“When there is no vision the people perish.” -Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Two years ago, President Obama released a budget that garnered the New York Times headline, “A Bold Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas.” They seemed to be saying, “Hold on to your hats, people, the Obama budget is a progressive tornado!” On Monday, President Obama released his 2012 budget. To say it falls short of bold is a bit of an understatement. The consensus headline is “Obama Pivots.”
The President is essentially obligated to release a budget around this time of year as a kind of formal announcement that the dance around the issue has begun. This time, Obama seems determined to neither take a step forward nor a step backward. He’s committed to advancing his energy agenda, however tentatively, as long as no one can call it “stimulus.” He wants to reduce the deficit — but only so long as the main drivers of the debt, Medicare, Social Security, and defense spending, remain largely untouched. Let’s call it Obama’s reluctant budget.
The budget is the President’s opportunity to say where the country is headed and where it needs to go. In short, it is an opportunity to lead. This is no moment for reluctant leadership. Unemployment remains at a startlingly high 9%, and youth unemployment is almost double that. Meanwhile, we can feel our opportunities for breakthrough innovation slipping away, as Europe and Asia take bold steps to build the 21st century green economy on their own turf.
All Americans, progressive, moderate, and conservative, should demand more from our President. Whether we believe that staggering unemployment, lagging green innovation, or growing consumer debt is the problem, we know that we need vision to guide us. We need to know that the path goes somewhere reliable and prosperous for all. President Obama had the opportunity and he pivoted. But that doesn’t mean that there is no vision.
Millennial America has already come together around a Blueprint for the future. We challenge other constituencies to join us in calling for the President to take this moment to lead. Join us in developing a stronger vision that can drive America determinedly forward.
Zachary Kolodin is the Director of the Future Preparedness Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute.