Heading into this November's midterm elections, the American people are generally upset, and rightfully so. The unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent. Millions of homes are in various stages of foreclosure. Bills seem to be growing faster than paychecks. Very few Americans see light on the horizon.
Understandably, this has created a "throw the bums out attitude among voters." Democrats are the target of voters' ire because it's simply easier to blame the party in power rather than look at the facts. And while the horizon may seem dim, the past is absolutely bleak.
This year's crop of Republican candidates are quite fond of riling the American people up about deficits and the national debt, but, as they say, you shouldn't throw stones if you live in a glass house. In the eight years George Bush was in office - six of which Republicans controlled both houses of Congress - he and his GOP colleagues managed to nearly double the national debt. When he entered office in January 2001, the national debt stood at $5.73 trillion. By the time he left office in January 2009, the national debt stood at $10.7 trillion - an increase of $4.97 trillion. Republicans managed to take the prosperity produced by the economic policies of the Clinton years and blow a gaping hole in the budget. When Bush entered office he was handed a $236 billion budget surplus that was on pace to produce budget surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over the next 10 years. By the time President Obama took office, he was facing a $1.2 trillion dollar deficit, projected to accumulate to $3.1 trillion through 2019. Perhaps the nation's fiscal situation would not have been near as bad had Republicans not catered to the wealthiest Americans during their time in power while largely ignoring the engine that powers the nation's economy, the middle class. Providing the richest Americans with $1.8 trillion in tax cuts over a 10-year period certainly didn't help. Nor did the ill-advised decision to invade Iraq help the nation's fiscal situation. As of February 2010, the estimated cost of America's Republican-guided misadventure in Iraq had cost the nation over $700 billion. Long term costs, including health care for veterans and interest payments on the borrowed money used to finance the war, could amount to nearly $2 trillion, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Much more important than the monetary cost of the wrong-headed war is the cost of American lives. Through 2008, the war had cost over 4,000 American troops their lives. While Republicans were busy mismanaging their war in Iraq, creating millions of refugees there, they ignored their own refugees at home. Hurricane Katrina swept through the city of New Orleans, leaving tens of thousands homeless and helpless because of inaction on the part of the federal government. When the dust settled, 1,836 Americans lost their lives in the hurricane and subsequent flooding. Despite Republican claims that they could do health care better than the Obama administration, the fact of the matter is that during the eight years of the Bush administration, the number of uninsured Americans increased by 5.4 million. Now Republicans are clamoring for the keys back, after they drove the economy into a ditch, pushing it into the worst recession since the Great Depression. When Bush took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 10,587. By the time he left office, it was at just 7,949. That drop alone could have cost seniors millions in hard earned retirement savings if Republicans were successful in privatizing Social Security. The laissez-faire economic policies of Bush and his Republican colleagues resulted in one of the poorest economic records in modern times. Nearly one-quarter of the time he was in office - 22 out of 96 months - Bush was at the helm of an economy in recession. Some may blame the first one on former President Bill Clinton. However, there is no blaming the anemic job creation on Clinton during that time. During his eight years in office, Clinton created roughly 23 million jobs. Bush, on the other hand, only created 3 million, just half a million more jobs than his father created in one term.These would be the glory days Republicans are asking voters to turn the clock back to. Today's crop of Republican candidates are extreme in their views, adamant in their opposition to anything that resembles progress and willfully ignorant of the world around them. Ronald Reagan would likely be accused of being a Republican In Name Only in the modern day Republican party.
Republican candidates running for this year's midterm elections have called for the privatization of Social Security and Veterans Administration health care; the elimination of Medicare and Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and unemployment benefits; reconsideration of civil rights laws; denying a woman the right to choose even in the case of rape and incest; and, in some cases, armed revolution in the event that they lose.
When looking back on the Bush years and ahead to what a new Republican/Tea Bag majority could look like, the initial two years of the Obama administration look like a walk through Reagan's "Shining City on a Hill."First off, Obama and his fellow Democrats prevented the economy from falling into Depression. While the national unemployment rate is still too high for most voters to feel comfortable, without the Obama administration's intervention into the economy, the unemployment rate would have reached a high of 16.5 percent as 16 million jobs were lost. The much derided Recovery Act contained the largest middle class tax cuts since Reagan and the most progressive ever, the biggest investment in infrastructure since Eisenhower ordered the nation's highways to be built, the biggest federal infusion of funding for education since LBJ's Great Society and the biggest clean energy investment ever. Those measures alone created 2.7 million jobs. Obama and fellow Democrats have also taken a beating for stepping in to save the American auto industry. At the time, it seemed like a waste of billions of dollars. Today, however, the proof is in the pudding. The $60 billion investment in Chrysler and General Motors saved over 1 million jobs, prevented the collapse of Ford and forced the Big Three to make the changes necessary to put them on stable footing for the foreseeable future. Although Democrats were unsuccessful in selling it to the public, the health care reform achieved by Obama and his colleagues has been a goal of progressives dating back to Teddy Roosevelt. The bill will provide coverage to an additional 32 million Americans and prevent abusive practices by the private insurance industry, such as denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, imposing lifetime caps on care and rescinding insurance coverage when customers become sick. In the same bill, Democrats also reformed the student lending industry. By cutting out the middle men - large, private banks that are subsidized to fill out paperwork and assume virtually no risk - Democrats cut the cost of lending for college by $60 billion over the next decade and provided another $36 billion in grants for low and middle-income families. Democrats also provided consumers with a measure of protection over Wall Street in the form of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. That agency will be charged with monitoring policing credit cards, student loans, mortgages, payday lenders and more. The Obama administration and Democrats were also able to wind down the War in Iraq, withdrawing 100,000 troops and, in the process, restoring America's prestige around the world.
While many can rightfully complain that numerous campaign promises by Obama and Democrats are unfulfilled, ignoring their accomplishments would also be ignoring perhaps the most productive first two years in office of any president since LBJ.
In addition to the aforementioned successes, Democrats have also expanded health care for millions of middle and lower-income children, took a step toward realizing equal pay for equal work for women, passed a hate crimes bill that protects people based on sexual orientation and appointed two of the four women to ever serve on the nation's highest court.
So the question is, do we want to continue down the road to progress? Or call the arsonists to put out the fire they created?
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