Four years ago, America’s economy was on the brink of disaster and its war-weary people were seeking a dramatic change in direction. Voters opted in a big way for a fresh new face who ran on a simple promise of hope and change.
But after virtually a full term in office, the administration of President Barack Obama has been an economic failure. While he said he would work to end partisan gridlock, he has done the opposite. Even with two years of Democratic majorities in both houses, these have been some of the least productive Congresses in American history. And polls have shown that the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s greatest political success, remains a source of deep division among Americans. At best, it replaces one problem — lack of coverage — with another — lack of medical infrastructure needed to treat newly insured. It does nothing to control costs and will drive up premiums for those with insurance.
On foreign policy, critics cite his practice of “leading from behind” as enabling a renewal of anti-American Islamic radicalism, most recently seen in the attack on the American consulate in Libya and the president’s reaction.
It is time for a change in direction, and Republican candidate Mitt Romney is the choice to begin restoring economic health and America’s place in the world.
The dismal state of the economy in the last four years is best illustrated by ranks of the unemployed and under employed — which have swelled to 23 million people. The official unemployment rate, which remained above 8 percent for 43 months, is still an unacceptably high 7.9 percent. For minorities it’s much bleaker, with black unemployment now at 14.3 percent and Hispanic unemployment at 10 percent.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate — the percentage of the adult population that is employed or looking for work — has dropped from 65.7 percent when Obama took office to 63.6 in September. The lower number in part reflects workers who have simply given up looking for jobs. As a companion to the jobless rates, poverty is up, family incomes are down and enrollment in the nation’s food stamp program has risen from 31.9 million to 46.6 million recipients. President Obama’s rhetoric is all about helping the middle class, but his policies have crushed it.
In the midst of all this, the national debt increased more than $5 trillion to its current level of $16.1 trillion.
The president has come nowhere close to meeting the measures he set for himself. While his inability over four years to right our economic ship by itself is grounds for change, the final straw was Obama’s recent statement that he was willing to trigger sequestration unless Congress approves tax increases on individuals with incomes above $200,000 and households over $250,000. Economists and leaders of both parties agree sequestration would be disastrous for the nation’s still-fragile economy and could lead to another recession. And they agree the added revenue won’t significantly stanch our flow of red ink. In other words, he is willing to send the country into recession for a talking point. And it really hits home here, as economists predict a direct jobs hit of 20,000 in New Mexico if sequestration kicks in. We don’t need that.
Romney’s economic philosophy is that the private sector, not increased government, is the engine of job growth and that the government’s role is to carefully encourage and nurture it. His views on tax reform include caps on or the elimination of some deductions coupled with lower marginal rates. His political appointees to key departments like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission could be expected to create a regulatory atmosphere that would be charged with protecting Americans but also be more friendly to economic growth and investment — and thus, job creation. He would enhance America’s energy independence by supporting all sources, from wind and solar to oil, gas and nuclear.
Romney’s ability to work with people of all stripes led to his successes as a private businessman, as the governor of Massachusetts and as the CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee.
In 1999, as the Salt Lake City Olympics organization stumbled under the weight of a bribery scandal, Romney was asked to take over. He is credited with restoring credibility and calming nervous sponsors, bringing spending under control and producing a well-regarded winter games.
As governor, Romney worked with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature to erase a $3 billion state government deficit. Though he opposes the ACA in its current form, he signed into law a popular Massachusetts health care program with many similar characteristics. This bipartisan experience will be invaluable as the ACA continues to be developed and refined — or in establishing a replacement if it is repealed.
Romney’s business successes made him a rich man. Though critics question some of his investments and strategies, in many cases they helped save American companies and jobs. Romney says his experience will help bring about an economic climate that reduces unemployment.
He supports a strong national defense and would promote “a pathway to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own.” That will take recognizing violent acts as what they are: terrorism.
This election, Americans are offered the choice between more of the same or a change that moves us toward economic recovery and a more secure place in the world. Mitt Romney is the one to take us there.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.