Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obama 2012

With the first debate on its way in several hours, it's clearly election time. While the race is still close, this is a no-brainer: President Barack Obama should be re-elected.

There are many reasons to vote for a second term for President Obama, economic and non-economic alike. Regarding economic issues, there was his Recovery Act (popularly or unpopularly known as "the stimulus"). Now, ignore just for a moment that both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan at one point supported stimulative economics and that Ryan, as did many Republicans, supported his state receiving some of those funds.  Ignore also that the country was in severe economic peril and that under virtually any other president, both parties would have come together to help solve the problem. Please ignore the fact that the Recovery Act was less than a trillion dollars worth of stimulus meant to fix a several-trillion dollar problem.

What's impressive beyond all those facts is that the law, according to Jonathan Alter, was essentially five major acts in one: the biggest funding for health care, education, and science since Lyndon Johnson; the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan; and the biggest infrastructure spending since Dwight Eisenhower. Many presidents fail to accomplish one major act in eight years; Obama accomplished five in one month. Many conservatives, the Romney team especially, have claimed that Obama's economic recovery failed. They are in disagreement simply with the facts, and you don't have to take my word for it: Mark Zandi (an economic adviser to Senator McCain's presidential campaign) of Moody's concluded that without the programs, gross domestic product would be almost seven percent lower and eight million more people would have been unemployed. I haven't even discussed the best part of the stimulus, that the funding for long-term expansion of green energy, making it the largest green bill in history, which Michael Grunwald explains:

Regarding Grunwald's praise of the President's green energy spending, this contrasts of course with the disappointment in the lacking of serious new laws to tackle undoubtedly the biggest problem facing us: global warming. Currently, though, at least the President is dealing with the problem through existing laws by treating carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant. Compare this to his opponent, who once wrote that he believed climate change was happening and that "human activity is a contributing factor." He quickly changed his mind, surprisingly, and now claims "we don't know" what's causing the problem.

The other day, a Romney supporter, who plans on voting for Romney because he's a businessman (the only businessmen who have been presidents that I know of are Herbert Hoover and the Bushes, so that's not much of a record to bet on), complained to me that President Obama was responsible for the much maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), ignoring the fact that one, the program was started under Obama's immediate predecessor, and two, the program has actually made a profit.

It is not simply the Recovery Act that will serve as President Obama's economic legacy. The Dodd-Frank Law, while unfortunately watered-down and not as strong as it should have been (especially since taxes were removed from the law, banks are still too big to fail, and Wall Street's behavior has not changed), nevertheless restored some of the protections needed to avoid another meltdown. Among its chief accomplishments are the creation of the Consumer Protection Agency and the Volcker Rule. (Incidentally, the public is on the President's side.)  And conservatives seem to be deeply (and somewhat justifiably) upset at our deficit situation. I would simply ask them where they were during the Reagan and Bush years, and second, remind them that federal spending is at the lowest it has been since the 1950s. In case you're having trouble opening that link, let me tell you that it's written by the notable socialist newspaper known as the Wall Street Journal and has been verified by the non-partisan Politifact. Consider also that most of what comprises our debt comes from Bush-era policies regarding guns-and-butter and that, should Mr. Romney find himself in the Oval Office, our debt would be severely worse. (If Republicans hate Obama complaining about his predecessor they should talk to this guy.) I haven't even mentioned the unpopular-at-the-time auto bailout, which Mr. Romney insisted was the wrong approach, but now believes he deserves credit for it.  

Aside from economic policies, President Obama has been remarkably successful in terms of social domestic policies and foreign policy. Personally, I was always annoyed at Democrats' inability to fight back against Republicans' outrageous charges. This time, it's Democrats making the dickish charges. They may be dickish, but they aren't untrue. In 2007, then-Senator Obama claimed that if there was evidence that Pakistan was holding Bin Laden and was unwilling to move to apprehend or eliminate him, then the U.S. would. He was criticized both from the left and the right over this. One of his conservative critics was none other than Romney, again campaigning for president, who said that Obama had "gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week." It was a clever line, but one which would come back to haunt him (as well as his complaint that it was not worth "moving heaven and Earth" to find Bin Laden). As Bill Clinton eloquently explained, President Obama risked an incredible amount: not simply the position of the United States and his election, but the lives of the Navy SEALs. I didn't vote for Barack Obama thinking he could actually get Osama Bin Laden. By that point, I was convinced Bin Laden was either dead-and-buried or forever hiding in some cave far beyond our reach. I thought that we had permanently lost our chance. That changed in May of 2011. John Kerry put things a bit more bluntly: "Ask Osama Bin Laden if he's better off today than he was four years ago."  Name another election in the past forty years in which the Democrat has the upper-hand against the Republican on foreign policy?

I'm probably boring readers by now by repeating stuff they probably (or at least should) already know. But in case they haven't, let me briefly summarize his other accomplishments: Obama not only supports equal marriage, but also will forever be known as the president who signed the Matthew Shepard Act into law after a decade of failed attempts and who also repealed the discriminatory and waste-of-money, backwards, bigoted policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Iraq War is over and our troops in Afghanistan have begun coming home. Not only has the automobile industry been rescued, but they are producing cars with greater fuel efficiency. And finally, likely his greatest domestic achievement, both economic and non-economic, is his health care law, an accomplishment virtually a hundred years worth of presidents couldn't get. With his health care law, the deficit will be reduced, there is a ban on discriminatory rationing regarding pre-existing conditions, Medicaid has been expanded, and some are predicting that it will be the end of for-profit health care.

Has Obama disappointed me? Of course he has, particularly regarding the dangerous, lethal, and immoral policies regarding drones. And the way I see it, I agree with the Green Party on ninety percent of the issues, with the Democratic Party on eighty percent, and the Republican Party on about thirty percent (they do have some good ideas).  I don't think we human beings always fit into perfectly defined spaces of left-versus-right.  That being said, why waste my vote on a false sense of ninety percent when I can vote to realistically achieve eighty percent? (And I sure as hell am not going to vote to get only thirty percent.) As the Vice President likes to say, don't compare President Obama to the Almighty, compare him to the alternative.

We will be told by critics after an Obama victory that Republicans lose because they pick moderate candidates. Now, it is true that there was a time when Governor Romney was a moderate, but those days are long gone. He is, as he put it, "severely conservative." And even if that were not the case, Republicans had more than a handful of conservatives to pick from, including Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul (although, based on that list, perhaps it is understandable why they went with Romney; see SNL's take on it). Republicans have essentially attempted to purchase this election (some of them quite single-handedly--"corporations are people, my friend"). But the real reason why Republicans have lost the past four-out-of-five presidential elections and why they will likely lose this one is not because their candidates are too weak (although that is certainly a factor). It's because they haven't changed their game plan and there's no evidence that they will any time soon. The base of the Republican Party--white, working class males--is shrinking, while the base of the Democratic Party--minorities--is growing. Romney is expected to do even worse among Hispanics this election than McCain did four years ago, and he has no one to blame but himself (and his harsh rhetoric against the "forty-seven percent" of "victims" and his opposition to the Dream Act).      

Obama simply isn't just a very good president; he is also up against an incredibly weak opponent. Romney has changed his opinion on virtually every issue--abortion, the Reagan/Bush years, stimulus, LGBT rights, gun control, etc. As someone once said, you're only allowed a certain amount of flip-flops before the American people doubt your character. Republicans have moved so far to the right that it's frightening (imagine President Reagan, who pulled out of Lebanon after an attack, raised taxes and the debt ceiling both around ten times, and supported closing tax loopholes, with today's Tea Party). Romney has happily embraced these ideologies. And we've heard a lot about his low tax rate, his overseas banking, and his love of Olympic horses, and pretty Michigan trees. It's not simply his far-right conservatism, his omnipresence of position changes, or the dire state of our economy and standing in the world should he become president that frighten me. It's his character. The video below should make your stomach so sick that you would have more than enough reasons to vote against Mitt Romney. Compare this to the character of President Obama. President Obama has had to deal with an opposition of intransigence whose own leaders have publicly admitted that their biggest goal was to make Obama a one-term president. He has had to deal with reporters and interviewers interrupting his answers to their own questions, as well as congressional representatives shouting out that he is a liar. He has had his faith and birth questioned. Through this all, he has shown remarkable composure and humor. The best example of this was during the Bin Laden raid; the week began with the release of his birth certificates while he rightfully claimed that he had more important things to do, then was hilarious at the White House Correspondents Dinner--even while comedian Seth Myers made a joke about Bin Laden--and only several days later, announced that Bin Laden had been killed. Remarkable.

Vote for Obama.

Finally, there's also this.


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