An Honest Portrayal of the 2012 Election and the Fate of American Politics
I want to start by breaking down the irony of trying to post an “honest portrayal” of anything in politics without constantly questioning your own biases as the said honest portrayer. It’s an uphill battle from the first word and the trap of catering to at least some of your biases is unavoidable. But, biases, in the end, are expressed in an attempt to persuade readers to your viewpoint. In fact, we would be remiss to forget that the right answer is always going to fall under one side’s argument - no matter if you like it or not. With that said, here is my take on what this election means and what the aftermath dictates for the future of politics in this country.
This presidential election, amidst all the hoopla (from abortion, to Bain, to “you didn’t build that,” to the President’s underwhelming first debate, this list goes on forever), would always come down to the ultimate decision voters will make regarding the right path forward for government and the economy. There was, and still is, a fundamental choice amongst both of these candidates in terms of economic plans.
The Romney Plan relies on lowering taxes for everyone and assumes the wealthiest - the “job creators” - will use that extra money to hire more people, thus boosting the economy. The problem with this assumption is that it relies upon a massive (and I mean massive) boost in the economy to fill in the gaping hole left behind in government revenue. The simple response of the Republican Party, which has now shifted off the scale to cater toward extremists views shared by few (i.e. the Tea Party), is that a government with less revenue is one with less to do, and is thus the ideal state of government in the GOP’s eyes. This is a problem far overlooked by a party and its base that thinks they are seeking a future with more freedom and individualism, but is actually seeking selfish motives that forget the beneficial role government plays in their lives every day. Government revenue is brought in through taxes, and if you continue to lower taxes then you continue to lower funding for programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education, Veterans Benefits, and countless more. Mitt Romney chooses this path of cutting funding for these essential programs, and on top of it he plans to raise spending on Defense (one of the few programs that certainly doesn’t need more funding, and the Joint Chiefs have said this themselves). This, to me, is counter-intuitive to common sense. Why would we ever cut funding needed to pay for the vital programs that are pillars to American Exceptionalism? The Republican viewpoint is that this is fine. We should leaves these matters to the private sector and thus leave money in peoples’ pockets. I find this notion ridiculous because never have I seen a private business put people before profits. The end result is larger costs for the middle class, who will see things like their health, their education, their retirement, all held hostage by the bottom line of private industry.
President Obama’s plan is to raise taxes on the wealthiest, who have sat on record low taxes the past 12 years. In that time period the wealthiest have not even been bruised by the economy, and the distribution of income has shifted enormously toward the top. At the same time, the middle class has been laid off by the thousands and has seen their share of income plummet. There is nothing more unpatriotic and selfish then to look at this situation and say lets continue to lower taxes for the top 1%. And, because everyone else’s taxes get lowered too, we will magically close that income divide. A more logical plan is to raise taxes for those unscathed by the recession, raise taxes on businesses sitting on record-high profits, and then use that added revenue to rebuild the middle class. This will allow government, which has no profit motive besides helping the American people, to make investments in the middle class. The President understands the common sense notion that the middle class has the purchasing power to ignite a cycle of economic activity. The cycle goes as follows:
1. Tax the rich for their fair share
2. Reinvest that revenue into the middle class
3. Watch that largest sector of our economy start to buy things again
4. Watch businesses start to hire to keep up with demand
5. Watch businesses continue to see record-high profits
6. Watch the wealthy expand their wealth off investments that pay off from successful companies.
Nobody loses in this cycle.
The President does not stop at the thought that simply relying on more tax revenue from the wealthy will solve all of our problems. There is a realization that our entitlement programs (Medicare, Social Security) have a possibility of going bankrupt. The President has fully recognized this scenario and has attempted to work with Congress toward finding a real solution. I am not saying he has simply been stymied by a Republican stalwart in the House and Senate, but there is a need for real leaders across the spectrum. Politicians who are statesman first and put the betterment of the country before ideological grandstanding. This plan is not even a figment of the Romney platform because the massive defunding caused by lowering taxes will result in entitlements becoming obsolete (i.e. the voucherization of Medicare and the privatization of Social Security).
In conclusion, an election that started out as a referendum on the President will end as a referendum on the current state of the Republican Party. Right now, the American people have an opportunity to condemn the recent polarization of politics. You have a chance to condemn a Republican Party that seeks to conform all of society to their religious beliefs. You have the chance to condemn a Republican Party that held the country hostage to lowering the deficit. You have the chance to condemn a Republican Party that obtained their ransom for holding the country hostage, then failed to compromise on a bipartisan solution toward becoming more fiscally responsible. Finally, you have the opportunity to condemn a Republican Party that made agenda item number one, firing Barack Obama instead of helping the middle class. If you have any call to change your mind in the next couple days, this should be the reason.
I do not think that Democrats or Democratic Control is the ‘be-all and end-all’ solution to all of our country’s problems. I do believe that the current ideological platform of the Republican Party is part of our problem. Government is never at its best when run from the extremes or run from solely one side’s viewpoints. Most issues have middle ground, and I can only assume that the more politicians we elect from the middle, the more room there is for understanding and compromise. Ultimately, the American people have conveyed that they simply want things to get done. All I want is more debate. An ideal society should be one that learns from each other and continuously progresses through sometimes accepting the other side’s view as right.
In the end, no matter what party you hold your patronage to, go out and vote with a conscience. Beyond ideology, there are some real reasons to choose one side over the other. Society is attempting to tilt to the far-right views of a few that are reinforced by power motives from an echo chamber in conservative media. We must re-obtain the influence of moderate viewpoints to guide our political dialogue and place an emphasis on finding common ground. I, for one, have a lot of faith in my generation and believe there is an opportunity to re-champion a society that works together instead of competing alone. But first, we have to go out and vote ourselves. Government only responds to its demographics that have the most influence - this is the nature of politics. Conversely, a democratic society creates the opportunity for everyone to be heard, if they stand up and choose to be heard. We can change the course of this nation with our voices, but strength is only found in numbers, and decisions are only made by those that show up.
There’s a reason this day only comes around every four years. It’s the election stupid, get out and vote!