Bill Clinton made an appearance on the Daily Show two weeks ago, and he made the first strong case I’ve heard in a while — from a Democrat — for keeping his party in power after November: 18 months have passed since President Obama took the White House with the tough task of repairing the damage to the economy caused by the recession. Tough times and tough choices remain, but his administration has made progress. They deserve two more years before voters pass the keys back to the party mostly responsible for this mess.
It was probably a mistake to focus first on health care at a time when people were more concerned with their jobs. Yet it was still a good long-term move: as of last week, insurance companies can no longer drop people’s coverage when they get sick, children can no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and limits on claims have been banned. All of these are positive and necessary steps forward for our country. None of these would have happened without Democratic control.
Despite unrealistically sunny projections by the administration that have hurt the public perception of their policies, the vast majority of economists believe that the stimulus bill prevented things from getting far worse. The bill protected a lot of jobs — providing states with money to prevent massive layoffs of teachers, policemen and firefighters, as well as creating jobs in the construction sector. Government spending has a far higher and faster rate of return than tax cuts, which people often save rather than spend in a weak economy. We desperately need more money for schools and direct spending on our infrastructure. Many of our roads, bridges and tunnels were built after World War II. Our rail system is the shame of the developed world. With interest rates at record lows and millions of Americans out of work, we might as well invest the money now.
If Democrats retain control of Congress, some of this might happen. If Republicans seize the reins of power, none of it will; these are, after all, the same people who attack both the first stimulus package and the Troubled Assets Relief Program, a program that has mostly paid for itself. There is no chance they will support the spending needed to help repair the economy. Instead, they’ll push through tax cuts that we cannot afford while doing nothing about entitlements and the ballooning defense budget. Don’t believe me? Read their recently unveiled “Pledge to America.”
The best arguments for a Democratic Congress come from the Republican Party. I have never enjoyed situations where the best reason to support one party is because the other would be so disastrous to America, but we have reached that point. The “Pledge to America,” promises to rein in spending and balance the budget, which sounds reasonable until you read their proposals for doing so. They pledge to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent — at a 10-year cost of $3.7 trillion — and promise not to cut money from Medicaid, Social Security or the military, which together make up nearly 60 percent of the total federal budget. To make up for this, they propose repealing Obama’s health care bill and cancelling the rest of TARP. The Republicans claim that ending the bank bailout will save $16 billion — hardly enough to fill the crater in the budget the tax cuts create.
I believe in a balanced budget. Now might not be the best time to focus on it, but we will soon need to make the tough choices necessary to close the deficit. Yet, based on history and the Republican “vision” for the future, they are not the party to accomplish this task; they don’t even appear to understand the math.
Democrats have been almost comically bad at building support for their agenda, but it’s tough to be the ruling party in the world of the 24-hour news cycle. And they deserve more time to fix the damage from the recession and the Bush administration; they deserve two more years. If they haven’t made any progress by then, I will gladly vote for a Republican in 2012. I just hope it’s someone reasonable, like Mike Bloomberg or Mitt Romney.
Unfortunately, the Republican party of today is anything but reasonable.