I am extremely hopeful about the new presidency of Barack Obama. Hopeful, because the nation is fighting two wars that need resolution. Hopeful, because the economy needs stewardship to lead us out of a morass of debt and financial opportunism that reigned for a decade. And hopeful, because Obama has the promise of bringing together a nation.
Now this blog is about food, but what is food without culture, without polity, without a decent house and extended family around the table? Obama’s campaign more than anything was about how we relate to each other as a nation in order to make the promise of this nation work.
To be sure, Obama has challenges, major challenges, and like most candidates, we don’t necessarily know what he’s going to do to address them. Nor do we really know in our corner of the world whether sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, farmers markets, healthy food, and food justice will now get the attention they deserve. But again, I am hopeful, because Obama is at least aware of these issues; he has read Michael Pollan, and presumably is aware of the folly of programs like ethanol subsides, as this industry implodes, despite his past support of them.
Government will likely take a bigger role -- it already has in the financial crisis-management of a Republican incumbent -- but it could also get smarter, far smarter. It could better harness markets so that they work towards social good, create incentives for clean energy and green jobs and green agriculture, and deal head on with the most fundamental issue facing the human race: climate change. In a more immediate sense, he could take leadership in a way that's been notably missing and begin to untangle the housing mess at the root of the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
The answer to all these problems isn’t just more government, as the Democrats have learned, but a government that sets the playing field, writes the rules and umpires the game as markets do their work. In the past administration, government was hands off in the most irresponsible fashion -- something that even Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted -- or hands-on in an unbalanced, even unfair way. What we need now is not a government that picks winners and losers and works for big lobbies, but rather sets the parameters for environmental goals and then unleashes markets to reach them. What Al Gore is calling sustainable capitalism. This is vital, because as he notes, nature does not do bailouts.
Will this happen? I don't know. But given Obama’s remarks, and perhaps more importantly, his bearing, I am more hopeful than I’ve been in any recent election. Let change begin.
- Samuel Fromartz
Now for your viewing pleasure, the Pointer Sisters, "Yes We Can Can"