There were mp3 players long before Apple made the iPods hip; but it took iTunes to make youngsters really adopt and take on the music industry's entrenched hubris. Why? Because Apple made it easier and simpler to interface with a need. I believe Barack Obama plans to do something similar with government if he is elected President.
Download over the firewall:
First of all Barack is a technology savvy guy who doesn't hesitate to interact with close advisers and friends via. email. He's also an avid technology adopter who does indeed use the iPod and it's his own selection from the iPod that gets played at campaign events. So, as a customer of services, he understands what ease of usage means.
And who are the likes of people that he corresponds with? Warren Buffett, UBS CEO Bob Wolf, Paul Volcker, George Soros, Austan Goolsbee, one of his economic advisors, and a host of other advisors. These advisors are sounding boards for Barack's policy points. For example, Barack has often quoted Warren Buffett as being supportive of rolling back the Bush tax cuts and increasing taxes on the top tier of wealthy Americans who end up paying less taxes than the average Joneses. I believe behind this simple to understand statement of policy - what others have called hopemongering speechifying that is short on specifics - is the urge to "keep it simple stupid" so that everyone understands what the ideas are and will have less of a problem accepting or rejecting the policy than if harangued through a boring dissertation of policy from a public pulpit. Kind of like the iPod makes it easy to download music without having to worry about the code behind itunes and the mp3/4 protocols.
Similarly, his statements on "investing in you so that you invest in America" by providing an annual $4000 college rebate are also aimed at simplifying policy in an understandable way so that the iPod generation downloads the message and understands it better than if someone like Hillary or McCain went professorial at them.
Union labor, earned income tax credits, alternative fuel, social security fixes, health care fixes will all be on his agenda and I am sure at some point he will come out with more specfics.
Obama sponsored a bill to give shareholders a nonbinding proxy vote on executive pay. Obama voted for a free-trade pact with Peru that contained provisos to protect the Peruvian environment and Peruvian labor. That's popular stuff with the American left, but hard to take if you're a U.S. business owner who wants costs to stay low in your new Peru operation. And in a reflection of the Democratic Party's drift away from pure free-trade positions, Obama says he would look to amend the NAFTA trade agreement to add similar protections to the Clinton-era pact.
Other attempts at making government easier to deal with and make life easier for the average Joneses:
He joined forces with conservatives on bills designed to improve ethics and transparency in Washington. He voted for a bill in 2005 that made life harder for trial lawyers—a traditional Democratic constituency—by allowing defendants to shift cases more easily to federal court, which can be less favorable to plaintiffs. And he pushed an outside-the-box proposal that would help Detroit automakers pay legacy health-care costs on the condition they reinvest the subsequent savings into hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars. "His whole style of governing is less confrontational," says Bob Shrum, a long-time Democratic Presidential campaign strategist who's unaligned in 2008.
In addition to his core convictions, his band of advisors also prefer simpler solutions for complicated government proposals. Chief economics adviser Goolsbee
has shown a preference for making economic initiatives easier to understand and use, an effort Obama calls "iPod government."
On the campaign trail, Obama and Goolsbee have crafted proposals to streamline government programs like the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which Goolsbee feels is too complicated. Same with student loan applications and tax forms. Goolsbee says the distinction with Clinton is most evident in the candidates' plans to increase the personal savings rate. Obama would create an automatic 3% savings withholding from every paycheck that employees could opt out of if they want to. Clinton, on the other hand, proposes a targeted tax break to incentivize savings. The Clinton plan, says Goolsbee, "is what the playbook says to do. But the research says tax credits won't induce very many people to actually open savings accounts.
Goolsbee also offers an insight into what Obama feels about entitlements and the cost of such entitlements. In his senate race with Alan Keyes, on the question of apologizing for slavery and providing reparations, Keyes suggested two generations of slave descendents be exempted from having to pay taxes as the solution. Barack simply asked Goolsbee how much it would cost the U.S. government coffers. After hearing Goolsbee's reply of who can tell, but possibly a few trillions, Obama knew it was simply an unviable solution. Practical, real world, uncomplicated. Kind of like the iPod.
This is also why despite the Edwardian rhetoric of populism and two Americas, Barack has not adopted or assimilated some of the stronger tones of class warfare that sustained and stagnated John Edwards' run. Goolsbee believes, as I am sure Obama similarly opines, that the inequality has less to do with economic opportunities than the lack of skills to utilize existing opportunities.
In 1980, people with college degrees made on average 30 percent more than those with only high school diplomas. That disparity has widened to 70 percent. In the same year, the average earnings of people with advanced degrees were 50 percent more than those with only high school diplomas; today it is more than 100 percent.
Investing in education and college funding will help alleviate the structural problems affecting inequalities than simple $300 or so tax breaks that don't help solve such problems. Goolsbee also similarly disagrees that golobalization, China, etc. are causing America's economic woes. Virtually 70% or so of the American economy is dependent on the government, Walmart, local wholesale and retail service industries, professional services, healthcare, etc., that have no foreign competition hurting them. The prices of their services, however, is increasing, due to lack of income rate growth as opposed to the corresponding inflation rate growth. Hence, the iPod government that will fund No Child Left Behind, with Teddy around to push for it, college funding, and tax breaks and tax increases where needed to reduce the income disparities that drive the populist wedge between one America and the other.
Also on the agenda, corporations get a seat at the table but don't get to set the table. Kind of like the iPod policy of being able to download a song at 99c instead of the whole album. You want more government dole, you have to pay more to get it in the form of carbon credits, emissions controls, CEO pay controls, etc. You don't get something for nothing - the iPod government.
Should Barack Obama be the nominee and the eventual President, then I think we will see a lot of simplification, reduction of waste, some core Progressive policies and an outreach to some Conservative policies that enable structural problems within the American way of life to be repaired, thus setting the framework for a long term growth as opposed to short term band-aids.