This year, a vote for the democrats is a vote for the status quo. Given the mood of the country, this is not a very exciting prospect. But when the status quo means a return to the tax structure we had in the booming ’90s, maintaining the government’s safety net for seniors, the poor and those without health insurance, investing in public education and infrastructure, supporting a woman’s right to choose, and acknowledging climate change, we must endorse staying the course.
Ironically, in Mitt Romney and Chris Gibson, we have two men who, if freed from the shackles of their party, would probably agree with all of these points. But they’ve made promises to get where they’re at now, and those promises, in ways large and small, involve speeding up the unraveling of the policies that led to American post-war prosperity, the greatest period of economic and social improvement the world has even known. As Bill Clinton said, we have a template for government policies that produce those results. There is no successful template for what the Republicans are proposing.
In more local matters, the newly gerrymandered lines have taken long time state senator Bonacic out of our area and given us two candidates from up yonder counties, continuing the streak of non-locals in the state senate, going back to Arthur Wicks in 1956.
And a real contest has emerged for the state supreme court, where, for decades the nominations were brokered between parties to avoid confrontations.
So let’s begin.
President Obama kept us from a depression, no doubt about it. And he’s correct in saying that Mitt Romney, despite his debate and post-debate departures from previous stances, ends up being in much the same place as George W. Bush, who squandered the American fortune making war and deregulating marketplaces.
Obama’s $787 billion stimulus prevented a deeper recession and created nearly 4 million new private sector jobs. Health care reform will create insurance coverage for more than 30 million people, while requiring all to contribute, rather than just those who pay income taxes picking up the tab for emergency room visits (something Romney’s 53 percent should be happy about). It will slow the inevitable health cost increases. It will end the prospect of going bankrupt due to illness and allow people to move from job-to-job without fear of losing coverage – both are good for the economy.
The repeal and replace argument of the Republicans is a fantasy and would allow an out-of-control health insurance industry to govern itself in the most profitable, yet least beneficial way. Obama has us drawing down in Afghanistan, searching for an end to a war that began in incredible anguish, but without clear goals.. He also, as promised, ended the war in Iraq for the United States in as clear a way as possible. And Bin Laden is gone and dead.
Other items: A successful auto industry bailout; repeal, as promised, of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;’ some limited reform of Wall Street, expanding Pell Grants for college students and creating an educational Race to the Top, boosting automobile fuel efficiency standards and tightening sanctions on Iran.
There is reason to believe the second term will be better than the first. On the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Obama is in a better position to negotiate than the Republicans, with Democratic sacred cows like Social Security and Medicare free from the automatic cuts while the Republican’s single biggest budget item, defense, is on the chopping block. After failing to make Obama a one-term president, Congressional Republicans would be more likely to negotiate on fiscal issues. Any movement on these issues would be good for the country.
Some say Romney, once elected, will govern as a moderate; that he is a pragmatic problem-solver who, once in office, will speedily pursue the politics of the possible. But that would not be leadership.
Though Obama has been disappointingly reticent in laying out a second-term agenda, we still have a better idea of where he stands than Romney. It is a testament to how anxious the country feels about the current trajectory that a man who has changed nearly all his positions to get elected has a good chance of winning. But let’s remember why we prize convictions in a leader in the first place: leadership is about spelling out a vision and building support for it, not following the polls. That’s the only way to build broad-based support.
Romney is highly intelligent and highly capable. But his background does not, as he suggests, endow him with any special understanding of how the economy works. In fact, his background is uniquely unsuited for the times: he made his fortune by purging companies of “inefficiencies” and streamlining operations, laying people off and shipping jobs overseas. It was the 1980s — when the current trend of extreme inequality first began, as good-paying blue collar jobs were slashed by guys like Mitt Romney who went from business to business, doing the things the companies’ founders and their offspring didn’t have the heart to do.
This isn’t to say that this wasn’t necessary in many cases. Technological advances and globalization were going to mean fewer manufacturing jobs. (The country could have invested in education and modernization to create more competitive high tech manufacturing companies and protect these jobs, as Germany did, but that’s a different story.) But applying this sort of thinking to America would have disastrous effects. For big business, national borders no longer matter. If one nation lowers its corporate tax rate, all must do so do be competitive. Anyone who advocates otherwise is a “job-killer.” Any rules that attempt to tie business to country it was incorporated in, by discouraging it from shipping jobs elsewhere or taxing its profits to invest in the infrastructure and education necessary to keep the country great, are also inefficient. Asking rich people to pay what they did under Bill Clinton (which was already a huge decrease from what they were paying when the country was truly booming in the ’50s and ’60s) is “class warfare” that will force those with high incomes to either not work hard or take their money elsewhere. The corporate raider logic that took hold 30 years ago and has led to huge gains for the wealthy and income stagnation for everyone else would reach its purest expression with the election of private equity prince Mitt Romney. Any lingering obligation to help out the less fortunate, barely spoken about by either campaign, would disappear, replaced by the mantra of “get out the way of the job creators” and a global race to the bottom.
Today’s Republicans have forgotten recent economic history, adopting the self-interested philosophy of Ayn Rand, the “you’re all on your own” of the libertarians and worst paranoid delusions of the Birchers. We cannot support or even give a chance to a nominee who has embraced these beliefs.
Obama for president. Without a doubt.