Daily Iowan Endorsement: Vote Obama for president
In 2008, we elected our first African-American leader to preside over an era that seemed to hold the promise to be post-partisan and post-racial. When the fanfare died down and the recession-ravaged country proved less amenable to change than many had hoped, it was clear that President Obama would have to advance his agenda through the familiar muck of American partisanship.
In the face of opposition notable for its belligerence, obstinacy, and, too often, its inability to compromise on issues basic to governance, Obama has led with strength in a time of economic and social struggle. During his first term, the president has advanced a remarkably broad, forward-thinking agenda and, as a result, we are markedly better off than we were four years ago. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board strongly endorses Obama for a second term; we stand behind his record and his plans.
In January 2009, the American economy was mired in a brutal recession born of the excesses of mortgage lenders, Wall Street, and the federal government. During the first quarter of 2009, the American economy contracted by more than 5 percent; 800 million jobs were lost in January alone.
In response, Obama signed an economic-stimulus bill — the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act — in February 2009, his first full month in office. The bleeding was staunched; by the summer of 2009, the economy was growing again and the rate of job losses had slowed dramatically. According to Congressional Budget Office data released this year, Obama’s stimulus act prevented additional economic contraction that could have continued well into 2010.
When examined in its entirety, the recovery has been slow, unemployment has remained stubbornly high, but today the economy is trending in the right direction. Unemployment is at its lowest point since Obama took office, but this time, the broader trends point to modest improvement rather than catastrophic free fall.
Through it all, Obama has pushed an economic agenda that recognizes the government’s dual role as a promoter of growth and a regulator of the marketplace. In the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Obama’s administration, along with his allies in Congress, reversed a reckless pattern of federal deregulation, established greater protections for consumers and increased accountability on Wall Street.
A deep concern for the long-term economic well-being of the country and its people was also at the core of the greatest legislative feat of the president’s first term: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The most sweeping health-care reform since the original Medicare authorization, the Affordable Care Act will, upon full implementation in 2014, ban insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, hold down health-care costs, and dramatically expand health-care coverage in a country in which nearly 50 million people currently live without insurance.
Further, the president has fought to expand the economic opportunities of all Americans by improving access to a good education for students at every level. The Obama administration has allowed 33 states to waive the restrictive provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act and compete for federal education grants that reward innovative plans for improving K-12 public education.
At the university level, Obama has increased the size and scope of Pell Grants for low- and middle-income college students, lowered borrowing costs by directly issuing federal student loans, and began a “pay-as-you-earn” system that allows recipients of federal financial aid to pay back loans in proportion to postgraduation income.
Abroad, Obama has shown considerable aggression in pursuit of multinational terrorism but also a capacity for diplomacy and coalition-building that has served well to repair foreign perceptions of the United States frayed by the previous administration.
The war in Iraq is over, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. The Obama administration’s economic sanctions on Iran have slowed its ability to achieve nuclear weapons, and military engagement has so far been avoided in Syria.
But Obama’s contributions to American society go beyond economic and foreign policy. The president has been an ardent defender of civil rights who has worked to reverse some of the nation’s most unjust policies.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first piece of legislation Obama signed into law — expands the rights of women to legally challenge employers with discriminatory payment procedures. The president has also been an advocate for reproductive rights — the Affordable Care Act includes provisions that require insurance companies to expand maternity care coverage and access to low-cost preventative care like contraception.
The Obama administration has advanced a strong pro-gay-rights agenda. The Department of Justice no longer contests Constitutional challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era law under which states are not obligated to recognize legal same-sex marriages. And let’s not forget, Obama abolished the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
There are, of course, some areas of disagreement between the Editorial Board and the Obama administration. We believe that the administration’s program of drone warfare in the Middle East and southern Asia causes too much collateral damage and represents a dangerous step toward perpetual war. On the economy, Obama’s tax plans have not yet been adequately amended to limit their potential negative impact on small businesses, and his campaign rhetoric about getting “tough” on China does little to solve the biggest problem with our largest trading partner: slowing GDP growth in Asia.
That being said, there are considerable challenges ahead, and Obama is the man to meet them. The next president will have to nurture a recovering economy and deal with the growing national debt against the troubling background of an ongoing debt crisis in the Eurozone and a looming showdown with Iran.
Obama has proven himself to be an able leader and a rational decision-maker who has served the country well for the past four years. Voters should take note of the man’s accomplishments and grant him a second term.
In today's issue: