Internationally, the near universal support that rallied to America's side on September 12, 2001, has been badly squandered, and our ability to lead in the world sufferers. More than seven years have passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the most powerful nation on earth has not captured or killed Osama bin Laden, a man who lives in a cave, who travels on foot, or by camel, donkey or pickup truck, and whose most powerful weapon is his ideology. Seven years have passed, and bin Laden continues to spread his poisonous philosophy and teach his murderous techniques to more young recruits. We won World War II in less than four years. We reached the moon after eight years of hard work. We could have brought bin Laden to justice by now if we had stayed focused on the task. Instead, we have more than four times the number of troops post-surge in Iraq, where bin Laden is not, as we have on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, where he is.
In Iraq, more than five years after defeating Saddam Hussein, we continue to occupy a Muslim holy land. Our very presence in Iraq generates new recruits for bin Laden from throughout the Muslim world. We have freed Iraq from a tyrannical regime. We have searched for, but not found, weapons of mass destruction. We have tamped down the sectarian violence. Now it's time to come home, and end the drain in blood and treasure. Even the Iraqi government believes it is time for our troops to withdraw, so they can demonstrate to their own people that they aren't puppets of the U.S. Humiliation and honor are important cultural drivers in that part of the world, and our long-term presence only heightens the on-going humiliation Iraqi's feel.
Our financial system teeters on the brink of collapse as 30 years of deregulation finally catches up with us, at a cost of $840 billion. Alan Greenspan, 82-year-old former Federal Reserve Chairman, said this economic crisis is the worst "by far," that he has seen in his career. Warren Buffet described it as an economic Pearl Harbor. Pillars of the financial world are collapsing all around us. Names like American International Group, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Indy Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia and Washington Mutual have disappeared or been taken over. Our credit markets have simply stopped working. Home values have been on a long, steep downward slide that still shows no signs of abating. Our economy has lost 760,000 jobs so far this year. The unemployment rate, which stood at 4.2 percent in January 2001, now stands at 6.1 percent. Eight years ago we enjoyed a $281 billion surplus, and the 30-year bond had been retired by the U.S. Treasury. For the federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, we have a $409 billion deficit, the 30-year bond has been brought out of retirement, and federal fiscal year 2009's projected deficit, at $521 billion, will be a record. Our national debt has risen from $5.7 trillion to $10.1 trillion in the past eight years.
We have an economy that runs on oil. While oilfields in the U.S. and many abroad have passed their peak production, and as billions of new consumers in China and India buy their first automobiles, we have no serious plan to discover new alternative energy producing and battery technologies, or to create an alternative energy infrastructure. That alone would be bad enough, but our environment is threatened by carbon-dioxide buildup from the fossil fuels we consume. This is predicted to lead to adverse climate change, and threatens political destabilization as the developed world is faced with millions of environmental refugees.
As I look at the Republican platform, I am struck by how out-of-date it is for dealing with the problems of the 21st century. It is built on lower taxes, more deregulation and the belief that government is never the solution to the problem. When Ronald Reagan first ran on this platform in 1976, it made a lot of sense. But after 30 years of tax cutting, marginal tax rates are far lower than they were in 1980, when Reagan was elected, and budget deficits and the national debt are far higher. Our nation benefited from some of the deregulation of the 1980s, but today we are paying a very high price for letting the pendulum swing too far to the right. The insidious belief that government is never a solution has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a result, FEMA proved incapable of providing even food, water and emergency shelter to victims of Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005. In energy, the Republicans pay lip service to alternative energy while chanting, "Drill, baby, drill." (Even oilman T. Boone Pickens says this is one crisis we can't drill our way out of.) They proposed suspending the gas tax (recycling that old Reagan-era tax cut idea) to temporarily lower fuel prices. (The net effect, however, would have been to increase gasoline demand at home, and crude oil imports from the Middle East, while slowing the adoption of a more fuel efficient fleet of vehicles.) The set of problems which confronts our country in 2008 is far different from the problems we dealt with in 1980. But the Republicans have developed no new ideas for 30 years. As a result, Republicans struggle to solve today's problems with yesterday's ideas, which were originally prescribed for far different maladies.
History teaches there is no sustainable political or military power absent economic power. Barack Obama's energy policy may prove to be his most significant proposal in restoring our economic and political health, by creating jobs and slowing the enormous transfer of our wealth to petro-governments like Russia, Venezuela and Iran. David Rothkopf, an energy expert and visiting scholar at Carnegie Endowment said, "Green is not simply a new form of generating electric power. It is a new form of generating national power." (Emphasis is mine)
Barack Obama is capable of getting the country focused on solving some of the big, multi-generational problems that will renew our strengths and assets as a nation. He is serious, steady and thoughtful. Obama is committed to nation-building, here at home where it is disparately needed, not overseas. As conservative writer and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote in an October 3 column in the Washington Post, Barack Obama has "both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament." Those are assets that should serve our nation well as we work to solve the challenges of 2009, and beyond.
We stand at a critical and decisive moment in our nation's history. We have problems that have been unresolved for a generation, or more, that demand solutions. We need fresh ideas for solving new and difficult problems. I have a nine-year-old son. That's why I'm voting for Barack Obama for President.