The Billings Outpost

Elect Obama to punish obstructionist Congress

I ran into a former Gazette employee last week and pointed out that The Billings Gazette had just endorsed Mitt Romney for president. It was, I said, the lamest Gazette endorsement …

Since the Gazette endorsed Judy Martz over Mark O’Keefe, he interrupted.

Well, I was holding out for the Gazette’s endorsement of Conrad Burns over Brian Schweitzer in the same year, 2000, but close enough. All three were laughably halfhearted endorsements.

It’s what you sometimes get when opinions are formed by committee. The people who have to do the writing don’t necessarily see eye to eye with the people who are doing the opining.

Does anybody among the Gazette’s opinion makers actually support Romney? Presumably. But could any of them take seriously the case the Gazette made in its Oct. 10 editorial? Not likely.

As a newspaper, the Gazette no doubt has access to facts. But these were not much on display in its endorsement. The Gazette noted that an economic recovery was taking place under Obama but glossed over how dramatic it has been.

When President Obama took office, the stock market was in freefall, hitting a low just a couple of months later. Since then, the Standard & Poor 500 stock index has risen 110 percent.

And the stock market was the least of our problems. The housing market had collapsed. Major banks were on the verge of bankruptcy. Two major automakers were failing. The United States was shedding 850,000 jobs a month.

All of those problems are now on the mend, and the recovery happened not despite Obama’s leadership but because of it. Indeed, according to Joe Conason, a recent Financial Times article called the U.S. economy the “sole bright spot” in a tepid global recovery.

Obama wrangled politically hazardous proposals through Congress to save the banks, bail out the auto companies, cut taxes and kick start the economy with a stimulus package that the Congressional Budget Office estimates saved up to 2 million jobs. On his watch, annual deficits have shrunk by $300 billion, larger than any decline under a Republican president in 40 years.

No wonder Republicans hate him.

Even their strongest claim – continued weakness in the job market – doesn’t hold up. In the first 27 months after the recession ended, the private sector created 4.2 million jobs, almost exactly the same number created during the last post-recession recovery from 2003-2005. Overall job growth has been lower only because of substantial cuts in government jobs – you know, the kind of jobs Republicans hate.

Does Mr. Romney have a plan to make things better? Not that you could notice. He has a tax plan that can work only by adding magic dust. He says he knows how to create jobs but is reluctant to explain exactly how, and his record both in private business and as governor of Massachusetts provides few clues. Instead, he provides evidence of stunning shifts in policies, including on healthcare, where his position appears to have evolved from this, in Massachusetts:

We need an individual mandate because without it uninsured people will seek emergency care and pass the costs on to the rest of us, which is socialism.

To this, in 2012:

We don’t need an individual mandate, which is socialism, because without it uninsured people will seek emergency care and pass the costs on to the rest of us.

It’s easy to make a case that your vote for president this year isn’t as important as you have been led to believe. President Obama has governed well to the right of what his far-left base wanted. Mr. Romney would likely govern well to the left of what his far-right base wants.

Neither has a credible plan for balancing the budget, fixing Medicare or avoiding the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. For all of Mr. Romney’s bluster about foreign policy, it would be difficult to fit a piece of paper between their actual positions. Neither has taken a responsible and constitutional position on our use of military power to enforce our will on other countries.

But your vote does matter. If you believe that difficult decisions about abortion should be made by women consulting with their doctors and spiritual mentors, rather than by strangers in Helena and Washington, D.C., then you are stuck with Mr. Obama. If you think it’s none of the government’s business whom you decide to marry, then Mr. Obama is your only choice. If you can’t buy medical insurance because you are sick, you have to vote for Mr. Obama.

Finally, if you think that the budget will never be balanced without returning to tax rates approximately equal to those we had the only time in the last 50 years we had a balanced budget, then Obama is the only choice.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why you should vote to re-elect Barack Obama. A book by Robert Draper, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” documents a meeting on Obama’s inauguration night of top Republican leaders, including current vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, to thwart Obama’s legislative agenda.

“We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill,” one Republican House member said.

Republicans were as good as their word. The Senate filibustered legislation at a rate unprecedented in U.S. history, killing bills supported by solid majorities in both houses. Judicial nominations, even of noncontroversial nominees, have been blocked at the highest rate ever recorded. Republican resistance to raising the debt ceiling – a move many had repeatedly supported under Republican presidents - drove the nation to the brink of fiscal disaster.

While some of these votes represented real opposition to legislative proposals, there is little doubt that the desire to give Obama a losing legislative record was a key part of the calculation. Americans noticed. The congressional job approval rating is now under 14 percent, and Republicans rate even worse than Democrats.

But it isn’t enough to notice. Such behavior has to be punished. Members of Congress have to be put on notice that failing to do their jobs in hopes of damaging the president is intolerable.

Electing Mitt Romney would send the opposite message.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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