Sunday, May 27, 2012

Obama vs 'what's his name!' and "what's he stand for?"...besides more breaks for the rich

By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, May 26, 2012
Barack Obama is a great orator, but he is the worst president I’ve ever seen when it comes to explaining his achievements, putting them in context, connecting with people on a gut level through repetition and thereby defining how the public views an issue.

Think about this: Is there anyone in America today who doesn’t either have a pre-existing medical condition or know someone who does and can’t get health insurance as a result? Yet two years after Obama’s health care bill became law, how many Americans understand that once it is fully implemented no American with a pre-existing condition will ever again be denied coverage?
“Obamacare is socialized medicine,” says the Republican Party. No, no — excuse me — socialized medicine is what we have now! People without insurance can go to an emergency ward or throw themselves on the mercy of a doctor, and the cost of all this uncompensated care is shared by all those who have insurance, raising your rates and mine. That is socialized medicine and that is what Obamacare ends. Yet Obama — the champion of private insurance for all — has allowed himself to be painted as a health care socialist.
Think about this: Obama didn’t just save the auto industry from bankruptcy. Two years later, he also got all the top U.S. automakers to agree to increase mileage for their vehicle fleets to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, from 27.5 m.p.g. today. As Popular Mechanics put it, this “is the largest mandatory fuel economy increase in history.” It will drive innovation, save money and make America less dependent on petro-dictators. Did you know Obama did this?
Finally, how did Obama ever allow this duality to take hold: “The Bush tax cuts” versus the “Obama bailout”? It should have been “the Bush deficit explosion” and the “Obama rescue.” Sure, the deficit has increased under Obama. It was largely to save the country from going into a Depression after a Bush-era binge that included two wars — which, for the first time in our history, we not only did not pay for with tax increases but instead accompanied with tax cuts — plus a 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill that we could not afford, then or now. Congressional Democrats also had a hand in this, but the idea that Bush gets to skate off into history as a “tax-cutter” and not as a “deficit buster” is a travesty. You can’t just blame Fox News. Obama has the bully pulpit.
But Obama is running even with Mitt Romney not simply because of what he didn’t say, but also because of what he didn’t do. As the former Obama budget director Peter Orszag notes, to get the economy moving again, what we’ve needed for the past two years is a plan of “combined boldness” — another stimulus focused on infrastructure that would grow jobs and enhance productivity combined with a credible, bipartisan plan for trimming future growth in Medicare and Social Security and reforming taxes to get our long-term fiscal house in order, as the economy improves.
In short, we needed more stimulus paired with some version of the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan. It is highly unlikely that you could “get one passed without the other, and you shouldn’t want to anyway,” said Orszag. Together they would launch the U.S. economy.
Obama, in fairness, tried a version of this with his “grand bargain” talks with the House speaker, John Boehner, but when those talks failed, Obama made a huge mistake. He should have gone straight to the country and repeated over and over: “I have a plan that will create millions of jobs and send the stock market soaring — near-term stimulus plus Simpson-Bowles — and the Republicans are blocking it.”
Obama could have adapted Simpson-Bowles, but symbolically it was vital to embrace it in some form as his headline deficit plan, because it already enjoyed some G.O.P. support and strong backing from independents, who liked the way it forced both parties to compromise. Had Obama gone to the country with more near-term stimulus married to Simpson-Bowles, he would have owned the left, independents and center-right. It would have split the Republicans and provided a real alternative to the radical Paul Ryan-Romney plan.
Instead, Obama retreated to his left base, offered a stimulus without Simpson-Bowles and started talking about “fairness.” The result has been a muddled message that has alienated independent/center-right voters who put him over the top in 2008. Don’t get me wrong: I want fairness, but fairness that comes from a growing economy and comprehensive tax reform not from redividing a shrinking pie.
In sum, Obama’s campaign right now feels as though it were made in a test tube by political consultants. It’s not the Obama we admire. Rather than pounding the country with “I have a plan” — a rebuilding stimulus plus Simpson-Bowles — which would be an Obama-like message of hope, leadership and unity that would put him on higher ground that Romney can’t reach because of the radical G.O.P. base, Obama is selling poll-tested wedge issues. I don’t think it’s a winner for him or America.
And there were Simpson and Bowles themselves, sitting together in Charlotte, North Carolina, while appearing this morning on the GPS program with Fareed Zakaria. And listen to Simpson, who describes himself as a R.I.N.O. ...a Republican In Name Only, who doesn't agree on much with his party. He pointed to Grover Cleveland, riding around in his white robes, threatening to defeat any member of Congress who supports even one penny of tax increase..."he can't burn their house down, and he can't kill them, so he will make sure they are defeated" a thinly veiled reference to the KKK's history against African Americans.
Simpson also pointed out that, had Obama more vigorously supported the recommendations in their plan to cut both the debt and the deficit, he would have been crucified by his own party, while the Republicans watched with glee.
However, resurrecting the main principles of Simpson-Bowles, and placing them before the American voters, as a central argument of his campaign would serve Obama well, not to mention how much service such a plan would be to the country. Failure to implement sound, visionary economic policy and proposals to cut both the debt and the deficit will only render the U.S. in danger of another reduction in its credit rating (according to Erskine Bowles himself this morning).
There is a strong argument that Obama needs to point not only to what he has accomplished but also to the obstruction to other sound ideas he has supported without achieving legislative passage of those ideas, because of the complete and utter obstructionism of Republicans.
Let'e be clear:
  • Romney would dismantle Obamacare
  • Romney would increase the Pentagon budget
  • Romney would gut the social programs, while cutting taxes for both corporations and the wealthy
  • Romney would assure the financial services sector of even fewer regulations for their rampant rape and pillage of the American economy
  • Romney would "call" the federal loans to the auto companies, those still un-repaid, because he believes this was a policy that undermined the American capitalist system
  • Romney would gut the Department of Education, leaving education exclusively to the states
  • Romney would attack Iran as his way of curtailing that country's nuclear weapons program
  • Romney would gut Head Start and Food Stamps because they provide too much assistance to those in need, who, in his view, need to show more initiative and "pull themselves up by their bootstraps"
  • Romney would immediately approve the Keystone pipeline and extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich
  • Romney would most likely strip funding to such services as public radio, as part of his cost-cutting campaign while also cutting thousands of jobs from the public service, thereby reducing the size of government, and also reducing or eliminating government services to the public
The fact that these two men are running even close, (latest poll has Obama at 47% and Romnney at 45%)
is both shocking and a scathing condemnation of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, which opened the flood-gates to billions of unaccounted cash for any candidate benefiting the Republican candidataes as they knew it would.
America needs not only a second term of President Obama, but also a Congress comprised mainly of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans, (if there are any left)...and this election is Obama's to lose, because Romney clearly does not deserve to win and, with a resurgence of positive campaigning by Obama will not even be close, on election night in November.

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