations themselves, either because there are cost savings or profit to be made or because people who create the companies have a different outlook to begin with. I also believe that there is a general shift toward Corporations becoming Good Corporate Citizens. In part this change is directed by the need to attract younger workers who demand more accountability and less profit motive in their work environment. Even still, it’s not impossible to believe that the basic corporate genome model is being re-imagined for the future to work with government instead of against it.
A case in point is the Private/Public partnership to help fund the NextGen Air Traffic system by changing from land-based Radar to Satellite Air Transportation System. ITT will help fund equipment in cockpits while the FAA would fund the upgrades to equipment on the ground. This concept was hatched by ITT, not by the Government. The battle to fully fund FAA to give it the ability to upgrade will be fought in Congress, but this is hopeful. If successful this NextGen system will “…reduce environmental impact, decrease passenger delays and ease congestion.” I’m not saying the President has had anything to do with this directly, but the environment for private/public cooperation is promoted heavily by his Administration to create opportunities such as this. I find it hard to believe the Administration didn’t have something to do with, or at the very least is wholehearted in its support of this development given its stated desire to modernize commercial air travel, reduce greenhouse gases and reduce fuel consumption. The President recognizes that these upgrades have been talked about for 30 years and now is the time to get it done. Look for him to push the FAA Bill very hard in the coming months.
In another development, just this past month Wal-Mart, Supervalu and Walgreens agreed to open stores in areas considered food deserts in cooperation with the First Lady Michele Obama. Clearly Wal-Mart’s motivation is propped up by its desire to penetrate markets that have resisted their entry and they feel this is a way to curry favor with City Councils. This action alone won’t solve the problem of poor diet, but the process must begin somewhere and getting affordable produce into the neighborhoods can only help…and it will create jobs. What matters here is that if this problem had been approached legislatively, then it would have been doomed to fail or been years before anything could be implemented. Working around Congress is a viable way to get things done in this Country.
Another less recent feat of negotiating prowess was displayed when the President convinced British Petroleum Oil to pay $20 Billion to help with clean up and provide compensation for people affected by the Gulf oil spill in 2010. Think about that a moment. BP’s obligation was for 75 million dollars yet they agreed to pay more than 20 times that much! How does that even happen? If Congress had become involved in the process, we would have been lucky to get two billion much less twenty.
On the horizon is the new President’s Jobs Council, which has a goal of creating 1 million jobs in the next two years!
Part of the developing jobs plan by the Jobs Council is promoting tourism in the U.S., which is lagging behind other Nations. This is something that can create jobs now with a partnering of the Executive Branch and Business to do things like make it easier to get visas and improve aviation and promote the U.S. as a destination for the International traveler. Congress need not apply.
Train, Train, Train: 40% of engineering students drop out in the first year! The University of Michigan, however, retains 98% of the freshmen engineering students. High Touch Mentor program (sorry, I honestly can’t find good documentation on what that means), internship programs and jobs outreach programs that the Jobs Council will work to replicate at other schools will be a major asset in reaching the goal of tripling the number of engineers in the coming years. Plus there is a focus on creating a nationwide system to train people in advanced manufacturing skills (8 weeks of coursework plus 8 weeks of internship) to fill jobs with small businesses. Congress? Nope.
Small Business and Entrepreneurship are two big targets for the Jobs Council. A special emphasis has been placed on finding ways to make financing available for these major engines of employment. Attracting foreign investment, promoting exports of small business goods, and “…partner(ing) with banks to offer its small business suppliers financing based on invoices, allowing them to access working capital at government borrowing rates” are all significant steps that can be taken now to stimulate growth.
These are just some of the examples of how this Administration is working with the private sector and using the Executive Branch to continue the business of governing without relying upon the intransigent 112th Congress.
Our President and his Administration are getting important stuff done without the consent of any other Branch of government. He and his wife are using the gentle art of persuasion to bring to bear their considerable influence and amassing power at an alarming rate. This Administration isn’t filled with a bunch of good ole boys making secret back room deals that only benefit their pals. They are affecting real definable change to how things get done in this world in truly transformative ways to everything from rooting out waste in government to transparency to Foreign Policy.
The Obamas are the new Power Couple, and their sway over big business, industry and International popularity is making their opponents crazy. Literally. Yes, the opposition is far worse because they are Black, I get that, but beyond that is the very fact that the Obamas are an independent entity. They didn’t wait their turn; the rise to power didn’t travel the conventional path; they aren’t beholden to the establishment because they aren’t financed, either personally or professionally, by the über-wealthy. They answer to the American People. And they Govern just fine, thank you, no matter how hard their opponents try to stop them, stuff just keeps getting done.