Posted By Eric Ethington (Author) on September 10, 2012
As we enter the final two months of the 2012 elections, I find myself more and more often drawn into conversations about whether or not President Barack Obama has done enough to improve America’s economic outlook. I wanted to put out some thoughts about it.
Since the 2007 crash under President George W. Bush, which launched us into the greatest financial recession our country has seen since the early 20th century, the federal government has seen two very unique power structures. The first was a strong Democratic control of both Congress, the Senate, and the White House as a result of voter’s outrage at conservatives for allowing the housing and financial markets to weaken themselves to the point of such a crash. The second power structure is what we have seen since the 2010 midterm elections, with a wildly anti-government contingent of Congressman in full control of Congress, paired with only a slight Democratic majority in the Senate.
During the President’s first two years in office, while the Democrats enjoyed a majority in both Houses, many key investments were made for America’s future: Wall Street Reform, TARP, the Auto-Industry Bailout, the Fair Pay Act, Credit Protections and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to name a few. Yet, while many sound economic recovery programs were put in place, many others were left behind. This is one of the points I have disagreed with the President on. From 2009-2010, both the President as well as leading Democrats in the legislative bodies made overt efforts to reach across the aisle to find compromise and agreements with their Republican counterparts, only to be rebuffed and labeled as Socialists and Marxists. I fully supported those bipartisan attempts, however once those rejections were made clear it seems the more prudent direction would have been to take advantage of their majority status and pass through further recovery packages anyway, even if it meant no Republican support.
Once the balance of power shifted in 2010, such efforts were no longer a possibility in any sense, with Republicans gaining the requisite amount of seats to both prevent Democratic legislation in the House as well as filibuster bills into obscurity in the Senate. The moment of possibility had passed. Since January of 2011, when this new breed of anti-government purists took control of Congress, any pretense of helping the country climb back into prosperity was quickly abandoned, with Republicans quickly making it clear that their priority was not economic growth, but the defeat of President Obama in 2012.
Unsurprisingly, this complete and total objection to any Democratic proposals, whether or not they may have agreed with them, has prevented further policies and financial vehicles from being put in place to speed up job growth.
This leads me back to the original question, of whether the President has done enough to warrant a second term. But perhaps that isn’t the right question. Since the economy has, in fact, improved (albeit slowly) under President Obama, perhaps the better query posed would be “Does the Republican ticket have a legitimate economic plan that would lead to a speedier recovery than the recovery under President Obama?” It seems a reasonable question, since the last time we faced a Republican majority we saw a radical deregulation of the financial industry which was largely responsible for this mess in the first place.
So let’s take a look. Governor Mitt Romney and his running mate Congressman Paul Ryan have said that their financial plan is comprised primarily of roughly $5 Trillion in tax cuts for many Americans, which they will pay for by eliminating loopholes in the tax code. Unfortunately for those seeking an alternative to President Obama, that’s the end of their plan. No amount of pushing, pulling, cajoling, or ridiculing by fiscal analysts, the media, or Democrats have been successful in getting the Romney/Ryan campaign to elaborate on any further details such as “which loopholes?” or “how much?” Instead, they have stated that revealing details of their plan would “only give more fodder to the Democrats” (isn’t that called debate… what we’re supposed to be doing?), and that they’ll “work it out with Congress once elected.”
As was highlighted in Charlotte this past week, projecting the outcome of such vagueness is difficult to pinpoint. But the consensus among the major financial institutions is that one of three outcomes is likely to come about. First, it is possible that the ads being run by the Obama Campaign are correct, and in order for Romney to pay for his high tax cuts, he would have to eliminate so many loopholes in the tax code that he would also end up ending deductions for things like home mortgages or church donations – resulting in an average of a $2000 tax increase on the average American family. The second possibility is that they wouldn’t find enough money in tax loopholes to pay for the tax cuts, leading to cuts to essential services such as food and water safety, research investment, infrastructure, and federal student aid (such as pell grants). The third possibility is the scariest, although I believe the most likely as it was what occurred under Presidents Reagan and George W Bush (not HW), and that’s that they won’t pay for the tax cuts at all, leading to further explosion in our nation’s debt and deficits.
By comparison, President Obama did manage to build a floor under the falling economy, engineered the rescue and recovery of the auto-industry (worth 1.1 Million jobs in the U.S.), and has presided over 30 straight months of job growth (4.5 Million new jobs in the last 4 years). His primary plan moving forward, the American Jobs Act (first proposed in 2011), is estimated to add an additional 1 Million new private sector jobs as well as decrease our nation’s debt by over $4 Trillion. Unfortunately the American Jobs Act was immediately stalled by Congressional Republicans who are more interested in making our economic recovery outlook as bleak as possible, which they hope will be a reflection of President Obama rather than themselves. But even with the American Jobs Act, the economic policies enacted by the Obama Administration are estimated by independent analysts to create an additional 12 Million jobs over the coming 4 years, even if the President doesn’t do anything additional to speed the process along.
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I consider myself to be a liberal, and frequent supporter of Democratic candidates. However, I also consider myself to be much more of an idealist rather than an ideologue. While some say there is no difference, I believe idealists are those who have a natural inclination towards an ideology, but maintain a sense of openness – readily eager to listen to new ideas and rationally consider concepts not previously engaged. On the other hand, an ideologue would be one who approaches a problem with a predetermined outcome and/or belief, which naturally leaves any who opposes their point of view as automatically wrong, regardless of what they were contributing to the debate. This makes idealists more suited to finding bipartisan solutions and reach compromise – in other words, govern.
In my opinion, the current Republican Party is being led by these types of ideologues – unwilling to listen to ideas or compromise because they approach their tasks with the notion that they are already correct. Even those Republicans within their own Party who show an interest in actual governance are immediately shunned, disparaged as traitors or RINO’s, and pushed and bullied to the point where they completely leave their party (ie.. Arlen Spector or Olympia Snowe) or are defeated in inner-party races (ie.. Bob Bennett) in favor of more tow-the-line teapartiers.
You may not be happy with the moderate speed the economic recovery occurring under President Obama, but until the Romney/Ryan campaign push forward any details of their plan that would make it fiscally possible or show any sign that it would be better than the current Administration, and until the Republican Party abandons this extreme-right ideologue bent, the choice this November isn’t even really a choice – it’s just common sense. We either move forward as a nation, or we grind to a halt – or worse, move backwards.