Burnard: Yes, we are better offWritten by Don Burnard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Are we better off now than we were four years ago? In my opinion, the answer is absolutely yes. Four years ago in September 2008, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke met with Congressional leaders to demand a $700 billion emergency bailout, saying “If we don’t do this, we may not have an economy on Monday.” The Bush economy had completely imploded and nearly took down the world economy with it. By January 2009, our economy was shedding 800,000 jobs a month.
This was the hand Barack Obama was dealt. Due to economic policies similar to those in place just before the Great Depression, we had the Great Recession. The worst times in our lifetimes were upon the middle class. Main Street was called on, once again, to bail out Wall Street, after its greed and avarice caused the middle class to lose 40 percent of its net worth. In addition, we were fighting two unpaid-for wars, and saddled with the Bush tax cuts that grossly favored the top 1 percent. A smart poker player would have folded that hand in most cases. But Obama played the hand that was dealt him.
One of the problems we have in this country is an expectation that a politician can wave his hand or a magic wand or something, and undo eight years of unfettered free-for-all Republican rule. Much of this is due to the electronic age we live in, where we have access to vast amounts of information and opinion at our fingertips 24/7. I believe that this leads to an expectation that problems, no matter how great, can be solved as quickly as we can look things up.
Most people don’t have the attention span anymore to read more than a paragraph or two on any given subject, and if it has hard-to-understand facts and figures, forget it and move on. Bumper sticker slogans are much more the soup du jour for most of the public these days. The real world doesn’t work that way. The largest problems we face today can’t be addressed overnight and magically rectified at the speed the public would like. No person on earth, including Mitt Romney, is capable of these feats.
It is true that Obama made a lot of prognostications on how many and how soon many of these problems could be addressed in his campaign. Politicians have a tendency to do that. If Mitt Romney should be elected, and he can even read the list aloud of everything he’s promised to do on day one on day one, he’ll be doing well. But putting that aside, we have to look at the politics in Congress.
Virtually from the start, the Republicans in Congress threw aside all concern for all but their wealthy friends, and did everything they could to make sure that the president could not effectively try to solve these problems. Their overwhelming zeal to “make Obama a one-term president” was the overwhelming factor in their legislative agenda. They made sure that any plans that would help the middle class and/or poor, or help bring unemployment down, or help keep people in their homes were defeated. They didn’t offer a single plan of their own to address any of these problems. Not one. Their abusive use of legislative chicanery was unprecedented.
What did the president manage to do with this hand and no help whatsoever from the GOP? We’ve created 5.2 million new jobs and have had 31 straight months of job growth. Think of where we could have been if the Republicans had shown even a smidgen of bipartisanship, instead of trying to ensure that middle America didn’t succeed. The only people who fared well throughout this whole economic malaise were the same characters that created it.
Most of us have at least regained our losses to our pension funds, etc. and gotten back to where we were when we tanked. Wall Streeters have made out like the bandits that they are, and if there is one shortcoming I can point to, it’s that many of these characters aren’t in prison. We did have some much needed reregulation of the financial industry. We are no longer in the Iraq war, which we never should have been in in the first place, and at least have planned a certain date to end the Afghanistan war.
During the Bush administration, the War on Terror was the overriding point politicians pushed on us, and Obama did what the Bush administration could not: He dispatched Osama bin Laden. Tens of millions of people now have access to health care who were not able to obtain it previously. So are we better off now? I think we are. Could we do better? Give us a Congress willing to do the people’s work, and I think we can.