Are We Better Off Today? 2008 vs 2012

The best customer for American industry is the well-paid worker. — FDR

Some of the choices that we make are going to be difficult, and I have said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not going to be quick and it’s not going to be easy… — Barack Obama, First Press Conference, 2009

At the end of 2008, after years of failed policies, after two unpaid for wars, after deregulation left the financial markets to their own irresponsible devices, America was suffering from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Today, after 29 consecutive months of jobs growth, after a restoration of the credit markets, after an American automobile industry that has not only been revived, but experienced a renaissance, an America enjoying a revitalized stock market restrained from the worst excesses of greed is now on its feet and in fighting form.

The difference between 2008 and 2012 is the difference between economic devastation and a reason for economic hope.

These disparate situations did not evolve from one to the other in a vacuum. The failed policies that led to the Great Recession were replaced by the successful policies that resulted in an America back on her feet. Dodd Frank reigned in the worst Wall Street excesses. Sound banking policy reinvigorated the credit markets. The Stimulus provided states and communities with much-needed funds during the recession’s darkest days. The first unpaid for war was ended and the second is drawing to a close. GM, which Romney had said should be allowed to go bankrupt, is now the most successful automaker in the world. A vast raft of energy polices pushed by Obama resulted in plummeting US oil imports, increased efficiency, and increased domestic energy production. The alternative energy sources of the future have doubled their production. And the US is producing automobiles like the Chevy Volt which, combined with the renaissance in alternative energy technologies,  give reason to hope for achieving both energy independence and climate security.

In short, Barack Obama gave America back her shot at a good future. Her potential. Her ability to face adversity and overcome it. For a certainty, he did not satisfy everyone’s greatest hopes and expectations. But what he delivered was a stunning and marked improvement over the terrible harm that came to us during the Bush Administration. And this transformation was achieved in a short time. Only four years were needed. It could well be argued that Obama has done the impossible.

Looking around the world, it becomes even more clear that America’s position is vastly improved. Europe is teetering at the edge of recession, China is losing its grip on manufacturing supremacy, and the world is suffering under a brutal regime of increasing food and fuel prices. To achieve any economic growth in such an environment, in the face of such stiff competition, would be a sign of virtuoso, of expertise, of strong leadership. And Barack Obama has certainly delivered.

Even our standing in the world, which was wretched under Bush, has improved. Many nations trust us again, believe that America is again a positive force in the world. Our trade situation, though still difficult, has continued to improve. On the national security front, we have gracefully disengaged from Iraq and have reasonable hope to do the same in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is no longer a threat and Al Qaeda is disorganized, dispersed, and demoralized. The Libyan conflict was handled in a manner that preserved both national treasure and resulted in a positive outcome.

Obama has earned success after success and at every turn, he has been forced to fight against Americans who should have aided him. The Republican Congress, whose policies Obama often adopted, had moved to obstruct Obama at every opportunity. ‘No compromise’ is an understatement to describe the situation Obama was forced to deal with. Never in America has such a level of obstructionism been faced by a standing President. Every single policy measure Obama put forward was demonized even as he was attacked for the responsible act of working for solutions. It would seem that republicans would rather Obama have done nothing. Or had simply re-applied the failed policies that Bush used. The same policies that wrecked the economy in the first place.

The Republican leader of the Senate claimed his number one priority was to make certain Obama didn’t get re-elected. And what proceeded from the Republican sectors of Congress could best be described as willful sabotage. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Republican vendetta against Obama had only been personal. But what started as personal attacks quickly evolved into an assault on America’s prosperity.

The current vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who sat on the critical Simpson Bowles deficit reduction committee, turned his back on Republican deficit reduction policy in order to fight all efforts offered by the President for long-term deficit reduction, no matter how many concessions to Republicans those proposals contained. And, at the height of hypocrisy, Ryan blamed Obama for the failure of Simpson Bowles when Ryan, himself, lobbied Republicans in Congress to vote against the deficit reduction plan. In short, Ryan killed American deficit reduction policy and then attempted to blame Obama. As such, Ryan is the very face of Republican sabotage and obstructionism.

What makes Ryan’s and Republican efforts to sabotage Simpson Bowles so bad isn’t that it hurt Obama. It hurt the American people. It put off the hard work of dealing with the national debt and forced a historic down-grade in the United States credit rating. The result is that the cost of debt increases and this is a devastating long-term harm to taxpayers and to effective government. It results in more wealth being sucked out of the United States and going to creditors both private and foreign.

Republicans seem to love to talk about the need for deficit reduction. But, in practice, both as Presidents and as legislators, they have been terrible at enacting effective deficit reduction policy. Instead, they hand tax cuts to the wealthy, pick more wars than they can afford, and spend like drunken sailors. When money is tight, Republicans, instead of asking for more from the most powerful and privileged members of society, instead turn to prey on the weak, destitute, and voiceless. Medicare and Social Security will be the next programs to be gutted by the Republican’s irresponsible taxation, spending, and war-fighting policies — should they again see power.

Ryan’s own attempt to worsen the deficit crisis in order to harm a sitting President, however, is a vast, destructive, irresponsible and narcissistic misuse of power. It is another departure from effective leadership. A departure that is just one more phase in a long and devastating trend among Republicans in government.

But despite having to fight against an entire wing of US government willing to sabotage US economic security in order to pander to wealthy backers, for the soul cause of gaining power, of winning elections, Obama has still managed to achieve amazing success. He has been able to transcend partisan bickering and reach beyond a barricade of petty personal attacks to lend a helping hand to broad sections of America. The fact that America is now standing, not bleeding on the floor as she was in 2008, is proof enough of that.

America is certainly far better off. But, sadly, she is still afflicted by an ancient brand of greed and short-sightedness that appears to have entirely devoured the Republican party. And so long as that harmful philosophy — not that of enterprise and innovation, not that of freedom, which should be a virtue enjoyed equally by all — but that of dominance, hoarding, and the endless gathering of wealth and power by fewer and fewer ‘privileged’ individuals. So long as that devastating philosophy afflicts us, we will continue to experience danger.

So we must stand up. So we must help the President who has done so much in his efforts to help us. So we must do our best to make certain that the failed policies and ways of thinking that wrecked America in the first place, that are inhibiting our progress even now, that are attempting to hold America’s very success as a hostage, do not regain hold of our great democracy.

We have seen that dark road. We have walked it long enough. We do not wish to return to the debacle that was 2008.

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