Mark Naison: Our Goal on Election Day ... A Mandate to Bring Relief to the Nation's Suffering

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mark Naison is Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University.]

As election day approaches, and the nation's economic problems grow severe, our goal for November 4 should not be just to assure an Obama victory, but to give him a mandate that will allow him to take immediate action to funnell aid to the millions of Americans on the verge of losing their hones and their jobs

To prevent suffering on a massive scale, we need a dramatic program of relief that rivals the New Deal's "One Hundred Days" and for that we need a sweeping Obama victory and huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress

The stakes are very high

So far, not one cent of the 700 million bailout package the Bush administration has created has gone directly to middle class and working class Americans to help keep them in their homes or shore up their shrinking incomes. Instead, it has been funnelled into the powerful financial institutions whose speculatative practices created the current crisis- and whose executives profited mightily from these excesses, without any guarantees that they use those funds to help small businesses or ordinary Americans.

That will change if we give a strong mandate for Barack Obama on November 4 and make sure he has a Congress that will pass his relief measures

This is what the American people can expect from an Obama presidency in the way of immediate relief for their economic problems

1. A six month moratorium on home foreclosures to allow owners and financial institutions to renegotiate the terms of those mortgages so that people can stay in their homes and financial institutions get income rather than unsaleable properties

2. A thirteen week extension of unemployment benefits expire so the millions of new jobless will be able to feed themselves and their families when their regular benefits expire.

3. A fiscal stimulus program featuring a nation wide program of public works featuring infrastructure repairs which concentrate on.bridges, highways, rail systems and power lines.

4. Strict controls on those banks getting infusions of capital from the federal government, requiring them to make loans to qualified small and medium sized businesses rather than hoarding their funds or using them to fund executive bonuses.

5. A new federal initiative to develop alternative energy resources, hiring the nation's best scientific and engineering talent, and creating new projects with federal funding that will created tens of thousands of new jobs.

These programs, all of which can be implemented immediately, will send a powerful message to the American people that there is a finally a president in the White House who cares more about them and their families than about the wealthy and the powerful, and who believes that in an economic crisis, there must be true equality of sacrifice

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