President Obama has been, on so many levels, a great boon for America's confidence, psychology, and relations with other countries. I feel proud of the dignified and focused way he has engaged the enormous challenges our nation faces.
His main Achilles heel so far is that he has not created an "economic team of rivals," as pointed out by Arianna Huffington's column on April 11th, but rather assembled an economic brain trust that agrees upon a bank-centric approach to solving our economic problems.
This group may be well intentioned but they are denizens of Wall Street and that is where they seek their solutions. Alternative economists instead point to the power of distributed systems of credit and local living economies to create enduring wealth. They note that America's millions of small businesses are a more powerful engine for growth than those on the S & P 500. Large, centralized banks will not be the engine that grows a healthy new green economy, which is instead powered by green investors and millions of small-scale entrepreneurs. Finally, many deeply needed reforms of our entire financial system --such as eliminating damaging forms of speculation or taking back the government's right to create money -- will never be proposed by Wall Street or central bankers since they have learned to accumulate massive profits from the game as it is played.
True reform always arises first from outside a system and is only gradually accepted by beneficiaries of the old ways. Wall Street has caused some of the most fundamental problems, so we cannot turn to Wall Street to create the solutions.
That is why I believe that President Obama needs a National Alternative Economic Council that operates with fundamentally different assumptions than the current group. It can be a chorus of respected alternative leaders that develops policy recommendations that can create an enduring shift in our economy. At the very least, a cohesive National Alternative Economic Council will provide a counterbalance to the worldview shared by Geithner, Summers and the others. If the Council's recommendations are well thought out, they will triumph; if not, they will strengthen the opposing ideas through debate. Such a Council could become an engine for policy recommendations and reforms that are unthinkable by the banker's club.
This week, in my Voice America radio show with leading evolutionary economist Hazel Henderson (download here), I was struck by how valuable it would be to have a clear, cogent, and compelling voice like hers with direct access to the President. Hazel has published hundreds of articles in over 250 journals in 27 languages. She's the producer of the Ethical Markets TV series and written 9 respected books. She's been involved in pioneering work with social investment funds, quality-of-life indicators and the boards of many new economy groups. She offers brilliant solutions to things such as reducing currency speculation, creating private stock exchanges for mid-size companies, and encouraging local investment. Why shouldn't a national treasure like Hazel have a direct pipeline to Obama to correct the imbalances of the current team and offer new innovations?
Recently, I've also been reading Ellen Brown's Web of Debt, which illuminates the deep, structural problems with our economy in a fascinating tour of American financial history. Her Open Letter to Obama this week urges him to apply the solution that Lincoln used to turn the country from financial ruin and win the Civil War: create Greenbacks that are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and without interest paid to central bankers. Ellen is a thoughtful scholar of U.S. history and shows how private financiers have often operated against the best interests of the American people through vehicles such as the Federal Reserve. She offers many clear-eyed reforms that would be unthinkable from within the bankers' world.
These voices are only two of the many that Obama needs to forge a truly evolutionary path out of our economic quagmire. I believe that his current team is fundamentally incapable of offering a long-term transformation of our economy because they are embedded in the old systems and more invested in bandaging them up than in reinventing the system.
To chart a new path forward, as I believe President Obama sincerely intends to do, he will need to seriously listen to the alternative economic experts who offer bold new solutions to create a healthy, green economy with strong local networks of entrepreneurs. Once such a Council is created, it will be up to him to discern whether it indeed offers greater wisdom.
I encourage you to share this idea to create a National Alternative Economic Council. If we share it widely enough, it will likely reach President Obama himself, which could bring about a change we can all believe in.