This week, I listened to the Republican Presidential Debate and President Obama's speech to Congress. The two parties views are starkly different on job creation, health care reform, social security, Medicaid, Medicare, corporate regulations, etc.
President Obama summed up the Republican prospective well when he said the following. "In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone's money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own – that's not who we are. That's not the story of America."
Essentially, Republicans believe that the answer to all of America's problems is laissez-faire capitalism, deregulation and tax breaks for the richest Americans. They support ending government programs that are vital lifelines for the poor and elderly. Their solution to poverty and unemployment is welfare reform, i.e. kicking poor people off welfare and forcing them to fend for themselves in this harsh economy where jobs are scarce. By the way, several of the Republican candidates even support ending the minimum wage.
The Republicans could not care less about disproportionate poverty and unemployment in the black community. Clearly, the Republican Party callously disregards our Black Agenda. According to candidate Michele Bachmann, black families were stronger during the slavery era. Despite the fact that the states rights doctrine was a used to defend racial segregation, African American Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain had the audacity to use states rights as a talking point during the debate.
Republican forerunner Texas Governor Rick Perry continues to describe social security "a ponzi scheme". He and many other Republican candidates support ending social security. Without social security, our seniors would not be able to pay for the bare essentials -food, housing, clothing and medicine. What kind of people abandon their elders?
They have no compassion for the elders, the poor and the minorities. All they care about is making life easier for fat cat millionaires and billionaires and corporations. While cutting off unemployment benefits, ending welfare and defunding education, they help the rich get richer through tax breaks and deregulation. We had several years of tax breaks and deregulation under the Bush Administration. If such schemes were the answers to America's problems, there would not have been a recession. Deregulation led to the financial crisis.
Moreover, Republicans like candidate Ron Paul cling to the idiotic and rigid notion that all government regulation is inherent bad for the American people. His answer to America's problems is the capitalist market. Without government regulations, there would be no anti-discrimination laws for businesses. Businesses would be able to refuse to serve or hire people based on their race, gender and religion. We would have no child labor laws, no minimum wage, no labor rights in general, no food and medicine safety, no anti-trust laws, etc. Basically, America would be an even more racist, sexist, oligarchical and unsafe society if Ron Paul had his way.
Most, if not all, of the Republican candidates oppose health care reform. If it was up to them, health care insurance companies would continue to deny thousands of people coverage due to preexisting conditions. Many people would continue to go without any health insurance.
Although it is not revolutionary or innovative, Obama's view of the role of government is far more progressive than the Republican view. To illustrate that point, here are a few key excerpts from the President's speech that highlight the contrasts between the two parties:
"I am also well aware that there are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary – an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.Although I disagree with the President on important issues, I am convinced that he is far more concerned about the plight of the unemployed, the poor, the working class and the middle class than the Republican opposition. Therefore, I plan to vote for Obama in 2012. The Republicans will only take this nation backwards. We need to move forward.
I'll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Our tax code shouldn't give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs here in America.
So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, "What's the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?"
Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can't afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can't afford to do both.
This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices that we have to make. And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It's not even close. And it's time for us to do what's right for our future. The American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can't stop there. As I've argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future – an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, and out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth.
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world.
But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set. Ask yourselves – where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn't had that chance?
How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result? No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities."
This article is cross posted on Jack and Jill Politics.