A couple of decades ago, Louisiana’s colorful and incredibly crass former Governor, Edwin Edwards, found himself suddenly running for his job against David Duke, a former KKK goon who’d actually been photographed wearing a Nazi uniform — and not at a party, either. Soon a bumper sticker emerged, some say the brainchild of “good government” rival Buddy Roemer, some say of Edwards himself:
Which we of course did.
I consider myself to be very practical, so I know better than to try and annoy the pig, as they say, by presenting the case for Barack Obama’s second term to a Mitt Romney supporter. Likewise, the most conservative of Democrats won’t vote Republican until Karl Rove’s body lies a-moldering in the grave. And while Libertarians and Progressives agree that both candidates are tools of empire, nestled snugly in the pocket of their special interests, they sadly don’t ever get to decide the leader of the “free world.”
Every four years, the undecided moderate therefore becomes the King of American Voters; unable to choose, for some reason, between two candidates who seem to have some very different ideas about how to tweak society. So this one goes out to the farmer in Iowa, the retiree in Florida, the schoolteacher in Ohio, the Pennsylvania student:
I know you’re busy. It’s probably one reason you’re undecided. So here’s why I believe you should vote for Barack Obama to have a second term, even (especially) if you didn’t vote for his first. And we’re gonna do this the way both campaigns are afraid to — by addressing the real issues and revealing what positions they’ve been forced to admit to.
Issues Where Obama and Romney Are Actually Alike
The Middle East. Despite the protestations of Romney that Obama is no friend of Israel, the $3.1 billion in federal aid given the country this year is the largest in history. Obama has made overtures toward a Palestinian homeland, but there’s been no progress. Both men plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and despite their policy differences in the past, their plans for the region — as well as Russia, China, and Africa, for that matter — remain virtually indistinguishable.
Civil Liberties. Both men support continuing the Patriot Act, drone attacks on foreign targets (extended to citizens in foreign countries), wiretapping of US citizens more or less at will, TSA screenings, and continuing the operation of Guantanamo Bay, including infinite detention and torture-by-proxy.
Gun Control. Despite their moderate positions in the past, neither candidate has made a single move toward a new gun-control law. Access to guns has actually become easier under Obama.
The Economy. Neither candidate is in favor of reinstating the old Glass-Steagall Act that separated investment banking from commercial banking, the repeal of which by Bill Clinton led to an unprecedented boom, followed a decade later by the inevitable bursting of the bubble that caused this Great Recession. They both support, instead, the less intrusive Dodd-Frank Act, which imposes far less restrictions on banking, and which experts say will not prevent any future such crises. Obama’s been good for Wall Street, and Romney is expected to follow suit.
Issues Where Obama and Romney Are Somewhat Different
Immigration. Obama’s deported more undocumented immigrants than any President, ever, but he supports granting children of those immigrants temporary citizenship, as long as they finish school and maintain a clean record. Romney opposes the DREAM act that accomplishes this, and supports the dubious solution of building a wall along our Mexican border.
Health Care. Obamacare is of course the central issue here. It’s a grand bargain that, despite what you’ve been told, is in no way socialist: rather than having the government provide healthcare, Obama’s plan — already in effect, though lots of folks don’t seem to realize it — forces citizens to buy coverage, but also forces insurers to pay out, thus guaranteeing full medical coverage for the country without going directly through the government.
Romney has taken all sorts of positions on Obamacare, mainly because he himself implemented the first draft of it while Governor of Massachusetts. At first vowing to repeal it, he now vows to fix it, but has offered no clarification. As for Medicare, Obamacare’s cuts have not affected seniors’ benefits, as the Romney camp claims, but they have put the insolvency crisis off for eight years. For Obama, privatizing the plan is off the table. Romney would privatize it… for everyone under 55. Which would effectively bankrupt it.
Jobs. The Great Recession that began under George W. Bush continued into the first two years of Obama’s presidency, because it was still in the process of playing itself out. (The same thing happened to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, just not quite as dramrically.) Obama’s federal stimulus righted the banking industry and saved the auto industry, right or wrong, and he’s created private and public sector jobs that have mostly erased the losses under George W. Bush.
However, the unemployment rate is still too high at 8 percent, and when the underemployed — those not making enough hours — are added in, that jumps to 15 percent. The good news is that the recession is on track for righting itself under the next administration, whoever that is… if the European economy doesn’t tank again. Romney, it’s been charged, knows this, which is why his jobs plan is so vague; it “creates” 12 million jobs over ten years, not four, and adds in jobs that will be created by existing policy. Basically, both candidates are promising to be in power when the recession finally wears off.
Issues Where Obama and Romney Are Very Different
The Debt/Deficit. Obama created the somewhat bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles Commission to cut spending and raise revenues, but balked at the proposed Medicare and Social Security cuts; Romney absolutely refuses to back any proposal that doesn’t include tax cuts. The Romney-Ryan plan would slash “entitlement” programs like the ones Obama won’t touch, actually grow military spending, and yet peg spending to 20% of GDP. That would only reduce the budget from $3.8 trillion a year to $3 trillion. But it would radically shift where that money was spent. Simpson-Bowles attacked the plan from all areas, cutting defense, entitlements, and government bureaucracy, all while raising more revenue through taxes. Neither party seems interested in that broad a solution.
Taxes. Mitt Romney proposes a 20% across-the-board cut for all levels of taxation… on income taxes alone. Payroll taxes would remain untouched. So while the middle class sees its income tax go from 10 to 8 percent, or from 15 to 12, it would only affect a portion of their total tax burden. The nation’s richest get that 20 percent and no change in the area they make most of their money, capital gains. That went from 25 to 15 percent under George W. Bush. (Obama wants to raise capital gains taxes back up to 20 percent.) Estate taxes, which only affect holdings over $5 million dollars that are passed down to heirs, would be abolished entirely under Romney; Obama wants to reset this tax back to its pre-Bush level of $1 million. Obama and Romney both want to cut corporate taxes in order to bring jobs back to America; Romney wants to bring them from 35 down to 25 percent, while Obama proposes going only so far as 28%.
Romney would also make the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 1 percent permanent; Obama plans to let them lapse. Both would keep the tax cuts for the middle class. Romney has made vague remarks about making his cuts “deficit neutral” by paying for them with closed tax loopholes, but experts remain highly skeptical, and he’s offered no ideas on where those closures might be made. His VP, Ryan, wants to eliminate the child tax credit, which would hit the lower and middle classes hard, but Romney insists it’s not part of his plan.
Defense. Romney’s been trying to portray Obama as someone who’d bring the military down to dangerously low operational levels by cutting spending, a favorite trick used by Republican campaigns for decades. The truth is, every President since Clinton has made cuts to some unnecessary programs, due to a) the end of the Cold War and b) new technologies, like drones, that replace old ones. Obama’s plan cuts defense spending by $50 billion a year, or 6 percent; Romney’s plan ties military spending to 4 percent of GDP. That’s an annual $600 billion increase.
Education. Romney wants to privatize education at all levels, including voucher systems for public schools and student loans taken over by credit companies. Obama supports federal aid to schools, including $30 billion in proposed education jobs.
Social issues. Equal pay for women, medical coverage for contraceptives, and a woman’s right to an abortion are all ideas opposed by Romney, (although abortion would be legal in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother). Obama is in favor of all of the above; he’s softened his views on gay marriage, but hasn’t led nationally on the issue. Romney would make gay marriage a federal crime, plain and simple, by way of enforcing the DOMA act. He is against gays serving openly in the military.
And then there’s the elephant in the room, literally: The Supreme Court. For two decades, it’s been balanced out by four bedrock conservatives, four staunch liberals, and one swing vote. Anywhere from two to four justices are expected to step down during the next President’s term, and he’ll likely get to replace them with someone ideologically pure. The SCOTUS is the entity that keeps the USA’s mentality on the above issues inching forward, not to mention campaign finance, corporate personhood, and internet freedom.
So, then. Is Barack Obama the lesser of two evils? Certainly. But that does make him lesser. And what’s scariest about Mitt Romney’s evil is how vague it is: his agenda has a gaping ideological hole waiting to be filled by the same propagandists, racists, Luddites, greedheads, and religious fanatics who helped ruin conservative thought (and national policy) these past three decades.
So yeah, vote for the Muslim Commie Dictator. It’s important.