It would, I think, come as a shock to practically anyone who reads this if I were to endorse any presidential candidate other than Barack Obama. And no, I do not intend to shock anyone.
It is not the who but the why that matters, and really, is there any more to it than that I have been left of center on most issues since I was a teenager and do not feel it’s time to stop now?
Maybe not. But let me put a few more words — okay, more than a few — to it anyway. There are three broad areas, I think, where the Presidency matters — areas that in fact pretty much define the scope of executive government: The economy, social issues, and military and foreign policy. In my mind there is no question that Barack Obama offers a far better choice than Mitt Romney in all three.
The economy is a mess; we know this. We also know it has been a mess since the latter part of the Bush II administration, and in fact it was a mess of historic proportions at that time. G. W. Bush came into office with the United States budget running at a surplus; after starting two wars, signing the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, and cutting taxes, he left office with the deficit at record highs. Meanwhile an underregulated banking industry brought us the subprime mortgage crisis. Unemployment skyrocketed; in the last six months of Bush, 3.5 million jobs were lost.
Well before Obama was inaugurated we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Do you all remember that?
Yes? Then you understand what an enormous challenge the past four years have been. You understand that the present unemployment rate, 7.2%, is far better then the 9.7% of 2010, let alone the higher value we would have seen without the economic stimulus package. You understand that when you have a runaway train, before you can turn it around you have to slow it down and stop it. And indeed throughout Obama’s first term in office job losses slowed down, and ever since then, jobs have been added in nearly every month.
Meanwhile, during the Obama administration, the average annual increase in the S&P 500 is 15.2% — fourth best of all presidents since 1900. Average annual real GDP per capita growth is 1.4%, compared to 0.7% and 0.5% for Bush I and Bush II, respectively. Average annual inflation rate, 2.2%, lower than for any president since Kennedy. And average annual corporate profit growth under Obama: 77.9%(!!!). Now, that’s a misleading number: corporate profits were highly depressed when Obama came into office. If you use January 2008 instead of January 2009 as a starting point, annual profit growth is 6.8% — worse than Clinton but other than that, better than any president since Kennedy again. In fact, high corporate profit growth under the allegedly “anti-business” Obama should be no surprise. Look at just the past 50 years, color keyed to the party affiliation of the administration:
|President||Annual corporate profit growth|
|Obama||77.9% (6.8% relative to 2008)|
Meanwhile, from the Romney camp, we have no specifics about what he would do to improve the economy, other than a pledge to cut tax rates, not to cut Medicare or defense, and to drastically cut the federal budget — all of which simply doesn’t add up; you can’t do what Romney promises to do unless you significantly raise taxes on the middle class, or you eliminate or gut non-Medicare, non-defense federal programs across the board. Even with a Republican-controlled Congress, that isn’t going to happen.
Could a different administration have handled the economy better than Obama? Very possibly. Would a Romney administration do so? Certainly not.
Of course social issues tie into the economy. If you drastically cut the federal budget, leaving defense and Medicare alone, you necessarily cut social programs to the bone.
Well, and so? So this: Why does government exist? Is its function to protect the wealth of the wealthy? Or is its function to benefit all the people, and to benefit most those who have the least? I’d like to believe it is, or should be, the latter.
And is it government’s function to protect and preserve the attitudes promulgated by the interpreters of rules set forth by bronze age nomads? Or to protect and preserve equal rights and dignity for all? I’d like to believe it is, or should be, the latter.
Should government dictate women’s health care choices? Should government conspire in allowing health insurance stockholders to dictate anyone’s health care choices? Should government decide which loving couples to sanction and which to punish? Should government hold corporations above people? Or should government allow and assist people in being the best they can be? I’d like to believe it is, or should be, the latter.
Military and foreign policy
Mitt Romney went to Britain and insulted the British. Mitt Romney, the day our Libyan ambassador was killed, used his death to try to score political points. Mitt Romney called it “tragic” that we were bringing our troops home from Iraq. Mitt Romney has said Iran should be bombed. Mitt Romney seems to be unaware Iran has a seacoast. Mitt Romney seems to think our military should be measured by its readiness to fight World War I.
Romney’s understanding of military and foreign policy is rudimentary, and his attempts to demonstrate his understanding have been inept.
On practically every issue, every subject, every aspect of executive power, I see Barack Obama as clearly preferable to Mitt Romney.
And finally, let’s ask: What about trust? Who can we trust?
According to PolitiFact’s scorekeeping, Obama has broken 17% of his 2008 campaign promises. One can quibble over these one by one of course. Still: can one really expect better? I don’t know of any similar scorekeeping for previous presidents, but I would expect not much less than 20% broken promises from all of them. Indeed, I believe Obama has delivered more of what he promised to us than the average president. And PolitiFact does give a 19% broken promise rate to the GOP congressional leaders since 2010.
As for Romney, the human Etch-A-Sketch; can he be trusted? He created a mandate-based health care reform in Massachusetts; then he called for repeal of Obamacare; and now most recently he says he’d keep some of the Affordable Care Act. He favored abortion rights; then he opposed them; now he uses contorted language to suggest he would not act to ban abortion. He attacked Obama’s foreign policy, until the third debate, when he largely endorsed it.
Has Obama ever shifted his position? Sure. He used to be against mandate-based health care reform, for instance. But most notably, he came out in support of marriage equality after opposing it for so long. Why? For political gain? Marriage equality is hardly a please-all cause to adopt; arguably he lost at least as many votes as he won by switching. Obama to me looks like he simply came to realize the injustice of his earlier position.
Romney, meanwhile, veered markedly to the right from the time he began running until he was nominated, then started galloping for the center. In public, at least. In private he insulted and dismissed 47% of the electorate, making it clear he cares only for the white wealthy… or was he just telling them what they wanted to hear? Fact is, what Romney seems to stand for is Romney. And if he’s had to climb in bed with the most rabid of the Tea Party to get ahead, he has. And he will.
Add to that the mendacities of his campaign. Stretching and distorting the truth in a presidential campaign is nothing new. But Romney and Ryan have taken outright lying to new heights. Their contempt for the truth is leaps and bounds beyond any I’ve seen in politics in the past four decades.
I thought candidates Reagan and G. W. Bush were, frankly, stupid. I thought candidate G. W. Bush was out of touch. But never since candidate Nixon have I been so strongly struck by a sense that the Republicans have nominated a man with no moral center, no basic principles, no agenda other than power at any cost.
And I do not think the Democrats have recently nominated a better, more compassionate, more dedicated, more committed person than Barack Obama.
He has my vote.