As a conservative, I'm grateful that Obama isn't picking the sorts of people I feared he would. Some of us half expected Che Guevara T-shirts to be the unofficial dress code of the Obama Cabinet. Yet, so far, with all of the Wall Street cronies, Clinton retreads and Bush holdovers, it appears Obama's far more of an agent of the status quo than an agent of change. That's a relief compared with how bad it might have been, but it's also a shame considering what could be.
For example, Obama says he doesn't want spending as usual when it comes to formulating his impending mother of all stimulus packages. (Estimates vary from $500 billion to $700 billion, but who knows how high that number will go?)
So far, all we know for sure is that he wants massive increases in infrastructure "investment." That's fine with me, so long as it's the infrastructure we need (though history shows such expenditures usually come on-line well after a recession is already over).
But rather than blow money on a lavish re-enactment of the New Deal, or continue bailing out undeserving corporations, why not really think outside the box? Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) suggests an across-the-board reprieve on paying 2008 income taxes. This would leave an extra $1.2 trillion in the hands of Americans, who are the best stewards of their own money. Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Mundell proposes a one-year moratorium on corporate income taxes in order to stimulate investment, job creation and the like. That wouldn't be as popular, for understandable reasons.
The details can be negotiated, but this sort of approach would certainly create more jobs and spur more consumer demand than paying for a lot of asphalt. It would buy a lot more prosperity than any corporate bailout. Politically, it could buy Obama and Congress a year to formulate a serious tax-reform proposal. And -- here's the amazing part -- it would be much cheaper than what we've spent already.