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Obama's plans are too vague

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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President Obama returned to the University of Iowa on Sept. 7 for a campaign rally during which he restated his grand vision for the country, previously outlined the night before in his address at the Democratic National Convention. Obama, who has styled himself as the champion of the American dream in an election year dominated by the economy, told the crowd of about 8,000 gathered outside Jessup Hall that he would “fight to build that basic bargain again that created the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known.”

But while the president has been keen to tell us what he would like to accomplish given a second term, details of the specific measures by which these goals would be realized remain elusive. He touted his education policy as a key component of his plan to reenergize and grow the middle class, asking the UI audience to help him “recruit 100,000 math and science teachers.” He continued, echoing his speech at the convention, by promising to halve the growth of college tuition over 10 years and retrain 2 million workers at community colleges.

Absent was a discussion of the mechanisms by which 100,000 teachers might be recruited or college tuition lowered. To boost the economy, Obama said he will see to it that the United States outsources fewer jobs and exports more products. He will take on the problems with Medicare not by creating a voucher program but by controlling health-care costs. He will strengthen Social Security without privatizing it.

The questions of how he will boost exports, hold down health-care costs, and strengthen Social Security were left unanswered. Obama said he will work with Republicans to reduce the deficit, but he offers no reason to believe that the next attempt at bipartisan deficit reduction would be any more successful than the last.

The president’s goals are admirable, but after the announcement of each plan, the audience was left on its own to ponder that implacable follow-up question: “How?” In Iowa, a state inundated by political ads and endlessly traveled by candidates, we’ve heard more promises than almost anyone in the country, but it’s time we demand something more concrete.

Obama’s vision of a communitarian America, in which “we have some obligations to each other and that when we work together, we all do better” is a compelling alternative to the worldview offered by his conservative opponents, but the message is undermined by an unfortunate lack of substance supporting his grand plans to rebuild the economy and the middle class. During Obama’s introduction on Sept. 7, Vice President Joe Biden reminded us that we in Iowa have gotten to know the president “better than about anybody in any other state.” During this election cycle in particular, we’ve certainly gotten to know the president and where he wants to take the country, but we’ve been kept in the dark as to how he plans to get there.


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