When Bush tried to spend his capital "reforming" Social Security, he failed. Obama would be wise to avoid making the same mistake.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid do not need to be "reformed."
They need to be strengthened and expanded.
The president could spend some of his capital on that project.
But he ought not stop there.
As he embarks upon the second term that not all presidents are given, Obama would do well to take the counsel of National Nurses United Executive Direector Rose Ann DeMoro, who said after the election, "The President and Congress should stand with the people who elected them and reject any cuts in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, strengthen Medicare by expanding it to cover everyone, and insist that Wall Street begin to repay our nation for the damage it caused our economy with a small tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax."
That reference to the Robin Hood tax is worthy of note.
President Obama ought to get serious, in his second term, about finding the revenues to pay for the strengthening and expanding of necessary programs: ideally by taxing the wealthy as they were in the days of America's greatest economic expansion, and also by imposing that "Robin Hood Tax" on financial transactions.
But Obama's first task should be to fix the broken political system that imposes so many burdens on America democracy.
In his victory speech, Obama referenced the long lines in which Americans waited to vote for him and declared: "By the way, we need to fix that."
That's good. The need of democratic renewal is great after an unnecessarily crude political campaign that was, as Obama acknowledged, frequently "small...and silly."
The place to begin is with a project he mentioned just before the Democratic National Convention: amending the constitution to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. "Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it)," the president wrote in response to a question about the Court decision to allow corporations to spend as freely as they choose to influence elections. "Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."
Seeking to amend the constitution to reform our election system is an ambitious endeavor, especially for a president who has just beaten the combined power of Karl Rove and his billionaire boys club.
But it is a necessary endeavor.
And a president who has been comfortably re-elected ought not think small. He should "spend his capital" on projects worthy of the trust Americans have afforded him.