Four More Years Can Go a Long Way
On November 6th, we as a nation will cast our votes in one of the most fraught elections in history. The nation, in the grip of what some have called the Great Recession, negotiates and battles over crucial issues such as abortion laws and health care. During this election period, Americans must choose to move forward, to expand the rights and dreams of this great country beyond the privileged minority and to create a momentum that pulls the country out of the slump it has sunk into. This vote will affect not just us, but also future generations of Americans, and will resound across the globe. That choice for progress is President Obama.
President Obama was sworn into office in 2008 and was immediately confronted with adverse circumstances. America was heavily involved in two wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. By his inauguration, the economy’s GDP had plunged $685 billion, which was a 5.1% drop from its height in 2007. In 2008, the number of unemployed Americans grew by 2.6 million. These problems were compounded by a Republican Congress bent on defeating Obama, as then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made clear when he said in October 2010 that, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Yet, despite this overwhelming adversity, Obama managed to pass legislation and make changes to benefit the nation.
In February 2009, just a month after being sworn into office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus. This act included direct spending in infrastructure, health, energy, and education, as well as federal tax incentives, and expansion of unemployment benefits and other social welfare provisions. This saved as many as 3.5 million jobs. In the eleven quarters that have elapsed since then, America experienced economic expansion, as well as twenty-eight straight months of private-sector job growth, including the addition of 4.4 million new jobs. This bill passed the House without a single Republican vote.
Obama also went against Republican consensus on the auto bailout, recognizing that the collapse of Detroit would terminate the American automotive industry. This would in turn further damage the U.S. economy. Not only would the federal government have had to pay $14.5 billion for the pension plans of GM and Chrysler, but over one million jobs would have been lost. The auto industry has created 230,000 jobs in the last three years. Today, GM has returned to its place as the world’s largest auto manufacturer, and is more profitable than ever. All the government loans have been repaid to the government and the auto bailout did not add to the deficit.
Obama passed legislation to make it easier for students to afford college—something we as students at a private university can appreciate. Pell Grants, federal grants given to students who need it to pay for college, have been doubled. For borrowers with high debt, income-based repayment options have expanded. Because the money goes directly to the student rather than through a system that subsidizes banks, more of it is going to the student. Up to $10,000 in tax credits for four years of college students have been provided by tripling the largest college federal-tax credit. Students who benefit from these changes can go on to become productive members of society, further boosting American industry and in turn, the economy.
Obama also directed the successful capture of Osama bin Laden and ended the combat mission in Iraq. When negotiations with Iran and China were rebuffed, Obama toughened his approach to both countries by attacking Iran’s nuclear program through cyber-warfare, building a coalition to punish the country with U.N. sanctions, and warning Iran that he would use military force to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. On China, he began to reach out to its neighbors to make the U.S. a counterweight in the region.
Four more years would allow Obama to see his initiatives through and ensure their completion. Most notably, in his second term, Obama would continue to pressure Iran to end its nuclear program. He would further strengthen economic and military relationships with Burma, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian nations in a concerted counterbalance against China’s influence. Other elements of Obama’s second-term agenda include addressing climate change, which the President considers to be one of the issues that will profoundly improve the Earth in the years to come; he also seeks to take “concrete steps” toward containing nuclear proliferation. As early as April 2009, Obama emphasized “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” One of these steps includes a new treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.
In response to the banking crisis that decimated the economy, President Obama established the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau in July 2010. This Bureau ensures that banks and other financial agencies do not spread information that misleads consumers into making bad financial decisions. On July 21st, it launched the “Know Before You Owe” initiative that consolidates and simplifies two previously required mortgage disclosures. Hence the costs and risks of the loan become clearer and in turn, consumers can to compare mortgages.
Most presidents that run for reelection begin to plan for their second term well before victory is assured. Indeed, shortly after Obama’s inauguration in early 2009, his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, stated that the White House was already thinking about the Presidency in terms of two terms, and said that it was folly to contemplate accomplishing every goal within four years. He stated, “I don’t buy into everybody’s theory about the final years of a Presidency. There’s an accepted wisdom that in the final years you’re kind of done. Ronald Reagan, in the final years, got arms control, immigration reform, and created a separate new department,” that of Veterans Affairs.
Not only has Obama taken steps that will make short-term improvements in the country’s social and economic policies, but his focuses on universal health care, nuclear containment, and climate change are just some of the ways that a second term for President Obama would ensure progress and positive change for the world and for our future. President Obama has a vision for a future that goes beyond the bipartisan bickering that has stagnated growth and expansion. In the words of Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention:
“So in the end, for [President Obama], these issues aren't political – they're personal. Because [President Obama] knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids.
[President Obama] knows the American Dream because he's lived it...and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.
And he believes that when you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity...you do not slam it shut behind you...you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
Imagine what could be accomplished in another four years.