Full disclosure: I cannot vote in this upcoming election. My birth was mistimed by about 7 months and as a result I sit on the sidelines for what is probably the most important election we have seen in a couple decades. This is a decision between two fundamentally different approaches to government and its role in society. If I were to vote in this election, I would vote for Barack Obama. But this article is less about trying to compare the two and more about trying to get at the core of why people believe Obama does not deserve a second term. Hopefully through this article, some common misconceptions of Obama’s presidency can be dispelled and we can all get back to debating the actual issues.
My anonymous counterpart has already written an article attempting to explain his or her reasoning behind selecting Mitt Romney. The article’s main point is that Obama was given a chance, and instead of using his superior powers to fix issues that are present in our society, his choices have put the country in a downward spiral. It argues that Obama ran on a platform of change and promised to make our lives better, but it failed. Not only did he fail, but he left us with a huge debt (the author did not actually state this, but it is the common criticism of Obama’s presidency).
The issue with the idea that Obama hasn’t accomplished anything positive is a fundamental one: he hasn’t had enough time to fix anything. Sure, he was sworn in in January of 2009, but what does that actually mean? It means that the first half year of his presidency was spent getting his cabinet together and setting the legislative processes in motion in order to execute his policies. That leaves us with three and a half years of Obama’s actual policies. Take away the last two because of an obstructive Congress and you get a whopping one and half years of potentially pure Obama policy. Thus, one cannot evaluate him based purely on the result of his policies because none of them have gone into their full effect.
People can criticize this argument as being too simplistic and overlooking the fact that as commander-in-chief, it is President Obama’s job to persuade members of Congress to work together and pass laws that are sensible. This is a fair point, but one I don’t put much stock in because of the extraordinary levels of obstruction I have seen in the House of Representatives for the last two years. I agree to a certain extent that he didn’t get as much accomplished while he had a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate as I think he should have. But I attribute this failure to his attempts to reconcile with a party that refused to compromise. For example, the health care debate raged on not because there was any doubt that it would pass (remember: it eventually did without any Republican support). Rather, it continued because Obama didn’t initially want to pass legislation that had such strong Republican opposition. The fact is that Obama’s failure to accomplish as much as was expected when he first took office cannot be fully blamed on him.
This also does away with trying to make a decision purely based on whether or not one is better off now than they were four years ago. Since the recession was at its peak during the preliminary months of his administration before Obama could really do anything, it would make sense that many people are in a worse situation now than they were four years ago. Sure, the recovery hasn’t been as robust as anybody would have liked and maybe there were things he could have done to make it better. Regardless, recoveries always benefit various people for reasons that aren’t always entirely clear. Some people will miss out. My mother lost her job this past August so one could say that my family is worse off now than four years ago. In fact, our income was literally cut in half. But to blame that purely on the President overlooks the giant elephant in the room: the recession he inherited.
Finally, we must look at Romney’s economic plan. He says that he intends to institute across the board tax cuts which favor high income people. His intention is to allow those who have the resources necessary to create businesses and make financial investments to have more capital at their disposal. Also, he plans to peel back the “unnecessary” government regulations imposed on the economy. As result, the economy will grow because the government is no longer in the way.
Sounds good in theory, right? But there are some inconsistencies in his various arguments. First, his primary point of conversation thus far in the campaign has been that he will reduce the deficit by cutting spending. However, the debt problem is not going to get any better when the spending cuts he is proposing are offset by the reduction in revenue that the tax cuts would inevitably bring. Romney says that, somehow, he will keep tax revenue the same by reducing loopholes in the current tax code. But then, what was the point of the tax cuts in the first place? That money will still have to come from somewhere. In essence if he is intending to reduce the tax burden on the so called “job creators” (i.e. the rich), then the burden must fall on somebody else’s shoulders. Personally, I fear that it’s going to fall on the shoulders of the middle class. It does not help that he has been uselessly ambiguous when it comes to the specifics of his economic plan. In contrast, Obama’s plan, although not by any standard perfect, involves a much more balanced approach that calls for increases in taxes on the wealthiest while also invoking spending cuts.
Aside from the specific aspects (or lack thereof) of his plan, Romney’s ideas do not appeal to me for one simple reason: I do not like the idea of placing my financial future and livelihood in the hands of people who are only interested in making money. There is something inherently scary about trusting people who both do not care about my welfare and, more importantly, do not have to answer to me at any level.
I grew up in a socially conservative household. My mother is a staunch Catholic and has impressed many of her beliefs, especially her pro-life stance, upon me. As a result, chances are that I am significantly more socially conservative than most of the people that will read this article. But this does nothing to change the fact that I am a proud Obama supporter. I hope people will follow this example. Political decisions and elections are not about one issue or following party lines. They are a time to reflect upon what it is that we truly believe and why we believe it. So regardless of who you are voting for (or, in my case, desiring to vote for), make sure that you know why it is that you are voting for that person. Do not play reactionary politics. Do not vote simply based upon one particular issue. Do not discount Romney just because he is labelled as a “conservative”. Do not discount Obama because you think he has failed you in the last four years. Instead, analyze each of the candidates, along with their individual beliefs, based upon the validity of their policies and use your intellect to cut through the propaganda and lies. This way, you will be able to make an informed decision based on what you know rather than what you believe.
What I know is that Obama inherited a mess that was the result of a lack of oversight. I know that he cleaned up the majority of this mess relatively quickly and started a slow, but definitely present, recovery. I know that his economic plan looks out for my welfare and the welfare of many middle class people like me more than Romney’s does. I know that four years isn’t enough time for him to be properly evaluated. And finally, I know that he needs to finish the job he started four years ago.
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