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The Audacity of Help

The Audacity of Help by John F. Wasik is somewhat early; that is, not futuristic, but endeavors to measure or interpret a period of time which has not yet unfolded. The book reports on President Obama’s “economic plan and the remaking of America.” Obama has only been in office six months of probably an eight year tenure given American’s propensity to reelect incumbents. The book attempts to identify “who wins, who loses in healthcare, education, taxes, and energy,” by providing a report format pattern of questions and answer: – What Was Promised – What Congress Passed (so far) – Who Benefits Most – and suggestions for, What Needs to be Done.

Hope floated Barack Obama into the presidency,” Wasik speaks of the deep recession facing the electorate in the opening of chapter one; and ends the book with the statement: “Ultimately, Obama and his allies will be judged on how well they restore and maintain prosperity… .” After a brief history of the “Bush-era Bust” (housing crash, bailouts, bear market, credit freeze) in the introduction, in the following chapters Wasik hits on job evaporations, credit (lending and borrowing), banks, tax changes, rebuilding infrastructure, creating jobs, small businesses, and education (school children, teachers, college), The author also drops in on students loans, the credit crunch, the higher education dilemma, mortgage abuses, restoring homeownership … and healthcare ….

A problematic system,” Wasik calls it turning to health care reform. With health expenditures at 17% of the gross domestic product, and medical insurance claiming 20% of median income, the author explains why we can’t wait for reforms. What needs to be done? Four ideas are presented:

e Outsource cost controlling (audit)

e Negotiate the best price

e End fee-for-service

e Make technology an efficient part of the entire health-care system

Left over from previous administrations, upon taking office Obama and the congress face acute “Unfinished business: Long Range Goals in Entitlement Reforms.”

Financing entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which all need funding overhauls, is one of the Herculean tasks before the Obama administration.”

For someone interested in knowing where the money actually was supposed to go, or went, Wasik provides an appendix with the details of the spending disbursement in the Stimulus Plan. The chart and plan is divided into nine groups:

Accountability (e.g., OIG for government agencies like Department of Agriculture, NASA) [$323.5 Million]; Aid to People Affected by Economic Downtown [$36.9 Billion];

Aid to State and Local Governments [$58.4 B];

Business [$870 M];

Energy (e.g., State energy programs, grid modernization,energy efficiency vehicle fleet) [$41.4 B];

Health Care [$18.8 B];

“Other” (Census Bureau, National Endowment for the Arts grants, etc.) [$2.15 B];

Science and Technology [$13.1 B]; and,

Transportation and Infrastructure [$98.3 B].

The book will provide a good checkpoint to see if Wasik’s early analysis of President Obama’s promises proves correct. Keep the book on your shelf and read it again in four years to see how things turn out.

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