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Question: What executive orders should Obama issue?

Arianna Huffington: The most important thing for Obama is to get healthcare right. I think that so often there are so many ancillary issues from executive orders, which is incredibly important of course, to infinitely less important things that consume his attention like having beer with the professor and the policeman. I think that the one thing that we are at such incredible danger of getting wrong is healthcare. So forgive me if I am being a little obsessed about it because it appears that they are willing to sacrifice the public option. If we get healthcare reform without the public option, we are really going to be missed a huge opportunity to really reform the system. With hundreds of lobbyists, many of whom are former members of Congress and former staffers, and lobbying really hard to kill public option, it will take an enormous amount of attention from the media and from the public to make people really clear what is at stake.

Question: Warren Buffett compared the stimulus package to taking half a Viagra. Are we neglecting the economy?

Arianna Huffington: Well, actually, I love the half a Viagra pill. My metaphor was it was like trying to jump across a chasm in two leaps. It doesn’t work. It definitely wasn’t bold enough and what is so tragic is that it is not so much that we have forgotten about the economy but that we think the economy has recovered. The Newsweek cover this week basically declares that the recession is over. It’s as though we are living in two universes; the Wall Street universe where Goldman Sachs and Citi are making multibillion dollar profits and the universe of real Americans who are losing their jobs, whose homes have been foreclosed at the rate of 300,000 a month, who are facing unprecedented credit card defaults, bankruptcies, and costs, the opportunity cost of what’s happening around the states with major cuts and so many services.

We thought we put Enron and WorldCom and everything behind us and here we are six years later and the financial system is still just as shaky and yet we are having a sort of victory dance on top of the system without any fundamental reform except the stakes are so much higher. Enron, WorldCom, you know, they were playing with billions of shareholder wealth. Now it’s costing us trillions of taxpayer money.

Question: Can Obama stand up to Wall Street?

Arianna Huffington: Well, Obama, I think, made a mistake in picking Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to lead his economic team because they are Wall Street creatures. Remember, Larry Summers was instrumental in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which really would have prevented a lot of what happened and a lot of this creation of this too big to fail institutions. So It’s very important to recognize that this could become the Achilles’ hell of the Obama Administration’s policy towards the economy because if you look at the amount of money involved and the contrast between the budget deficit say of all the states, which is $166 billion, this is the cut that the states have to make, and you compare that with say the $4.7 trillion that we have spent bailing out Wall Street, $180 billion going towards AIG, you see that the opportunity cost is really unacceptable in the democracy.

Interviewed by Paul Hoffman.

 

The Half-a-Viagra Presidency

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