President Obama is visiting Washington state, including a couple of fundraisers. While he is here, here are a few suggestions on important Northwest policies.
WHEN President Obama’s advance team searched for the ideal photo op and speech venue to pair with Friday’s campaign fundraisers in the Seattle area, the Boeing plant in Everett had to be the obvious choice.
Where else would Obama be able to stand in front of a gleaming new high-tech product, the 787 Dreamliner, and tout modest upticks in the economy, successful exports (Boeing is the nation’s top exporter) and family-wage jobs any president would love to take credit for? Boeing is making 700 new hires a month in our state (during the last 12 months). Who wouldn’t want to bask in that glow?
Never mind that Obama’s National Labor Relations Board went after Boeing a few years ago for moving part of its operation to South Carolina, looking stridently anti-business. It all worked out and last fall’s landmark labor agreement was win, win, win for workers, the company and the Northwest.
With the presidential campaign in full swing — stops in Medina and Bellevue are money-raising events — the president has to remind people why they voted for him four years ago and why they might do so again. In 2008, Obama won Washington with more than 57 percent of the vote.
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The president has had some successes but still has much work to do.
Despite signs of economic uplift, the recession was so long and overwhelming that the president, or his successor, has to make sure our economy really stabilizes and does not sustain another whopper financial shock.
A few suggestions:
• The president should urge Congress to break up banks still too big to fail. Why hasn’t Team Obama done more to help re-enact Glass-Steagall rules that prevent FDIC-insured banks from playing around in the investment business?
• The White House must do its part to nix a singularly bad idea being recycled at the Federal Communications Commission. Once again, the FCC is looking at loosening a ban on media consolidation and cross-ownership in the top 20 markets. This is a threat to independent media outlets, and diversity of ownership by minorities and women. Media concentration means fewer voices. That is bad for independent journalism and democracy.
One victory with resonance here came with the president’s leading role on the Korean free-trade agreement. The president was instrumental last fall when he pushed the legislation through Congress with extra support for American workers who lose jobs to imports. Washington agriculture benefits greatly from the agreement. Tariffs will be eliminated on some of our marquee products — cherries and wine, to name two.
Obama will be fairly upbeat that he and Congress found a way not to battle to the last breath about extending the payroll-tax deduction for the rest of 2012. The previous effort made everybody, especially Congress, look like Dysfunction Junction. Still, the president has proposed a federal budget that is worrisome because it spends too much.
In his State of the Union address and other policies, Obama has demonstrated sharp understanding of education. He is admirably clear about the need to reward good teachers and give schools flexibility to teach with creativity and passion. The president’s Race to the Top grant program rewards states for innovations, including charter schools. The president should take a moment while here to urge reluctant Washington Democrats to allow our schools a chance to try new approaches.
Another promising part of Obama’s education strategy includes strengthening America’s manufacturing sector with enhanced workforce training at community colleges and closer ties between industry and higher education.
Efforts to increase science, technology, engineering and math degrees fit Washington’s employment needs and are echoed at places like Boeing, where 50 percent of engineers are eligible for retirement in the next five years.