Between the financial crisis and the problems left behind by his predecessor, President-elect Barack Obama has his work cut out for him, four Ford School of Public Policy professors said during a panel discussion yesterday.

(Max Collins/Daily)

The professors — Susan Waltz, Brian Jacob, Sheldon Danziger and Matthew Davis — spoke for 90 minutes yesterday before an almost-full Annenberg Auditorium, discussing what policy challenges Obama will face at the start of his presidential term. Susan Collins, dean of the School of Public Policy, moderated the panel.

Danziger, director of the Ford School’s National Poverty Center, said Obama’s strategy to tackle poverty was more promising than that of the Bush administration, which ignored “those at the bottom of the income distribution.” Danziger added, though, that Obama’s goals might be hard to realize because “the global economic crisis is so severe.”

Obama’s proposed measures for reform include tax credits for low-income households, an increase to the national minimum wage and transition programs for low-skilled workers.

Danziger said Obama’s initiatives echo many of former President Bill Clinton’s policies in 1992. Then, like now, the economy and health care were among the nation’s biggest concerns.

Davis said Obama’s health care plan, which would offer universal coverage, could work, but might be unpopular. Creating a big Medicare program, he said, is “not appealing to the majority of the American people.” Health care reform would have to be done in several steps, he said.

Jacob, an expert on education policy, said “federal policies are inherently hard to pursue for education.” He said he disagreed slightly with Obama’s plan to make education more accessible, which involves giving tax credits for students who do a certain amount of community service. Jacob suggested direct loans might be a more effective way to reach this goal.

Students in attendance said they the event largely agreed with the panelists.

Kevin Bradway, a first year graduate student in the Ford School, said he agrees with Obama’s social welfare strategies, but thought the financial crisis might make parts of it unfeasible.

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