In 2009, when President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the country’s economy was in a state of utter collapse, thanks to the reckless deregulation of Wall Street and the bursting of the housing bubble. The U.S. workforce was losing 800,000 jobs per month. Obama had run on a platform of hope and change, and all most Americans could do was hope as the economy teetered on the brink of the next Great Depression. Other plans and priorities had to wait—this needed fixing immediately. So Obama proposed a $787 billion stimulus package that would match decreased private spending with increased public spending, devoting billions of government dollars to expand America’s infrastructure, stop layoffs and cutbacks in our public schools, and develop the clean energy sources of the future—saving and creating millions of jobs along the way. Economists all across the political spectrum agreed that dramatic government action was necessary to stave off the worst economic downturn in nearly 80 years. Recovery has taken time, but following 31 straight months of private sector job growth, the U.S. economy is improving. Some people say that the recovery has not been fast enough, that Obama has been ineffective, or that he has not delivered on the promises he made during his campaign. These same people urge America to vote for Mitt Romney and the Republicans running for Congress, claiming that they will see America out of its financial woes. These people could not be more wrong, and as you’ll see, the facts tell a different story of the past four years.
In September of 2011, President Obama laid out a set of proposals that would together be known as the American Jobs Act. The act would have given money to states to hire more teachers and emergency responders, to modernize at least 35,000 public schools and community colleges, to expand job opportunities for low-income Americans and unemployed veterans, and cut taxes on small businesses that would hire new workers or raise wages for existing employees. The act would have been paid for with a very modest tax increase on the nation’s highest earners, a fair price to pay for speeding up America’s recovery.
Yet the Republicans blocked the American Jobs Act 33 times, denying Americans the change they had voted for. Why? Two reasons—one reflecting an extremist agenda, the other reflecting craven political calculation. First, the politics. As Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell so gracefully put it, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is to make President Obama a one-term president.”
Congressional Republicans’ top priority was not to fix the economy and put people back to work. It was not to balance the budget and pay off our country’s debt. They knew that an improving economy and progress on deficit reduction would help President Obama, so they’ve actively sought to block such progress. In the face of such aggressive and unified opposition, I would say Obama has done an excellent job of not only passing what bills he could (including the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Credit CARD Act, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), but also keeping his cool. Imagine what he could have achieved with a cooperative Congress.
Now, what about the GOP’s extremist agenda?
During the Republican primary debates, the candidates were asked if they would support a policy of ten dollars in spending cuts for every one dollar of new revenue. Every one, including Mitt Romney, said no new revenue—not one cent—can be part of the solution. Republicans are committed to no tax increase for the wealthiest Americans under any circumstance—not to boost the economy, nor even to address our growing budget deficit.
But given the imbalance between revenue in and spending out, it is simply not feasible to balance the U.S. budget deficit or provide an economic boost without savage cuts to virtually every aspect of government. That means that instead of asking the wealthiest Americans—who already pay taxes at a rate far lower than the middle class—to pay a bit more for the good of the whole country, Republicans support dismantling funding for education, transportation, environmental protection, law enforcement, food safety, and virtually every other function of government. And even while doing so, this extremist agenda still won’t reduce America’s deficit as much as a more balanced approach. It’s more likely to push America back into deep recession.
If a Republican budget like the one Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are proposing were enacted, it would mean the end of government as we know it. It would mean an America where if you lose your job and can no longer afford food, you beg on the streets or starve. If you can’t afford health care or a college degree, you don’t have access to medical care or higher education. All while millionaires enjoy a whole new round of tax cuts.
So I urge you, as just another American waiting for the change we were promised, to give President Barack Obama a second term. Not only that—give him a Democratic Congress that will stand with him and help him finally enact the change we were promised. We’ve waited four years. Now let’s give Obama four real years.
BY MAXWELL HELMBERGER firstname.lastname@example.org