The Case for a Second Term

There has been a lot of noise from the Republican opposition claiming how ineffective Obama has been since day one. How could anyone re-elect a president who “doesn’t do anything a real president would do”, as Newt Gingrich said. The opposition talks about all of the broken promises and mocks the theme of hope and change as if they were rooters for American failure. Even some on the left; democrats, friends and family of my own have expressed disappointment in Obama as if his election was supposed to mean an end to partisan obstruction or complicated political process. Just 13 days out from the election, I hold it my sacred obligation to educate the naysayers and disillusioned to leave no doubt that this president is the best since Lyndon Johnson or FDR. To not do everything in our power to grant him a second term would be the biggest mistake since allowing George W. Bush to be elected.

Obama came into office watching the economy collapse as a result of policies Romney advocates, and immediately went to work passing the Recovery and Investment Act. 1/3 of that stimulus went to lowering the middle class tax burden. The rest was relief to states and went to roads, bridges, and domestic projects all over the country to stimulate the economy. It worked, quickly reversing the trend of 750,000 jobs being lost per month, and led to the creation of almost 3 million private sector jobs. The figure Republicans like to tout to say the stimulus failed was the administration’s assumption that the unemployment rate wouldn’t go above 8 percent, throwing off their calculations for the stimulus, because the depth of the recession was underestimated. They dug a hole for us and then laughed when Obama tried to help us out, and inadvertently admitted the stimulus should have been bigger in the process. The 800 billion was fought for tooth and nail in order to get bipartisan approval in congress. It should have been bigger, but with a blindfold on much of the economic outlook, it would have been impossible to broker. If Obama thought he could have gotten 1.5 trillion to start revamping our infrastructure and economy, I promise you he would have. If the stimulus was such bad policy, Paul Ryan wouldn’t have requested money for his district.

Look at the auto bailout that saved the American auto industry. Romney proposed letting the auto industry collapse and build itself from the ground up. The auto industry is a source of millions of jobs directly and indirectly through suppliers, and has created 100,000 new jobs since its robust recovery. If Romney had his way, we would have a fraction of that auto employment and fallen into a slump worse than the great depression.

The Affordable Care Act, fondly called obamacare, is the single greatest progress this country has made in healthcare since Medicare. I know you hear from the Republicans how it’s a government takeover of healthcare and that its socialism and blah blah blah. It’s annoying. Obamacare is based off of Republican ideas from the Heritage foundation, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and the like. Up until about 2007, most Republicans were proposing something similar. Then Obama got elected and the must-defeat-black-guy mentality kicked in. 44 million people in this country do not have insurance, and when they end up in emergency rooms, it’s ten times more expensive, a tab that is socialized to the country, not to mention a terrible way of reducing early mortality. This bill is a right-of-center approach that is a fantastic start to reforming our broken system by aiming to control costs and end our uninsured crisis. The non-partisan CBO scored the bill as reducing the deficit and being completely paid for. After an unfunded Medicare expansion and multiple wars from the Republicans in the past 8 years, that should sound like fiscal responsibility. What we should have is a single payer system like the rest of the modern world, and we would be all be paying less in that system separated from work place coverage. But that doesn’t mean this bill is meaningless. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton all tried to tackle healthcare reform in a meaningful way and failed. That fact alone makes the law an incredible feat.

He also passed credit card reform and took out banks as the middlemen in student loans, saving us 60 billion dollars per year. He doubled Pell grant funding. He raised fuel efficiency standards for the auto industry, invested 90 billion into clean energy, raised new education standards to the national level, passed a law to help pay equality for women, stopped defending the defense of marriage act, recapitalized the banks, passed comprehensive wall street reform, and setup a consumer protection bureau. Need I ramble more?

Knowing all of this, know that the Republicans have said from day one their job is to make sure he isn’t elected again, and have filibustered or tried to block most of these bills in pursuit of that.

The McCain campaign always made sure to paint Obama as this thin-skinned liberal who would be unable to assert American interests abroad. The irony here is that Obama has been the most effective foreign policy president since Eisenhower. While accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, he gave a speech laying out how he would use the tough arm of our armed forces responsibly in the ear and interest of the world community.  Sound like a pushover?

Obama ended the war in Iraq, and opted out of continued military presence there despite many calls to do so. He focused our military presence in Afghanistan to give time for the Afghani’s to build a security force, and is finally winding the longest war in American history to a close in 2014. Obama refocused the hunt for Bin Laden, and ordered the risky operation that killed Bin Laden as well as bringing in a trove of intelligence. He also is responsible for the dozens of Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders through the escalation of unmanned drones. The civilian deaths from these are the most publicized, but drones are the only way to successfully break these groups as an alternative to massive military presence and far more civilian casualties. We are in the process of restructuring our military to be leaner, more cost-effective, and smarter to address new world threats.

Of the revolutions in the Arab world, Obama led the immensely successful operation to topple Moammar Gaddafi without putting force on the ground. He dropped U.S. support for Mubarak in Egypt, leading to his dictatorships’ collapse. Obama has corralled the world into a successful opposition to the Iranian nuclear program, crippling the country with sanctions and avoiding the war hawk calls for military intervention. He has negotiated the most comprehensive nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia since the end of the cold war. For soldiers, he ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and immensely improved the aid flowing to veterans by 16% and in a way the Bush administration neglected on a gross scale. He also ended the cruel, illegal, and ineffective Bush practice of torture as policy in the intelligence community, improving our diplomatic relations and world image.

My great uncle sent me a Newsweek article from earlier this year about Obama’s first term that I’ve been reading a lot. It cites that out of 508 specific campaign promises Obama made, 1/3 of them are complete, and only two have not been acted on at all. Obama is not the hyped up demagogue the right makes him out to be. Federal spending is rising at its lowest level in decades, at 1.4%, and government employment has dropped 2.2%. 93% of income gains in the past year have gone to the top 1% of income earners; all of which have been a major drag on the economy. If Obama’s a socialist, he’s a god awful one. It is a miracle Obama has done all he has. He’s tried to be bipartisan his whole term and received gridlock on everything.

Obama is the finest orator and politician in a generation. He’s accomplished more in 4 years than Bush did in 8 or could do in 16, so much so that this summary just scratches the surface of his work. But for all of his hard work, there is a disappointment among the 2008 supporters that somehow he was going to completely transform our politics and ignite a revolution. But he’s a pragmatist. If he could do everything, he would. But this is reality. To be dissatisfied with Obama’s first term is to either be oblivious to the political climate or to have forgotten the hell we were in for 8 years under Republican leadership. For all my talk about Obama’s inevitable victory, I cannot emphasize how important it is not to let up on working to make it actually happen. That Newsweek article talked about how Obama is a long-term thinker, working for the greater end product rather than immediate gratification. Imagine what he could accomplish in another 4 year term if he didn’t face another obstructionist congress. But then imagine how detrimental a Romney administration would be to the progress we’ve made so far.

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