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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "The Next First (and Only) 100 Days": Running Hot and Cold on Obama

Thomas Friedman has become a bit mercurial of late.

Less than three weeks ago, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Go Big, Mr. Obama" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/opinion/friedman-go-big-mr-obama.html?ref=opinion), Friedman croaked paeans to the president:

"I voted for Barack Obama, and I don’t want my money back. He’s never gotten the credit he deserves for bringing the economy he inherited back from the brink of a depression. He’s fought the war on terrorism in a smart and effective way. He’s making health care possible for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and he saved the auto industry. This is big stuff."

. . . .

Go big, Mr. President. You will win, and so will America."

Today, however, in "The Next First (and Only) 100 Days" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-next-first-and-only-100-days.html?ref=opinion), Friedman appears to reverse course and voices disappointment with Obama:

"If we had a stimulus focused on 21st-century jobs, and a credible long-term fiscal reform plan, it would unlock the scale of investment we need to revive the employment market today and address the future. If Obama ran on that big plan, he would win and have an electoral mandate to implement it in his only 100 days. Sadly, he seems intent on playing small ball. He is capable of, and the country needs, much bolder leadership.

Oh, well. There’s always the first 100 days of 2017."

Disappointed by Obama's "small ball," but always ready with his own nifty answers to revive America's ailing economy, Friedman, quoting Harvard labor economist Lawrence Katz, calls for the creation of "hubs":

"We need to think of the future middle class as being generated not by factories 'but by hubs,' argues Katz. These are networked urban areas like Austin, Silicon Valley and Raleigh-Durham, where people learn, imagine and create value rapidly by combining universities, high-tech manufacturers, software/service providers and highly nimble start-ups that collaborate and compete to invent things that make people’s lives more entertained, productive, healthy, educated and comfortable.

. . . .

To spawn more of these hubs, big and small, any stimulus should focus on building telecommunications and infrastructure to support networked cities and on getting more young people access to vocational or college training."

Hubs to support networked cities such as Austin, Silicon Valley and Raleigh-Durham? Sounds a bit utopian to me. I wonder who will create the networking for Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Philadelphia, where Americans are "most likely to be murdered, raped, robbed or have their car stolen" (see: http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/LifeStages/americas-dangerous-neighborhoods-areas-violent-crime/story?id=11803334).

If either Obama or Newt is elected in 2012, I propose investing in pubs, not hubs.

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