12/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Herculean Challenge

Time to River-Wash the Big Three Auto Companies and the Economy

Lessons from Greek Mythology's Labors of Hercules have much to teach Obama as he faces some very real Herculean tasks.

To atone for a crime that was not his fault, Hercules was commanded by the Delphic Oracle to perform twelve labors. One task was to clean the legendary stables of King Augeas, who had huge herds of cattle. Years of untouched manure piles produced a stench that choked the Peloponnesus region.

Hercules offered to clean the stable in a day. Anyone who saw the size of the stables and the amount of manure knew it would take at least a year to clean those stables.

King Augeas accepted Hercules' offer, stipulating that if he failed, Hercules would spend the rest of his life cleaning those stables.

Hercules approached the problem doing something nobody had considered. He dug trenches from the two nearby rivers and diverted their waters through the stables, doing in a day, what everyone thought would take a year.

Oh, all that Obama had to clean up was a stable full of manure. Obama must pull a river wash out of his hat -- nothing less. There is no way he will be able to rescue not just the USA's, but also the world's, economy by doing business as usual.

Obama's job is far worse than Hercules'. It will surely be impeded by politicians and lobbyists with special interests... and it has been worsened by the pathetic job Bush's appointee Hank Paulson and his designees have done.

Another task assigned to Hercules was to kill the Hydra or Lerna, reputed to have anywhere from eight to ten thousand heads. Worse, when one head was cut off, two would grow back. Hercules figured out that he could cut off a head then cauterize the neck, preventing the two heads from growing back. Obama has a similar problem, with experts and pundits and politicians popping up everywhere he turns, all knowing what is right and what is wrong for him to do. He's going to have to figure out a way to get past this hydra to accomplish anything.

Already, Bush has met with the G20 top industrial nations and they've concluded that the path to resolving the international economic crisis must involve globalism. Maybe not. Globalism got us where we are.

There are so many people who are stuck on old ideas that have failed. Today, on Meet the Press, Senator Carl Levin suggested that the current financial situation for the Detroit big three is "not the fault of the automakers." He blames the economy. Sorry, but Levin and others have been basically protecting the automakers from tougher, higher gas mileage requirements for decades. This was coddling the automakers for the short term and I am certain this political protection is the cause for the current desperate situation for US auto manufacturing.

One thing is true. The US cannot afford to allow the big three to go down. It would cost at least three million jobs and the reverberations will send shock waves through communities and the rest of the economy. The big three must be rescued.

Senator Richard Shelby doesn't think so. He falls back onto the tired, failed idea of free market "wisdom," saying "We should make the market work."

Hello!! Senator Shelby, haven't you noticed this theory has failed and that's one of the big reasons why we are where we are?

Levin and Shelby both have it wrong. The G20 have it wrong. What's a president-elect Obama to do? One thing is certain. Obama cannot do the ordinary. If he tries the ordinary approach, he'll fail and he'll spend the rest of his life cleaning manure. Obama must think about and see the economic situation in new ways.

President Bush and Henry Paulson broke some fresh ground, allowing government ownership in banks. Just imagine the uproar from Republicans if Obama the Democrat tried to nationalize a company.

Bernie Sanders has said that we should not have companies so big that we can't afford to allow them to fail. Maybe we need to take the big three and nationalize them, then give huge tax breaks to persuade Americans to dump their gas guzzlers -- maybe even add taxes to people who keep their gas guzzlers.

We're not just talking about the auto industry. We're also dealing with the USA's national security and the danger the dependence upon foreign oil has placed us under. This is not theoretical. The US has engaged in wars, conflicts, and negotiations, more strictly, because of our dependence upon foreign oil. Tying energy use to our national security gives us reason to get the automobile industry building cheap, very high gas mileage cars and even subsidizing them, so people can trade in their gas guzzlers at minimum cost.

I'm just guessing and suggesting something outside the range of ideas most would consider. The solution could be entirely different. The point is, Obama will fail if he tries to do it "inside the box." The only way he's going to pull us out of this multifaceted manure pile is by being open to big bold ideas and then taking Herculean steps. And we the American people must be ready to support him, to be open to such big ideas and actions. Anything less will hold Barack Obama back from doing what we was elected, by a landslide, to do.

Crossposted from