Monday, November 5, 2012

The Hope and Change Is Staring You in the Face

It is not uncommon to hear pundits and journalists lament about the promised hope and change that they imply may not have materialized during Obama’s first term.

But the hope and change are right there for all to see. Could anyone imagine a greater change from Bush 43 than Obama?

• Ending the war in Iraq while killing Osama Bin Laden and reversing the destructive course of the neoconservatives.

• Historic health care reform which curbed the worst abuses of health insurance companies and expanded insurance coverage to 30 million additional Americans (by 2014).

• Reforming Wall Street to reduce the risk of another financial meltdown—180 degrees from Republican ideological opposition to regulation.

• Equal pay for women and expanded civil rights for gays, vigorously opposed by Republicans.

The change couldn’t be clearer, and it is for the better. Yes, there’s still Guantanamo, financial reform could have been stronger and it would have been great to get the public option. But we all know the political climate that the president faced. These were impressive legislative victories in the face of the Republican money machine and we can build on them.

The president’s record gives us hope. He has indeed delivered. And what kind of hope would there be under Mitt Romney? Economic, social and environmental policies of the 1920s. America cannot afford four to eight years of regression and re-application of discredited policies.

We need to keep going forward with the hope and the change offered by President Obama.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Election 2012: Should Americans Reward a Political Party that Nearly Destroyed the Economy and Then Did Everything It Could to Sabotage Its Recovery?

As the storm rages through the Eastern United States, we can interrupt our political passions and step back for a moment and get a big picture view of the 2012 national election. We know about all of the disagreements between President Obama and Governor Romney and between the Democrat and Republican candidates in general:

• Targeted tax cuts vs additional tax cuts for everyone including the top 5%

• Should we be looking to fight a new war in the Middle East or should we place stricter criteria on when we engage in war?

• Are the health care protections achieved in the Affordable Care Act worth preserving?

• Who should serve on the Supreme Court?

• Whether climate change is real and should be addressed

• The extent of women’s reproductive rights

• The extent of gay rights

These are all important issues and the dividing lines are clear.  But Americans need to ask one more question of themselves before they cast their vote:

Should Americans lend their support to the party that nearly destroyed the economy by 2008, and then, when they lost power, proceeded to obstruct every initiative of the new president whose job it was to repair the economy? 

What message would that send to political parties in the future if they did?

With the economy currently on the mend, it's easy to forget where we were four years ago.  But we also need to consider how far ahead we would be today were it not for those who have gambled on prospects for political gain through obstruction over the interests of the country.  Karl Rove, with his superpac, is betting you will forget.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Republican Convention Poses a Psychological Challenge to Americans

If nothing else, the strategy of the Republican convention was that perception is everything. Demonstrating that they had learned from mistakes of the past and presenting a positive vision for the future and a way to implement it was not part of their convention plan.

There were several perceptions that they attempted to create that standout as particularly remote from reality:

1. Obama did not pursue a hope and change agenda that he spoke of in his 2008 campaign

2. Republicans have a better plan for the economy

3. Republicans are self-made because they started with nothing

4. They are compassionate toward the less fortunate and want to preserve Social Security and Medicare

The popular media has lazily sunk into this narrative that President Obama has abandoned “hope and change.” In fact, when he had sufficient numbers of Democrats in both houses he managed to get through historic health care reform that very capable presidents had tried for nearly a century but had failed to do. He also signed critical financial reform to at least reduce the possibility of future financial debacles as had occurred under his Republican predecessor. The benefits from both of these historic bills will continue for generations. The ending of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan, without creating new ill-advised military adventures will cut our losses and allow resources to be allocated to far more positive and productive activities. Obama certainly carried through his agenda of hope and change.

Second, the Republicans plan for the economy is fundamentally the plan of George W. Bush, just reinvigorated with new slogans and attacks on the social safety net. Should Americans expect a different outcome from deregulation of Wall Street compounded by further tax cuts for wealthy individuals who are currently hoarding their money anyway? Romney’s personal business experience is, frankly, a very hard sell because what he did at Bain capital cannot be replicated in an entire economy, because it is not necessarily a win-win approach to business; it is often a win-lose approach. Moreover, Mitt Romney’s “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” strategy was very revealing because it was not a viable option because of lack of capital available to the automotive companies. Barack Obama’s bailout worked exceedingly well as GM is again highly profitable. And while, overall, Barack Obama’s recovery, if you will, is slow, at least it’s going in the right direction. The media needs to understand that even the right policies can take longer than an election cycle to work, particularly with such severe damage from the predecessor’s policies. Obama has earned the right to keep cleaning up the Republican mess. The Republicans have not earned the right to make another one.

Third, the Republican ticket is a pair of quite privileged men. Not many of us have parents who were CEOs of auto companies. In the context of Mitt Romney’s secrecy about his tax returns, the pride in being “self-made” rings awfully hollow.

Fourth, words of compassion at the convention make us think of “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush. Eight years, two wars, two right wing Supreme Court appointments, massive deficits and a collapsed economy later, there wasn’t much thought of compassionate conservatism. Was there even a mention of George W. Bush, the most recent Republican and a two-term president? Paul Ryan’s voucherizing of senior care is on paper. He shouldn’t be allowed to spin his way out of the fact that the Republican plan takes away security from seniors by guaranteeing a voucher and not guaranteeing medical care.

Indeed, the Republican convention has tested American's ability to resist and reject an onslaught of highly suggestive language that seeks to hide the Republican record and agenda, while dismissing the historical and positive accomplishments of President Obama. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Romney's Choice

Romney’s VP pick, Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, has a plan for Medicare, one of the most popular programs in U.S. history: convert it from a guaranteed single payer coverage plan to one based on vouchers where the risk of rising costs is shifted to seniors. The substantive difference—Paul Ryan’s plan guarantees you a voucher, while the current program guarantees you health care services.

Some have applauded his plan as one that at least attempts to deal with Medicare’s very real financial unsustainability. But there are two areas where the credibility of Congressman Ryan’s approach as a good faith effort to save Medicare collapses. First, it was Congressman Ryan’s economic philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism and de-regulation that led to the financial crisis of 2008 that has accelerated the Medicare crisis. Second, Congressman Ryan refuses to consider the revenue side of the solution to financing Medicare and other entitlements. After the collapse of the financial sector in 2008-09 when federal revenues dropped by nearly $500 billion, Ryan still maintained, “we do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.” Taking that position, while advocating additional tax cuts for high income Americans, does not constitute a good faith effort to solve Medicare’s funding problem.

With his own failed economic philosophy of laissez-faire deregulation and total disregard for the revenue side of the fiscal balance, Congressman Ryan’s plan doesn’t look very brave given the constituency he is trying to please. It looks like what it is: part the ideological war against the Great Society and the New Deal. Is Mitt Romney himself part of this ideological war against programs that give middle class Americans not only concrete medical and income benefits, but intangible benefits of a sense of security and peace of mind? If not, then why did he pick Paul Ryan as his running mate?