by Ralph Scharnau
We have nearly reached the end of a presidential election cycle marked by money-soaked campaigning, ads, polls, and fact checking. Now voters will decide the outcome between the sharply divided visions of President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney.
The achievements of the President’s first term are noteworthy. Obama’s stimulus staved off depression. His infrastructure and clean energy investments created or preserved 2.5 million jobs. His rescue of Chrysler and GM put workers back on the assembly lines. Tax incentives for small businesses, more affordable loans for college students, new fuel economy standards for cars, ending the military’s discriminatory don’t ask, don’t tell policy, an executive order giving new hope for young undocumented immigrants, and milestone regulation to curb financial industry abuses can be added to the list of accomplishments. Finally, he ended the war in Iraq, is winding down the one in Afghanistan, and bin Laden is dead.
Obama-led Democrats passed the historic Affordable Care Act that extends health coverage to about 30 million uninsured people. By contrast, Romney’s idea of health care is to repeal the Affordable Care Act and direct the uninsured to emergency rooms.
During the economic downturn, Democrats pushed to increase funding for food stamps and unemployment insurance. Republicans now consider these anti-poverty programs too expensive. Democrats insist that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security be preserved as federally guaranteed programs. Romney-led Republicans would reduce funding for these landmark social programs with a long term goal of privatizing them.
Romney dismisses 47% of the population not expected to pay federal income taxes as people who consider themselves victims and do not take personal responsibility for their lives. Although they did not earn enough to pay federal income taxes, more than half of the 47% did work and paid payroll taxes and state and local taxes at a higher effective tax rate than Romney. Another 20% were retired. Rather than irresponsible as Romney said, not having much money means you actually have to be more responsible for your life.
Romney’s disdain for workers surfaced when he remarked that he likes to fire people. When it comes to the workplace, he values profits, not employees. Romney is an entitled very rich guy with no understanding of how people without wealth actually live.
No less troubling is the Republican Party’s near-unanimous acceptance that government should not do much of anything beyond fielding an army, policing sexual conduct, and subsidizing corporations. Romney wants a union-free America where corporations enjoy virtual immunity from high taxes and troublesome regulations.
While Obama signed fair pay for women legislation, right wing Republicans seem determined to erode women’s access to health care and the right to control their lives. Many Republicans seem to think that women are no more than the sum of their reproductive organs.
Mitt Romney offers airy platitudes, shifting positions, and detail-free policies. One of the most telling endorsements of the President for a second term came from the Republican moderate and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Even The Salt Lake Tribune endorsed Obama.
We see signs of a slow but steady economic comeback. Unemployment fell to 7.8%, consumer spending is up, and home and auto sales have rebounded. Post-election issues that should be addressed include passing the Republican blocked jobs bill, raising the minimum wage, climate change, fair trade policies, and comprehensive immigration reform.
We need to re-elect President Obama. He will stand up for everyone, not just the rich and privileged. He reaches out to all Americans, immigrant and native, gay and straight, black and white, male and female. Obama has the mettle, the vision, and the principles to carry the nation toward a full economic recovery.
November 1, 2012