Monday, January 19, 2009

Barack Obama and Managing Expectations

With the inauguration of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land – President of the United States – his clock starts ticking to turn the country’s economic situation around. But he has already been working to manage expectations. In his latest speech on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial (transcript here) he made his latest comment on the issue:

I won't pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our fundamental resolve as a nation. But despite all of this - despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead - I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure - that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.

While the country is becoming swept up into all the inauguration excitement and the pomp and circumstance, we all have to be cautious that we don’t expect the Obama administration to fix everything immediately. The economic problem the country is experiencing right now did not occur overnight, possibly even getting its beginnings in the Clinton administration and picking up a full head of steam with the Bush administration. I place a lot of blame on Alan Greenspan, whose tenure dates back to the Reagan administration, and who may have set interest rates too low and for too long during the George W. Bush administration.

We must give our new president the time he needs to make things right. How long? I have no idea. The United States didn’t pull out of the Great Depression overnight, and I suspect that while we may see some signs of recovery within the first year, I think there will still be some hard times ahead for at least Obama’s first full term. My biggest concern is with Congress, which has historically served as a roadblock to many good things that would serve the country well. If we hold anyone’s feet to the fire, it should be them.

But we also need to look at ourselves to look to make change. People must stop living beyond their means. Even if credit loosens, people should still be cautious and not spend money that they know they don’t have. The era of “he who dies with the most toys, wins” is over.

The inauguration doesn’t mean the work is over. It is only just the beginning.

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