Distinguished Professor of Economics and Social Policy, on economic policy and jobs.
“USE YOUR BARGAINING POWER.”
“Obama needs to stick to his guns on government spending: This is the time to bargain hard. Very few people actually want to cut spending for Social Security, Medicare, and national parks.
“If Obama can make that case to the public and insist that the Republicans put their cuts on the table—and then argue against them on a case-by-case basis—he’s more likely to preserve the government spending that we so need.
“Yet, if we continue to engage in deficit spending without a credible commitment to reducing the budget deficit, our nation’s economic health will continue to be at risk. Critics say Obama’s deficit spending could result in the United States going the way of Greece, with the credit market causing U.S. borrowing costs and inflation to go through the roof.
“This is not a realistic worry. It’s true that in the very long run, if the government were to become politically dysfunctional and not able to do anything about the deficit, inflation could become a threat. But in the short run, our interest rates are going down, which proves investors are not worrying about inflation or the long-term budget scenario being uncontrollable. Japan, for example, has twice the debt-to-GDP ratio that we do, and it doesn’t have Greece’s problems.
“Obama should set benchmark targets for spending provisions to be removed as the economy improves. The goal, after all, is short-term stimulus, not long-term spending.
“Simpson-Bowles, a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, is the current deficit-reduction blueprint. And it isn’t a bad idea—it’s just a bad idea now, and here’s why.
“It would mean raising taxes and cutting spending at a time when the bigger problem is not the deficit, but high unemployment. It would mean taking money out of people’s hands so that they spend less, in turn destroying more jobs. Instead, focus on stimulus first and aid to states, and be forceful about it.
“In his first term, Obama was too reticent on this point. His desire to do things in a nonpartisan way prevented him from using his bargaining power. By exposing Republican resistance to his plans for creating more jobs, he would be more effective.”
Professor of strategic management and healthcare systems in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and director of Northeastern’s Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research, discusses healthcare.
“THE SHIFT HAS TO BE FROM A SICKNESS
TO A WELLNESS ORIENTATION.”
“President Obama needs to continue to accelerate the fundamental shift toward paying healthcare providers on the basis of value rather than volume. Because of his Affordable Care Act, cost problems and capacity issues are likely to develop. For example, the extension of health insurance to the 46 million people who were previously uninsured will lead to shortages in primary care providers, and Obama will need to think about how to expand primary care capacity quickly.
“There is already a movement toward value-based purchasing systems that incorporate financial incentives for providers to improve quality of care and promote wellness. Medicare under the Affordable Care Act is currently implementing such a system for hospitals.
“On the delivery side, we need providers to focus on providing high quality of care that keeps people healthy.
“For providers to do this, they need access to technologies that give them readily available information about their patients’ healthcare needs, use of medicines, and other data. We’re starting to make strides in this area with, for example, the expansion of electronic health records, but we’re still far behind where we need to be.
“President Obama also needs to ask himself, what kind of healthcare labor force do the American people need under the Affordable Care Act? Healthcare professionals today need to be more oriented toward health promotion than their predecessors. It’s a matter of developing new skill sets within established professions and rethinking how we utilize groups of practitioners with complementary skills: nurse practitioners, exercise scientists, and pharmacists, for instance.
“Oversight is also important. The emergence of new payment models is beginning to encourage fundamental restructuring of healthcare delivery in ways that potentially could reduce competition within the industry. President Obama needs to think about antitrust laws to promote competition and how to oversee the application of these laws to a fundamental restructuring of the healthcare industry. We have not had a major overhaul of antitrust guidelines for the healthcare industry since the mid-1990s. He really needs to think about where the industry is going and what kind of guidelines can ensure that it remains robustly competitive.”
Assistant professor of international affairs, on foreign policy.
“A STRATEGY OF CONTINUED
ENGAGEMENT IS A GOOD ONE.”
“Obama has built a good team, and I know that will continue. But it’s time for him to end the ‘I killed Osama bin Laden’ line and focus more on how the United States can use its diplomacy to build stronger links within regions of unrest—diplomatically and through NATO.
“Iran is not our biggest threat; Pakistan, and its relations with India, is. I was very surprised that India wasn’t even brought up in the foreign policy debate. The deterioration of the relationship between those two nations has long-term repercussions. The area is a hotbed of ethnic conflict, terrorism, and corruption. The threat of war between India and Pakistan would be a major problem. It could go nuclear, and that’s terrifying.
“Fortunately, Obama is a skilled negotiator, and he must use that skill to facilitate diplomacy between India and Pakistan. Right now, perception is a problem: U.S. intentions in Pakistan are seen as self-serving. The focus is on counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction. However, our leaders need to address the underlying social unrest in that country to preserve long-term stability. Aid packages need to be better. Attention to social issues needs to be keener.
“Operating purely through Pakistan’s government will be difficult. Pakistanis are skeptical of government, and any perception of the United States being closely linked to the Pakistan government won’t help U.S. credibility on the street. Neither will drone strikes. That’s why our government needs to improve direct aid for healthcare and education while distancing itself from the Pakistani government and backing off on the drone strikes.
“The president also must focus on peacekeeping in Syria, and he should do this through NATO. The United Nations isn’t an option, because U.N. peacekeeping troops cannot respond to violence by actually engaging in offensive measures; they can only act defensively. NATO, on the other hand, can act offensively and could assist the Syrian opposition forces with military action. The threat of this alone could be enough to stop civilian attacks there.
“Overall, strengthening U.S. international ties is the way to go—continuing to improve our nation’s reputation abroad, especially within the Muslim world. We don’t do that by sending in troops every time there is an issue, but the Obama-Hillary Clinton strategy of continued engagement is a good one.”
These interviews were conducted before the election. We asked the professors to provide scenarios for both a Romney and Obama victory with the intent to publish the responses relevant to the winner.