Friday, October 26, 2012

Guest Post: The Case for Barack Obama




Robert Taber is the national director of Mormons for Obama, a grassroots campaign to support and mobilize Latter-day Saints who are voting for President Obama’s re-election. When not campaigning, he’s a PhD candidate in Latin American history who also specializes in helping his preschooler staple together paper crowns. He roots for the BYU Cougars and Florida Gators. If they play each other, he will root for the Gators but will bask in the misery of his current classmates should BYU prevail--sweet, sweet memories of the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament.

I saw a tweet the other day: “Only a Democrat could prevent a depression, end a war, get bin Laden, and double the Dow & then be told he can’t run on his record.” The economy is growing: we’ve added 5.2 million private sector jobs during 31 straight months of growth—including 500,000 manufacturing jobs—the most growth since 1997. The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8% (the lowest since Dec. 2008), housing starts are at a four-year high, retail sales are re-accelerating, car sales are at their highest since early 2008, consumer credit is growing, the Dow is above 13,000 (it closed under 8,000 on the day President Obama was inaugurated and bottomed out at 6,629 in March 2009), consumer confidence is a five-year high, and home prices are on the rise again. I think President Obama is doing all right.

The President’s plan for the next four years is making education and training a national priority, investing in manufacturing, boosting American-made energy, reducing the deficit in a balanced, responsible manner, and ending the war in Afghanistan so we can focus on rebuilding America.

As a student of history, I see President Obama as having a firm grip on our national situation and where we need to go. At the end of World War II, the United States dominated the world in manufacturing output (and would dominate the global economy for the next two decades). Policy makers took deliberate steps through the Marshall Plan, the International Monetary Fund, and other institutions to help the rest of the world catch up, with the (sound) idea that if we’re all making & trading with one another, we will be less likely to go to war with one another. Now, however, the challenge is dealing with the consequences of this success. It behooves us today to build an economy that’s more substantial than financial manipulation and a society that gives equal opportunity to get ahead in a more competitive world. President Obama recognizes this, and his domestic policies have focused on five pillars: healthcare, education & training, manufacturing, investment in infrastructure, and an all-of-the-above approach to domestic energy production. These five work together to bring us back to full employment. For me, healthcare is the most important.

I see access to quality health care (along with opportunities for education) as a fundamental aspect of people having full agency in their lives. For those of you who have served on ward welfare councils, imagine the impact for those in need being able to get appropriate health care—and the fast offerings and time this frees up for helping them further their education and otherwise get back on their feet. The system of state exchanges (websites run by states where people without insurance can purchase insurance as part of pooled plans rather than as individuals) helps those who don’t receive benefits through employment. The mandate encourages personal responsibility and discourages free riding. Changes in Medicare help push us away from fee-for-service towards bundled forms of billing that have worked well for Intermountain Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente. Obamacare started as the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s response to Hillarycare back in 1993, and then became the foundation for MassCare under Governor Romney, before President Obama signed it into law in March 2010. It achieves near-universal coverage through a system than emphasizes the private market and personal responsibility, bringing together many of the best ideas of the last twenty years from both sides of the aisle. If President Obama is re-elected, it goes into full effect on schedule in 2014. If Gov. Romney is elected, he has promised to do away with it entirely: pre-existing conditions and lifetime benefit caps again become an issue, the Medicare prescription donut hole re-opens, and states lose crucial Medicaid funding for nursing home care. These are the stakes of this election.

For those of you who are sympathetic to President Obama’s aims but cannot vote for someone who is “pro-choice”: I hear you. And for me, “pro-life” doesn’t end at the moment of birth. We must also invest in the child so that they have at least a decent chance at living a full and productive life. I see the President as being much more likely to do this than the other candidate.

In addition, by securing health care for all, we reduce the number of abortions and teenage pregnancies. Read this dispatch from Canada, or this study from St. Louis. Or this report in the New England Journal of Medicine discussing how Romney’s MassCare— the template for Obamacare—reduced abortions in Massachusetts, even while it covered them, due to better healthcare access for the poor and otherwise desperate.

Finally, we are taught as Latter-day Saints to be frugal. Debt certainly has its uses, as Gov. Romney showed working in private equity, and there are sound economic reasons for some levels of publicly held debt (there’s a cool history of the U.S. debt here). But we must get our annual deficits under control. President Obama favors a balanced approach; one that mixes spending cuts with some tax increases. (Governor Romney has said that he would reject a deal that included any tax increases, and has refused to provide much detail of what he would cut.) The President, working with Congress, has already cut spending by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, or about 70% of the discretionary spending cuts outlined in the Bowles-Simpson plan.

Beyond healthcare and debt reduction, from new fuel-economy standards that will create jobs for engineers and make American cars globally competitive, to “race to the top” initiatives to modernize the educational system, to expansion of domestic natural gas, oil, and wind energy production, President Obama knows what we need to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st century. The CBO projects that we’ll have over 7 million new jobs in the President’s second term; Moody’s says it will be 12 million. We know President Obama and we can trust him to carry out the changes that will strengthen the middle class and the country as a whole. And that’s why I’m a Mormon who is proud to be supporting President Barack Obama.

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