Why I’m Voting for Obama
“ ... a nation that fails to attend to the needs of those less fortunate among us risks its soul.” Donald Berwick
“ ... helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself.” Michelle Obama (about President Obama’s philosophy of living and governing)
“I’m not voting for Obama. I don’t care about any of those other issues,” my friend said. “They don’t matter to me.”
I do care. A lot. Elections have consequences.
At the conclusion of a heated discussion of the ways in which President Obama has disappointed -- even enraged -- peace activists with his actions (and inaction) regarding national defense, foreign policy and civil liberties, my friend announced that nothing would make him vote for Obama this year, not even critical social policy issues.
After that meeting I was inspired to list the reasons why I WILL be voting for President Obama this November.
I may have inadvertently omitted an important point or two from the list below, but I hope my message is clear: As serious as President Obama’s shortcomings are in the areas listed above, it is apparent from Mitt Romney’s promises we can expect no respite in these areas from a Romney administration. His nomination acceptance speech was filled with what has been called “global hegemon” and “neocon bellicosity,” and military action involving Iran is much more likely if he is elected president.
AND the potential losses in crucial domestic areas are too great to risk.
If Mitt Romney becomes President, he will be choosing the next one, two or three Supreme Court Justices. Appointing Supreme Court Justices may be the single most significant action any President takes. It profoundly steers law, public policy and culture for perpetuity. If progressive voters don’t go to the polls to re-elect President Obama they might find themselves losing rights and privileges that they have taken for granted their entire lives.
A Romney victory would likely bring with it a large GOP majority in the House and quite possibly a Republican Senate as well, and hence a tsunami of regressive legislation.
Affordable Care Act
Democrats, under President Obama, believe health care is a right and want all Americans to be covered by health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not achieve that goal but it moves the ball a lot closer to the goal line than it was before the ACA was enacted. Universal coverage is not a goal for Republicans. Mitt Romney has vowed to begin dismantling the ACA as one of his first actions as President. This would mean the return of the “donut hole,” the loss of coverage for adult children up to the age of 26 and those with pre-existing or high risk conditions, the loss of free preventive exams, the loss of contraception with no co-pay and the reinstatement of lifetime and annual limits on coverage.
President Obama’s proposed Medicare savings are achieved through payment reductions to vendors, service delivery innovations and increased efforts to reduce fraud, waste and abuse. There will be no reduction in benefits to seniors under his plan and the money saved will be turned back into the health insurance system, delaying insolvency and extending the fiscal security of Medicare for eight years. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees that the ACA actually reduces the deficit.
Mitt Romney will raise the eligibility age to 67 and turn Medicare into a voucher system in which each patient will receive a fixed amount of money with which to purchase private insurance. The patient will have to make up the difference between the amount of the voucher and the actual cost of the insurance. Insurance premium cost is expected to increase more steeply than the size of vouchers. A CBO analysis estimates that seniors would pay 61% of their healthcare costs out of pocket by 2022 (as opposed to 27% if Medicare stays as is). The money saved from current levels of Medicare spending under the Romney plan would be spent on tax cuts for the rich.
Mitt Romney would eliminate the existing matching-grant financing structure of Medicaid and would instead give each state a predetermined block grant. States would be forced to reduce their spending and lower the size of their Medicaid programs by such measures as cutting payment rates for doctors, hospitals, or nursing homes; reducing the scope of benefits covered; or limiting eligibility.
An Urban Institute analysis of the Ryan budget proposal from last year found block grants would lead states to drop between 14 million and 27 million people from Medicaid by 2021 and cut reimbursements to health care providers by 31%.
Mitt Romney’s Social Security plan would, by 2032, raise the normal retirement age from 67 to 70, and adopt “progressive price indexing” which would reduce the future growth rate of benefits for the top 60 percent of earners. (Their initial retirement benefits would partly reflect inflation but not overall wage growth during their careers.) Wealthy retirees would get fewer benefits. Vice-President Biden has pledged, “Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security.”
President Obama believes in a future where no one is denied rights because of who they are or whom they love. He supports LGBT rights including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and marriage equality and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOM). Mitt Romney opposes ENDA and will actively push for a constitutional amendment to take away the rights of states to voluntarily extend marriage equality to same-sex couples. The GOP platform calls for a ban on marriage equality nationwide.
President Obama supports creating a legal immigration system that reflects American values and diverse needs. In contrast to Mitt Romney who wants undocumented immigrants to “self-deport,” the Obama administration has developed a program of deferred action for childhood arrivals, a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion so that children of undocumented immigrants can work, attend school or serve in the US military without fear of deportation. Mitt Romney has stated he would repeal the Dream Act -- which President Obama supports -- should it pass and the GOP platform states that federal funding should be denied to universities that provide instate tuition rates to illegal aliens.
Equal Pay for Women
President Obama supports women’s rights to equal pay and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as one his first acts as President. It took Mitt Romney days to say he would not repeal the Act.
Unlike Mitt Romney who as recently as the Fall of 2011 expressed support for legislation which would declare a fertilized egg a person and vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, President Obama supports a woman’s right to reproductive freedom including access to safe and legal abortions and birth control. To this end, the ACA includes a provision now in effect that contraception be covered by health insurance without co-pay. This year's GOP platform calls for a federal ban on abortion without an exception for rape or incest, supports a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorses legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. The Romney campaign website states that “the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
President Obama recognizes the importance of education in assuring individuals are self-sufficient and productive. He wants to improve ALL the schools, especially the lowest-achieving. The center piece of Mitt Romney’s education policy is school choice. He wants to take existing funds which are given without conditions to the states and use them to encourage vouchers, charter schools, and the use of online learning technology, and use federal incentives so that high-stakes tests become a major determinant for the allocation of funds.
President Obama has designed programs to assist homeowners whose houses are in danger of foreclosure. Mitt Romney would not act to prevent foreclosures and he advocates letting housing “hit the bottom.”
President Obama supports regulations to protect our air, water and food. Mitt Romney advocates removing many of the existing protections. He has stated “The idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us." He would seek to have Congress amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to assure that costs are taken into account and that, when regulations are really necessary because of “compelling human health reasons,” industry is given an extensive lead time to come into compliance so that the importance of corporate interests is maintained.
Mitt Romney’s website does not contain the words “environment,” “global warming” or “climate change” and the biggest laugh line of his nomination acceptance speech mocked President Obama’s promise to address the negative effects of climate change.
President Obama has fought hard and weighed in firmly in favor of unions. He championed the Employee Free Choice Act and secured a more politically sympathetic National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He issued an executive order that federal agencies should consider requiring union-friendly Project Labor Agreements and he weighed in during the Wisconsin labor standoff in support of collective bargaining rights. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has stated he would, mostly via executive order, on Day One, end preference for unionized companies in government contracting; end Project Labor Agreements; fight to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act; oppose the Employee Free Choice Act; fight for right-to-work laws; undercut the ability of the NLRB to do its job; and prevent unions from being able to spend member dues on political activity without the express approval of the individual members.
President Obama supports regulations to protect consumers from abuse by financial institutions as evidenced by passage of the Dodd-Frank Act which included the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mitt Romney advocates the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act and its replacement with a “streamlined, modern regulatory framework” that “creates a simple, predictable, and efficient regulatory system.” No details are provided on what this “modern regulatory framework” would look like or how he could get such a system through the new Congress.
President Obama supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, the DISCLOSE act which would force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, and legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. While Mitt Romney, legendary in his support of expansive corporate power, originally stated Citizens United was "the right decision," he later stated that laws limiting political donations are too restrictive. He prefers supporters contribute directly to campaigns rather than to super PACs that do not always act as the candidates wish.
Social Safety Network
Mitt Romney rants against a “culture of dependency” or an “entitlement society” and advocates huge cuts in social programs such as heating/cooling assistance, WIC, employment training, day care and mental health services in order to maintain or bolster the military and give tax breaks to the “job creators.” The GOP program has been referred to as Social Darwinism, a model which was rejected in the 20th century: reward the rich, penalize the poor and let everyone else fend for themselves. The inevitable excesses of free-market greed are freed from regulation in their plan.
President Obama believes that a just society cares for children, the sick and the disabled, feeds the hungry, and shelters the homeless. He rejects the notion that each of us is on our own in a competitive contest for survival. He supports the social safety network which includes such protections as Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps.
President Obama has learned from the tragic consequences of the draconian reductions in spending that we have seen in Europe and rejects that path. He believes, as do Paul Krugman, Robert Reich and other Keynesian economists, that if we stimulate the economy through aid to the states and infrastructure spending, the debt will take care of itself. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics; the CBO; the Center of Economic and Policy Research; and the Economic Policy Institute believe that every dollar spent on such benefits as Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps generates more than a dollar in near-term GDP because people in need spend these grants immediately.
For example, every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates an estimated $1.63 in near-term GDP. Boosting food stamp payments by $1 increases GDP by $1.73.
Among the series of tax changes Mitt Romney has proposed are: reducing individual income tax rates across the board by 20 percent, maintaining the Bush administration-era tax rate of 15 percent on investment income from dividends and capital gains (and eliminating this tax entirely for those with annual incomes less than $200,000), cutting the top tax rate on corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent, and eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. Under the Ryan budget Mitt Romney would pay less than 1% on his income.
Unlike the examples above in which social safety net dollars spent generate increases in GDP, the tax cuts Mitt Romney proposes generate decreases in near-term GDP. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent as he proposes generates only $0.31 in near-term GDP, cutting the corporate tax rate generates only $0.30 and making dividend and capital gains tax cuts permanent generates only $0.38. Non-partisan analyses of the Romney tax plan have estimated that it could add more than $3 trillion to the federal deficit, and would favor the highest-earning Americans, possibly raising annual taxes on middle-class earners by as much as $2,000.
In keeping with his understanding that a budget is a moral document, President Obama believes that the deficit is best addressed by reasonable progressive taxation and responsible economic stimulus. In addition to eliminating the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000, calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes, President Obama’s plan would lower the nation’s corporate tax rate to 28 percent while at the same time boosting overall revenue from corporate taxation by banning numerous deductions and loopholes that save companies tens of billions of dollars a year on their tax bills.
Mitt Romney's energy plan is a rehash of the top priorities of the Big Oil and Big Coal representatives who recently joined him at a fundraiser: the end of numerous safeguards for public health, the gutting of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the surrender of our public lands and offshore areas to drilling and mining, and the destruction of tens of thousands of American clean energy jobs.
The Obama Administration has launched the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history to ensure that our nation can safely and responsibly expand development of offshore energy resources. President Obama supports more efficient cars, trucks, homes, factories and other buildings. The Obama administration has just announced a new fuel efficiency standard of 54.5 MPG for new vehicles sold in 2025. These new standards will result in 570,000 new jobs, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day, save $1.7 trillion at the pump, and reduce carbon pollution by more than 6 billion metric tons, a 10% drop. Under President Obama’s leadership greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years. We're using less oil; U.S. wind power has doubled over the last four years; and solar has grown by a factor of five.
In a recent interview in Politico, Mitt Romney stated his intention to cut all federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and NPR. While President Obama has decreased allocations for the principal cultural agencies in recent budgets in a recession-inspired attempt to reduce overall expenses, he has included a modest increase in the allocations for the NEA, NEH and other cultural organizations in his 2013 budget. There is a clear impetus to use innovative programming and educational efforts to achieve Obama administration goals in this area.
In the words of John Lewis speaking at the DNC convention, “My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union ... Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.”
I will not throw my vote away. I will vote for Barack Obama on November 6.