While people on all sides of the political spectrum will debate the positives and negatives of Obama’s election, one especially negative consequence of the election has already happened: a reduction in activism. Obama supporters, including those here at the University, can no longer be heard calling for mass social change. Instead, they’re all busy scampering around and trying to find a ride to inauguration while turning a blind eye to what they can do in the present to change the world around them. Sure Obama has been elected, but with a failing economy, the nation’s problems worsening and resources stretched thin, the right kind of activism is needed now more than ever.

Sadly, it seems that, on a national scale, those who didn’t support Obama have realized this more than those who did. New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof recently discovered that conservatives are doing more good than liberals. He cites Arthur Brooks, author of “Who Really Cares,” a book about who donates to charities, as stating that conservatives give more money to charity than liberals, give blood and volunteer more frequently. While liberals are relying on Obama to fix what’s wrong with the country, conservatives are turning to someone other than the government — themselves.

Activism will be even more important during Obama’s presidency because whether or not the government will be able to get things done is a huge question for the Obama administration. As the nation’s deficit approached $1.2 trillion even before Obama’s planned stimulus spending, many legislators — including those in his own party — are growing concerned about money, something the government doesn’t seem to have much of right now.

Last Thursday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., warned that, “The combination of the retiring baby boom generation, rising health care costs and inadequate revenues will explode deficits to clearly unsustainable levels.” The government’s excessive borrowing to fill in the nation’s deficit has also caught the ire of Lou Crandall, the chief economist at Wrightson ICAP, which analyzes Treasury financing trends. About the nation’s rising debt, she stated, “There’s a time bomb in there somewhere, but we don’t know exactly where on the calendar it’s planted.”

Concerns about the deficit may especially weaken Obama’s chances of getting programs such as health care reform passed. Obama has recently raised the possibility of waiting for the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire instead of repealing them immediately. The funds were supposed to be used to pay for universal health coverage. This concerned Sen. Ben Nelson, D.-Neb., whose words about Obama’s healthcare plan perfectly convey the attitude of many of those in Congress, “It’s going to be very problematic to me unless they can tell me how it’s going to be paid for.”

With less of a chance that taxpayer money will be able to support those in needs, activism is needed to solve the problems the government can’t. Even here in Ann Arbor, there are causes in need of aid – take for example the Whitmore Lake Health Clinic, just thirteen miles north of Ann Arbor. The clinic was started by University of Michigan Medical School residents over thirty-five years ago and serves especially those who are uninsured or underinsured. But today the clinic is struggling to stay afloat, as it owes hundreds of thousands in unpaid bills, including $125,000 in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. Because it serves the poor, it desperately needs donations to survive. And while donations to the Obama campaign may or may not bring about universal health coverage sometime down the road, a donation to the Whitmore Lake Health Clinic will definitely make a difference in the lives of the 1,600 patients who visit the clinic each year.

With ever-increasing national problems and the decreasing likelihood that Obama will be able to have a significant effect on them, seldom has there ever been a greater need for activism on campus. Americans, including those at the University, can’t afford to hedge their bets on the Obama administration in the same way they hedged their bets on the stock market this past decade. It is Americans themselves who can provide the hope that they wish for the world. Students at the University have even greater opportunities than most to make changes with so many charities and service organizations right here on campus. Now is not the time to break from activism because of Obama’s victory — now is the time to bring hope to the world and be “the change you can believe in” yourself.

Patrick Zabawa can be reached at pzabawa@umich.edu.

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