The Summer Economy

3-Jul-2011
KTVI - Fox 2

Is the U.S. going the way of Greece? There's massive debt increasing at home and in Washington. And unemployment doesn't seem to be improving. Dr. Benjamin Akande, Webster University's Dean of the George Herbert Walker Business School and Technology talks about a plan to reduce the deficit and increase employment.

A Letter to President Obama

22-Jan-2009Published in: Ladue News Author: Benjamin Ola. Akande

Dear President Obama,

During the campaign, you offered America hope and promised to restore a civility and practicality to the nation's highest office so that, together, we could rise to the challenges and opportunities that lay at our doorstep. Now it's time to make some wise choices.

In your acceptance speech on the evening of Nov. 4, 2008, you were pointed in your statement that, "While we breathe, we hope." As President, your greatest challenge will be effectively leading a cabinet of highly qualified and highly opinionated individuals who will undoubtedly have differing ideas on how best to resolve the major issues we face. Your leadership will be tested early and often, and while you have assured Americans that there will be setbacks and false starts, your willingness to make tough choices early on will set the tone for the revival of a shell-shocked economy and a battle-fatigued nation. Yet the fact remains that hope will not reduce housing foreclosures. Hope does not stop a recession. Hope cannot create jobs. Hope will not prevent catastrophic failures of banks. Hope is not a strategy.

I would like to offer 10 priorities to consider:

The Deficit. Don't be concerned about increasing the deficit in the short term. There is an urgent need to stimulate the economy now not at any price, but almost. Your recovery plan must combine tax cuts and structured spending in areas that foster long-term economic growth, specifically energy, healthcare and education. This is one time when we need to act for today to ensure that tomorrow will be much better.

The Auto Industry. I want to urge you to reject extending additional bailout monies to the Big Three. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the best thing that can happen to these automakers. They need help quickly, but not in the form of government largesse. This is a time for 'tough love,' not a time for enabling poor performance, corporate arrogance and unwise decisions. They will thank you in the long run.

The New New Deal. There is urgency to rebuild America's roads and bridges, but the real opportunity is to anchor your recovery plan on a renewed energy policy that is timely and targeted. The imperative should entail: 1) a green bailout for U.S. automakers; 2) green infrastructure; 3) tax credit for companies to produce alternative energy; 4) a construction program for a new smart electric grid; and 5) increased investment in mass transit using green technology. The projects must be shovel-ready to get people back to work immediately.

2009 Homeowner Protection Act. Now is the time to change the bankruptcy laws to protect homeowners from the vagaries of the marketplace. We have expedited Chapter 11 bankruptcy for businesses to keep them from going under when they run into financial turbulence, and we should do no less for homeowners. It does no one any good to force poor and middle-income Americans out of their homes, and we know that vacant houses destroy even the best neighborhoods. An expedited homeowner protection plan would allow for the restructuring of the mortgages of millions of Americans who are under water. Stemming the flood of foreclosures will reinvigorate the confidence of banks and provide a shot in the arm for the credit market, putting the economy back on the right foot.

Strengthening Middle Class America. Your administration should push to expand the earned income tax credit as a relief measure for the middle class and give Americans making less than $150,000 a $500 tax credit per person on the first $8,100 in income. This will increase the rate of spending and the rate of savings by the middle class, which will be a source of new capital to spur growth.

A Health Plan for All. The greatest fear among most Americans is the possibility of losing their jobs, and with the loss of jobs comes the real possibility of loss of health insurance. We need a comprehensive program that provides health insurance to the unemployed and to the uninsured, and it must happen posthaste. For a nation of our wealth to have any of our citizens go without health care is nothing short of criminal.

Rewrite Financial Service Laws. One of the key reasons for the current financial crisis has been weak regulation of the financial services industry. There needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of enforcement policies of the Securities Exchange Commission. Demand disclosure and stipulate new accounting requirements.

Restructure Bailout. The first $350 billion of the financial market bailout has done very little to jump-start the economy. The next $350 installment must be directed at assisting homeowners and expanding consumer credit.

Foster a Bipartisan Approach. Divisive politics got us into this mess, unifying politics can help get us out of it. The country can no longer afford to see things in terms of red and blue or black and white. Enduring solutions will emerge from the gray.

Caution Consumers. President Obama, I urge you to use your presidential pulpit to speak to Americans, to encourage them to be cautious and prudent in their spending. While consumer spending is a key to the economic revival, at times it may be wise to counsel consumers to, in the words of former St. Louis Fed President Bill Poole "Put their foot on the brake way before they get to the stop sign."

What America needs, more than ever, is your ability to give hope through your leadership. May you have the inner strength to move this nation from uncertainty to certainty. I wish you well.

My Best,

Benjamin Ola. Akande

Dreams Do Come True

19-Jan-2009Published in: CNN AC360_ (Anderson Cooper 360) Author: Benjamin Ola. Akande

As a child growing up in Nigeria, I was a dreamer. My parents never dismissed my dreams. They were always encouraging. No matter how outright unbelievable my dreams were, they would assure me that dreams do come true. Dreams provide a glimpse of what the future will look like. I wish I could have recorded all those dreams.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was recorded. It was a dream that was played out in front of thousands of people and like most dreams, no one really knew how it would play out. As the dream was recalled over the years, it became clear that this was a significant and compelling vision of the future. Martin’s dream was in the form of a remarkable prose on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Most of us can hear him recite this dream in our subconscious. “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” It is a dream that visualizes a future where all those things that seemed impossible and improbable will happen despite overwhelming obstacles.

The election of Barack Obama was a manifestation of Martin’s dream. I would like to believe that Martin Luther King’s dream highlighted how difficult it is to make change happen. Martin spoke about how mountains and hills (obstacles) shall be made lower and rough places (institutional changes) will be made straight. The recognition was that monumental changes of this magnitude take considerable time. Indeed, it takes the force of nature to break through the harsh reality of status quo and history.

Dreaming enables us to transcend the present and position us on the balcony for a better view of the future. And, because dreaming offers no restrictions, the greatest dreamers are often characterized as crazy and out of touch with reality. What history has shown us is that you may vilify them, you can criticize them, and you may even assassinate them. But, you can’t kill a dreamer’s dream. MLK’s dream took a long time to come to fruition, with small significant steps and some big setbacks along the way. But on Nov. 4, 2008, the full realization of the great civil rights leader’s dream came to pass with the election of a junior senator from Illinois as the first African-American President of The United States.

Martin Luther King taught us that adversity is a lot easier to overcome than success. And that is the power of dreams. He knew it would happen. He even foresaw that his own demise may keep him from seeing his dream come true. “I’ve seen the promised land,” he said. “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” Forty-five years later, his vision is still unfolding. But one thing is crystal clear. Dreams do come true.

Click here to read Dean Akande's story on AC360°.