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Obama is Failing to Innovate--Failing to Redesign our Financial and Social Systems

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 28, 2009

My scorecard for President Obama in his attempts at innovating America’s failing economic, financial and social systems.

1- Redesign the failing financial system — C.
Obama put the foxes in the hen house, appointing Wall Streeters and their supporters in the economics profession to reform the cult of speculation. They failed and we have band-aids and await another financial crisis in the years ahead.

2- Redesign the auto industry — B minus.
Obama appointed an investment banker from Wall Street, not a cat nut, innovator or designer to solve a problem that has little to do with finance or numbers. In fact, GM is in trouble because it was run by numbers and not leaders who understood US and global car culture.

3- Redesign the system for curbing CO2 emissions and global warming — B.
Obama is pushing for a cap-and-trade system that gives away so much to the polluters that it won’t have much effect for nearly a decade.

4- Redesign the health system — ? Who knows?
Obama is waffling on the one thing that is crucial to a better health system- a public option for health care. Without it, there won’t be any real competition for the insurance companies who dominate our failing private system. Right now, there is a good chance that a public option won’t even be offered.

No guts, no glory. Innovation requires leadership and the willingness to accept casualties in a battle for what is right. FDR did that. A.G. Lafley did that. President Obama, so far, has shown a preference for compromise before battle. He needs to take the heat to be an innovation leader.

Reader Comments


June 29, 2009 11:35 PM

Our nation needs clean, cheap energy -- not clean, expensive energy. I am a Democrat and think Congress is overplaying its hand. I fear cap and trade legislation will double our cost of energy over the years -- even faster for gasoline. Plus, unintended consequences will abound. The bill is too complicated, with too many moving parts. Why? There are 880 lobbyists registered to lobby on climate change and their fingerprints are all over the bill.

Cap and trade will enrich a new class of financial speculator at a cost of billions of dollars to American consumers. It will also drive-out manufacturing of every description. Even non-polluting Microsoft says it will move jobs overseas because cap and trade "makes U.S. jobs more expensive." Cap and trade is worse than a tax because only 15% of the proceeds from auctioned permits go into our national treasury.

And the kicker? We'll never even know if cap and trade ever worked.

If instead the United States had a national mandate to replace coal generation plants with natural gas and nuclear energy, plus if we replaced our commuter cars with battery-powered electric cars, we would drastically reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce CO2 emissions faster and beyond the proposed cap and trade targets.

-- Robert Moen,

Joshua Sharf

June 30, 2009 4:11 PM

Mr. Nussbaum's analogizing to FDR is misplaced. Far from a coherent, designed strategy, the New Deal was a mishmosh of disjointed experimentation, much of which was eventually invalidated by the courts.

Mr. Nussbaum's argument also ignores the fact that things are much more amenable to being designed than people are.


July 4, 2009 4:04 PM

Really nice article. I haven't checked out businessweek in quite a while.

GM paid more for healthcare than they did for steel.

People need healthcare or they can't work.

Obama supported single payer before his run for prez. Anyone who is uninsured, under-insured, with a condition or in good health now realizing their luck, knows the private insurance sector like most corporations now feel responsibility to their shareholders not their customers.

That model is unpatriotic because it devalues companies not just for M&A but exploiting the country.

Look at the way Indonesia or Zimbabwe do it. We are just going slower, with more the frog in the pot on the stove slowing heating.

FDR made resources available to the people that have been under attack since.

Mr. Nussbaum, you convieniently for got one issue. Obama was the peace candidate, how does he rate on peace.

Jack Taggerty

July 10, 2009 6:57 AM

Those that are most affected by the GFC are the baby boomers and the 50+ population who have a short time to recover.

There has been a very interesting development with the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) with membership of 40 million and their Foundation in regard to collaborating with the CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development) in an Innovation Program to help older Americans (50+) with their retirement income and other issues.

For retirement, this is of course about the 401K question of asset allocation prior to becoming an income stream. What do readers think the innovation issues are for transitioning from savings to income stream and the retiree outliving their income stream?

What do other readers think that AARP and CFED should do about taking on board this innovation and social issue?

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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