Yay we won!
Now we're in the driver's seat and the problems coming down the road are much bigger, scarier and implacable than any we've seen in our lifetimes.
In my experience there's only one way to drive out of a fiasco -- fast and in the right direction.
It's not the time for half-measures and Dean Baker has a great idea, healthcare:
President Obama has the opportunity to establish himself as one of the truly great presidents in his first days in office. He can take advantage of the current economic crisis to announce plans to jump start national health care insurance. Extending health care insurance can be an effective stimulus that will provide an immediate boost to the economy.
More importantly, it will provide the same access to health care that people in other wealthy countries have long taken for granted. For this accomplishment, President Obama will rank alongside Presidents Roosevelt and Lincoln as one of the nation's truly great presidents.
The backdrop is straightforward. Economists from across the political spectrum are now calling for a large stimulus package to limit the economy's decline and the rise in unemployment. The consensus is in the range of 2.0-2.5 percent of GDP, or $300 billion to $400 billion a year.
And if that sounds pie-in-the-sky, check this NYT op-ed from Bob Rubin and Jared Bernstein:
The Bible got this right a long time ago (paraphrasing slightly): there's a time to spend, a time to save; a time to build deficits up and a time to tear them down. Though one of us (Mr. Rubin) is often invoked as an advocate of fiscal discipline, we both agree that there are times for fiscal discipline and times for fiscal largess. With the current financial crisis, our joint view is that for the short term, our economy needs a large fiscal stimulus that generates substantial economic demand.
We also jointly believe that fiscal stimulus must be married to a commitment to re-establishing sound fiscal conditions with a multi-year program that includes room for critical public investment, once the economy is back on a healthy track.
One of us (Mr. Rubin) views long-term fiscal deficits -- in combination with a low national savings rate, large current account deficits and foreign portfolios that are heavily over-weighted in dollar-dominated assets -- as a serious threat to long-term interest rates and our currency and, therefore, to our economic future. The other views these economic relationships as much weaker.
At the same time, we both agree that our economic future also requires public investment in critical areas like education, health care, energy, worker training and much else. In our view, then, the next president needs to proceed on multiple tracks, with both the restoration of a sound fiscal regime and critical public investment.
Can we get out of this crisis? Can we do the things we need to do to help those in need -- especially the state governments that actually do so much of the public service work in this country?
Do I really have to ask the answer to that question, today of all days?
YES WE CAN.