The dismal state of the economy presents President-elect Barack Obama with the chance not just to produce a recovery but to restore a more egalitarian society -- and a progressive majority.
Robert Kuttner, economist and co-editor of the American Prospect, writes:
History has delivered Barack Obama the greatest economic crisis since the one that greeted Franklin Roosevelt. As in 1933, the crisis is the direct result of free-market ideology and conservative misrule, which once again stand disgraced. This creates a once-in-a-century opportunity for Obama to redeem American progressivism as the nation's majority philosophy, with government playing a far more active role in the economy -- not just to produce a recovery but to restore a more egalitarian and secure society. However, this opportunity also produces an equally huge risk of failing, which would be seen as a failure of liberal government. Conservative ideology and Republican rule would come roaring back.
Success requires bold, immediate action. First and foremost, Obama must pull back the economy from the brink of depression. Only if he masters this primary challenge and points the economy toward recovery will he gain the political capital needed for the other hurdles -- from reform of collapsing health and pension systems to the long-term conversion of the energy economy.
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