When an incumbent president is up for re-election, voters must ask themselves a simple question: is the nation better off than it was four years ago? The answer to that question goes a long way towards determining if a president deserves another four years in office. In the case of President Barack Obama, the answer is a definitive yes.
Opinions on the subject vary, but numbers do not lie. Four years ago we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. The stock market was imploding as we were in the depths of the biggest financial crisis in decades. On September 29, 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777 points, the largest drop in history. Two weeks later, the Dow dropped 733 points, which was the second biggest drop in history. The fall and winter of 2008 saw several drops of this magnitude. Trillions of dollars of wealth were wiped out.
The nation was facing other problems as well. The US auto industry was on the verge of collapse. GM and Chrysler were headed towards bankruptcy. While some argued they should be allowed to fail, doing so would have resulted in millions of additional job loses. Jobs would not have just been lost at the car factories, but also in all of the parts factories that supported GM and Chrysler. It would have been a major blow to a US manufacturing sector that was already hemorrhaging jobs to China and other third world countries.
The US was also mired in two nearly decade long wars. The war in Afghanistan has cost the US over 2,000 US soldiers and $500 billion, and the war in Iraq has cost the US over 4,000 soldiers and $800 billion. While the Iraq war was winding down, the Afghan conflict was heating up. The Taliban had regrouped from its earlier defeat, and as the US was bogged down in Iraq, it had been slowly growing in power.
Needless to say, the situation was looking dire four years ago. Today, we are not completely out of the woods, but our situation has improved dramatically. The depths of the recession brought us a 10% unemployment rate. The rate stands at 7.8% now, the lowest since January 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which dropped down into the 6000s during the recession, has doubled and is now over 13,000. We lost 700,000 jobs the month President Obama took office, but we are now creating over 100,000 jobs a month. In fact, we have had 31 straight months of job creation.
Most economists agree that President Obama’s stimulus plan helped get us out of the recession. The plan brought tax cuts for families and small businesses, investment in green energy, and infrastructure spending. There was also aid to the states, which were facing huge budget problems. Without help from the Recovery Act, thousands of teachers, police officers, and firefighters likely would have lost their jobs as states would have had to cut their budgets. We know this because once the stimulus spending ended, many states ended up having to cut jobs anyway. If not for tens of thousands of state government job cuts, the unemployment rate would be below 7% right now.
The president also moved to save the US auto industry. By having the government get directly involved, millions of jobs were saved up and down the supply chain. Today, Chrysler and GM are once again profitable. The manufacturing sector has shown growth for the first time in years. While we will probably never recover all the jobs we lost to cheaper labor markets, the bleeding was at least temporarily slowed.
Foreign policy has been President Obama’s strongest point. He helped bring the Iraq war to an end. The president has pushed a drone bombing campaign that has decimated the leadership of Al Qaeda. Under his command, US Navy Seals found and killed Osama Bin Laden. US forces also led an air campaign that helped rebels overthrow Libyan dictator Mouammar Kadhafi. We were able to do this at a fraction of the cost of the Iraq war. America’s standing in the world has improved dramatically over the past four years, and the president is strongly supported across the world.
Perhaps the president’s signature achievement, though, is passage of health care reform. The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) finally brought universal health care to the US. Shockingly, the plan received little support from Republicans, despite the fact that the plan was based on one passed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney while he was governor of Massachusetts. The plan originated from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and was touted as the conservative alternative to Hillarycare back in the early 1990s.
While not perfect, Obamacare made drastic improvements to the US health insurance system. The law made pre-existing condition discrimination illegal, allowed parents to keep children on their health insurance until the age of 26, and extended the solvency of Medicare by eight years. Obamacare managed to do this while also lowering the deficit by about $124 billion over 10 years according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
The president had many other achievements, and many failures as well. Faced with an uncompromising Republican Party that set records for the number of filibusters in the Senate, his record looks even better. The points listed represent a strong case for re-election, but the challenger still has to be considered. Has Mitt Romney offered an alternative that trumps what the president has already accomplished?
Mr. Romney’s economic plan calls for an across the board 20% tax cut. Essentially, he is doubling down on trickle down, as Bill Clinton so eloquently put it at the Democratic National Convention. These policies are not new, they are the same set of ideas pushed by George W. Bush. While Bush’s tax cuts were not the reason for the Great Recession, they were a big reason for the massive national debt we have today.
Economists believe that tax cuts are one of the weaker forms of economic stimulus. Our economy is consumer based, and right now we have a major demand problem. Consumers do not have enough money in their pockets. Tax cuts that mostly favor the rich will not help this problem. Businesses are currently sitting on record levels of cash. If they wanted to hire, they could. The problem is not on the supply side of the equation, but on the demand side. A business will not hire new workers unless they have to in order to meet demand.
Mr. Romney is also calling for spending cuts. The Europeans have tried to cut their way out of a debt crisis, and the results have been disastrous. When governments cut spending, the economy suffers. A weaker economy brings in fewer tax dollars. Austerity has actually led to more debt in Europe, not less. If Mr. Romney’s plan were enacted, and he paired tax cuts with spending cuts, our deficit would likely explode both in the short run and the long run. After a decade of record deficit spending, we can not afford to escalate the problem.
A critique of Mr. Romney’s positions on other matters proves difficult, as the Republican challenger has shifted so many times on a large range of issues. When a candidate’s position changes due to an evolving situation, it shows good judgement. However, when a candidate constantly changes positions in accordance with what is politically convenient, it shows bad character.
The stakes are very high in this election. On one side we have a president who plans to take a balanced approach to handle our fiscal and economic problems. On the other, we have a challenger who wishes to double down on the policies that eliminated the surpluses left behind by the Clinton presidency, and led to the weakest record of job creation in modern times. The next few years could determine if America maintains its place as the greatest nation on Earth. In order to secure that future, The North Mobile Post recommends President Barack Obama.