Friday, November 25, 2005

DC: 2008 Dammit!

From the Rockford Register Star:

Sen. Barack Obama, already portrayed by the Washington press as the Senate equivalent of a rock star, has wowed his Democratic colleagues as well.

National Journal, a respected Washington weekly magazine covering politics and government, asked 101 members of Congress and 137 lobbyists, former government officials and other political insiders which politician has the greatest potential to become president in 20 years.

The answer: the 44-year-old freshman senator from Illinois.

Of the 89 Democrats who responded, 45 percent picked Obama, the Senate’s only black member, National Journal reported in its Nov. 11 edition. The second choice was “don’t know,” at 13 percent.

Some sample anonymous comments from poll respondents: “He’s a laser in a room of lamps,” and “He has the charisma and steady leadership qualities to make it to the White House.”

What is Obama doing to merit this hype?

Thinking outside the box for one.

From Salon:
On Nov. 17, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., introduced a "Health Care for Hybrids" bill that outlines a new approach for boosting fuel efficiency in Detroit. It would offer struggling U.S. automakers a voluntary but potentially enticing deal: relief from some of the high healthcare costs they pay for retired employees (expected to total more than $5 billion in 2005) in exchange for a commitment to reinvest at least half of those savings in the development and manufacture of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The U.S. auto industry has long complained about these healthcare costs, portraying them as an undue financial burden that their competitors in countries with nationalized healthcare systems don't have to bear. Healthcare expenses currently account for about $1,500 of the cost of every General Motors car.
The tying of fuel economy to healthcare has been described as a "stroke of genius":
Typically, the Federal government influences investment decisions through tax credits. But, in order for tax credits to work you have to have something to tax. Companies posting losses -- and the Big 3 are billions in the red -- pay no taxes and therefore receive no benefit from a tax credit.

Senator Obama and Congressmen Inslee have recognized these companies are circling the drain, and with them our national economy and energy security. Their stroke of genius is in connecting the dots: Decreasing oil consumption is clearly a top national priority but it will not happen without a national investment. While the Big 3 have the technology and know-how to build the cars, trucks and SUVs that consumers love while providing the fuel economy they now demand, at this moment in history Detroit simply does not have the financial strength needed to transform its fleet quickly enough to survive.

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