On Wednesday Barack Obama will mark his first 100 days. There's no doubt he's done a lot of things right. He's provided leadership during difficult times. He's reached out to both our friends and our enemies and opened new dialog. And he's proven his detractors wrong - being able to remain both upbeat and engaged even as problems mount.
So far, so good.
However, the NEXT 100 days are likely to be the ones where he will have to make history - or have events overtake him.
What's coming to a head are issues that have been boiling since long before he took office. But they will come to a boil in the next 100 days.
1. Driven to the edge.
At least one of the "Big Three" Automakers will end up in bankruptcy. Call it what you will, pre-packaged or whatever. But bankruptcy is the way to get workers off the health care plan, to walk away from pension responsibilities, and that will have a real bottom line impact on the economy and housing. Certainly there will be some mitigating factors - but continuing to pour billions of dollars into these companies won't help cars roll off the lots. Folks aren't going to 'splurge' in a tough economy and buy a car from a company that may not be in business in 2 years. Obama will have to face the impending end of the US auto industry - and that's hard to swallow.
Poverty, fear, guns, and heat.
Of all the scary stuff we've seen on the news lately, the reports of gun shops running out of ammo seems to be the most haunting to me. Whether it's forward thinking criminals stocking up, or suburban vigilantes ready to defend their two car garages - the image of empty shelves where bullets used to be is hard to shake. The fact is that we're heading into the summer. And air conditioning costs money. So, with a long hot summer on the horizon, and the economic hard times settling in, there's bound to be a rising tide of unrest that will spill out into the streets. Maybe I've got West Side Story in my head, or two many episodes of the early days of Law and Order - but I don't think so. Fear, guns, and heat are a bad combination.
The good news is - the banks profits are up. The bad news is - the banks profits are up. Because, the way that banks are making more 'profit' is by increasing charging fees to customers and being able to re-write their balance sheets by writing off bad debt. The stories of consumer complaints are legend. Credit card charges that jump through the roof. More foreclosures. Interest rates that make savings all but impossible. And now, happy days, we're hearing that salaries in the financial service industries are on the rise again. Larry Summers sleeping during the Credit Card Exec Summit didn't send quite the right message. In the next 100 days President Obama is going to have to demand accountability for the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been pumped into these institutions. It won't be pretty.
There's a significant deadline looming, June 30th. And while the Obama administration seems to be clearly on the road to draw down troops, redeploy to Afghanistan, and replace combat troops with advisers and security details, it doesn't appear to be that simple. The rising tide of violence in Iraq, in advance of the draw down, will put President Obama in the difficult decision of handing over a troubled region back to ill equipped local forces, or to back down on his promise of getting troops out of Iraq. Neither choice will play well in the press.
Overall, the first 100 days were remarkable. But the next are going to truly test the metal of the Obama Administration and the country. I hope he trained for a marathon rather than a sprint.
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