I will be voting for President Obama this November because he is the best choice for leading the United States forward over the next four years.
Please allow me a few minutes to explain. The last four years have been extremely difficult for millions of Americans struggling with unemployment, foreclosure, medical issues, and rising student debt, no doubt. But we are a heck of alot better off than where the last Republican President left this economy.
President Obama has steered the nation away from the brink of Depression, a frightening time beginning in the fall of 2008 when this nation was in danger of a run on the banks and total financial collapse. Detroit, and all the suppliers to the auto industry, about 15% of our economy, and by the way, the backbone of our national defense during periods of world war, was facing a wholesale manufacturing meltdown with General Motors and Chysler staring into the abyss of bankruptcy and widescale million+ job loss.
At the end of the Bush administration, 800,000 jobs were being lost monthly vs. the 200,000 or so private sector jobs that are being created now, though this latest August jobs report was disappointing about half of that likely, I believe due to uncertainty leading up to the election and what will happen on such policy issues as the "fiscal cliff." Still, this recovery includes 30 straight months of job growth, and is progressing at about the same rate of job creation as the last 1980s recession, the biggest difference being the job loss hole dug by President Bush and 8-years of deregulation, two wars, and free spending, was much larger.
WALL STREET BAILOUT AND THE FEDERAL STIMULUS
It is important to keep in mind all the positive economic indicators. The stock market has doubled since March of 2009, home prices posted their strongest gain in six years according to today's WSJ, and foreclosures are down. Republicans would have us believe "the Stimulus" and the "Wall Street Bailout" were mistakes because they represented wasted government spending. This is silly logic. Without the Wall Street Bailout of the Banks (which President Bush and Secretary Paulson initiated), you and I and likely 20%+ of the U.S. workforce would be out of work in the midst of a Great Depression because our global financing system would have crashed. And without the Stimulus, the states would have been forced to layoff tens of thousands of police, fire fighters, and teachers impacting your public safety and our children's education.
In addition, without the Federal Stimulus spending laid off workers would have been without medical insurance, veterans without benefits, and there would have been no extension of the Bush Tax cuts. Isn't it strange how the Republicans don't like to talk about the fact that the about 40% of the Stimulus was, in fact, directed toward tax cuts, only it was more focused on putting money back into the pockets of the middle class so it could be spent to stimulate the economy?
Clearly, our $4 Trillion federal deficit needs to be addressed over the next four years using some basic common sense. The Republicans propose to solve our deficity spending by continuing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, cutting a raft of entitlement related expenditures and programs that many Americans and Iowans rely on, and spending more on our military. We already have the largest military budget in the world by a long shot -- 50% larger than the next 10 nations combined! Isn't it time to ask the rest of the free world to contribute more to world security while we cut back on things like cold war troop deployments and getting the hell out of Afghanistan while we focus on the greater threats of global terrorism and nuclear proliferation? Moreover, take a look at Paul Ryan's plan to solve our medicare spending problem which is to turn it into a voucher system for those of us who are still working. I'm not in favor of a voucher program that will limit access to our health care system based on ability to pay. I suspect many of you aren't in favor of that either. Let's figure out how to lower costs, cut waste, and deliver services more efficiently and effectively like many of our European neighbors, which by the way have better health outcomes across many measures like average life expectancy and infant mortality.
NEW PRODUCTIVITY IMPROVEMENTS
What is needed over the next four years is a vision that includes investing in America's energy grid and key infrastructure improvements that will drive productivity gains as the building of the great hydropower dams under the Roosevelt Administration during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and by such investments as the National Highway System by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. President Eisenhower sold that program under is benefits for national defense during the Cold War, but in fact it provided tremendous gains in transportation efficiencies because trucks could travel efficiently across the country, saving gas and time. The system was largely paid for and is now maintained by user fees on gas.
The same productivity concept applies to dams. They are largely self-financing. In the case of northwest hydropower they facilitated the development of the aluminum industry and our aerospace industry because aluminum production requires access to inexpensive electrical power. The dams in the northwest actually helped us win World War II because Boeing was able to produce thousands of lightweight aluminum bombers and fighters at low cost. Another area for gains in productivity is even related to tourism. Our National parks need upgrading to accomodate more visitors, domestic and foreign. These investments can be self financing. In contrast, upgrades to high speed rail across the country are largely ill-advised. In the Northeast, track improvements could possibly be self-financing, but in places like the Midwest and West most of these projects don't pencil out due to lack of population density like there is in Europe and Asia.
REFORM TRADE AND TAX POLICIES
The other major structural change that needs to be happen is to re-align our trade policy so that companies are not encouraged to produce good and services abroad by factories that wouldn't be allowed to operate in this country because they don't meet environmental or labor standards. This makes no sense. We apply regulations in this country to manufacturing that are critical for protecting our our air, water and public health, and yet we don't have a level playing field for imported products that don't meet these same standards. We then scratch our heads when we wonder what happened to millions of manufacturing jobs. Huh?
The solution to our manufacturing and trade problems isn't as the Republicans would like us to believe to lower our regulatory standards. We see what happens to markets when deregulation goes too far. We have derivative markets go haywire, we have commercial banks that use far too much leverage and then go bankrupt, and we have catastrophic oils spills in places like the Gulf that cost billions of dollars in lost economic activity not to mention the environmental impacts. The better and wiser path forward is to raise the bar so that other nations have to meet our environmental and labor standards if they want access to our markets.
We also need to realign our approach to foreign taxation of U.S. corporations such that U.S. countries are incentivized to manufacture in this Country and to continue critical R&D work here and not abroad as is beginning to happen. We need to get tough with countries like China which are shaking down U.S. companies for technology and intellectual property in exchange for market access. How do we think China's military and space programs got to the point where they are today?
We gave away a good deal of our technology, or they took it, or stole it while we largely turned a blind eye so that corporate chieftans could continue to report record profits. I, too, have benefited from shareprice improvements to my retirement portfolio, but this approach is self-defeating and it needs to change. It won't be long before countries like China are competing with us on many more technology fronts like autos and planes. Just you wait.
THE PATH FORWARD REQUIRES STRENGTHENING THE MIDDLE CLASS
I agree with President Obama that the path forward is not an easy one, but the American people and America continue to be a place where people from around the world want to come for a chance at the American Dream. For example, I have had the good fortune to work with a number of Chinese businessman who dream to have their children come to live in this great nation. Why? Because of its freedom and opportunity, they tell me.
America can continue to be the land of big and small dreams if we recognize as Henry Ford did at the turn of the 20th century that we need a strong middle class. The recent trend lines showing more concentration of wealth in the top 1% of Americans since the 1920s needs to be moderated if we are to remain the world's most productive and innovative and we can do that by creating a more level playing field for U.S. workers competing with those abroad.
This November, Americans can send a message to Congress by re-electing the President and demanding that members of Congress work collaboratively for the common good. We need a Congress that is willing to work with the President on a bi-partisan basis as President Reagan did with House Speaker Tip O'Neil during the 1980s, and as President Clinton did with Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress of his time.
A vote for President Obama in November will be a vote to strengthen the Middle class and continue down the road to a full recovery and prosperity.
West Des Moines
Thu, September 20, 2012
by John Norwood