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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Column: Re-elect Obama?

As you’ve likely noticed by the visit from former President Bill Clinton, the 2012 presidential general election is in full swing, and amid the barrage of advertisements and presidential debates — the question begs:

Who should we vote for?

Despite disillusion and frustration about the economy and our government’s deep fiscal dilemmas, we still must go to the ballot box this November and decide the fate of our federal government for the next four years — a presidency that will outlast every one of us who exits UC Davis without reaching the status of super-senior and follow us into the real world beyond the Memorial Union to the job market.

Not to mention the fact that on Jan. 1, 2013, this country will face an unprecedented financial event, nicknamed “Taxmaggedon,” which includes the expiration of both the large tax cuts signed into law by George W. Bush and a bipartisan payroll tax cut from last year, as well as the implementation of huge automatic spending cuts agreed upon last year because no debt deal could be reached by the congressional “super committee.”

This is a self-inflicted economic time bomb waiting to go off, and if no deal is reached, it will. Whoever is sitting in the West Wing of the White House next January has huge decisions to make and they will affect your life one way or another.

While our frustration with partisan gridlock and disappointment with the lack of “hope” and “change” may convince us to sit idly while the older generations claim their votes, this election may well determine the ideological basis for how we emerge from this economic calamity.

When we do emerge — as we inevitably will — who do we want in the reins? And in whose interests will they be working?

After four years of tepid recovery and congressional insanity — with the last two years controlled by the least productive Congress in modern history — can we trust any politician to cut through the crap and do the dirty work to save the place from burning down?

Given the still-slow recovery, can we re-elect Barack Obama and feel good about it? If you’ve heard any sound bites from the Republicans, President Obama is an anti-business, job-killing, liberal, robin-hood socialist that killed the economic recovery. Unemployment was until very recently above 8 percent nationally — and that doesn’t even include the high number of discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work.

As we hear from the Democrats, he has led the U.S. through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, successfully executed the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, rescued the American automobile industry and extended health care to an estimated 24 million new Americans (as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office).

So who’s right?

Is the Obama presidency a complete failure because our economy is not roaring out of the biggest financial disaster since it took 10 years and a World War to crawl out of the Great Depression? Well, let’s add a bit of perspective.

It’s often cited by journalists with little context that no president has ever been re-elected with unemployment above 7.2 percent since FDR did (repeatedly) during the Great Depression. Doesn’t it strike you as a little odd that our benchmarks for presidential success only date back up until the event that definitively changed the role of the federal government for the remainder of the century?

Franklin Roosevelt was reelected four times despite tragic financial conditions because people understood that the problem took more than four years to fix — even with a sympathetic Congress and substantial political capital. He took over from 12 years of an incumbent party that arguably led the country to economic disaster, unified the nation behind an unbeatable coalition of voters and eventually pulled the country out of its mess, leading to an unprecedented period of economic growth.

How impatient has our country become that it’s willing to throw out the leader of its executive branch every four years because we’re not enjoying instant gratification?

In this case, it will only lead us back to the party — and the policies — that caused the Recession to begin with. Considering that the last guy in office was able to turn a $236 billion yearly federal budget surplus to a $1.1 trillion deficit by the end of his first term — it seems reasonable to give this one a renewal.

We have a big decision to make, and whether or not Romney makes you want to jump off your couch and out into the streets, or Obama still makes your heart flutter with the expectations of 2008 — we need to be heard loud and clear.


If you’re not registered to vote, don’t email KEVIN PELSTRING at kpelstring@ucdavis.edu but visit register.rockthevote.com.


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