by Benjamin J. Kirby
I'm voting for President Obama.
But this is a very different election than the one we faced in 2008. Today our country is in a different place. Change has indeed come.
By virtually any measure, the country is better off than it was four years ago. President Obama was elected largely because the nation was on the precipice of economic disaster. I don't think I've seen an economist who hasn't said that in 2008 we weren't on the brink of a global economic calamity the likes of which history had never seen.
Now our economy is recovering. It's recovering slowly, but it is surely recovering. And as jobless rates fall, Republicans -- desperate to talk about anything other than Obama saving the country -- have decided the national debt is what matters most. Sadly, our broken national media apparatus is all too happy to oblige them.
As a lot of folks have said, it is a sin that this election is as close as it is. It's a further sin that one debate could change what should be an electoral blowout of historic proportions for President Obama.
His record of accomplishment in the financial arena arena alone simply cannot be understated. We know that he American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has worked, and based on GDP growth, the American economy has been growing.
Despite the GOP lies -- and they really are outright, bald-faced lies -- about President Obama being an over-regulator and thus harming small businesses, President Obama expanded lending for small businesses supporting nearly $80 billion in loans to more than 150,000 small businesses. He actually provided $14.7 billion in direct small business loans to minority-owned businesses, which increased minority access to capital. This may go some distance in explaining why Republicans hate it so much.
In 2010, the Congress passed and President Obama approved $26 billion aid to states, which prevented large-scale layoffs of teachers and public employees.
The real bottom line is President Obama saved the American auto industry (while his opponent called for Detroit to go bankrupt). There have been 31 straight months of job growth. Jobless claims are at the lowest they've been in more than four years.
These are just a few of the economic reasons to support President Obama and vote for him. They are, however, "macro" in nature, perhaps a bit abstract. They area also measured against an invented Republican argument, a boogeyman that is as dangerous as the "monster" who seems to haunt the corner of my daughter's room night after night.
That room my daughter sleeps in is part of a house that Duncan and I bought in 2007, just before everything came crashing down.
We did the right thing, the right way. We shopped around. We bought something small -- remember, we didn't have kids in 2007. Two bedrooms, one bathroom.
We figured the value would go up a bit, and when we started our family, we'd sell it. Make a bit of money. Buy something more suitable for our growing family.
But because some Wall Street bankers decided to have fun gambling with bundled derivatives and CDOs, the rest of us got to pay the tab when they went bust.
Duncan and I have not asked for much. Since 2008, we've been pretty accepting of the fact that we'll probably be in this house -- where we are very much underwater -- for some time. We've made upgrades and done some work on it. We have made it a better place to live.
And we have made it work as our family has grown.
Remember: we weren't on either extreme end. We didn't buy up house after house trying to flip them, knowing we could never afford them. And we weren't day traders shuffling complicated financial packages back and forth for a quick profit.
We're just a family. And now, because we qualified under HARP, our interest rate will go down, and we'll save a little bit of money every month. We're not trying to get out from under our house. We're not ditching it and walking away. We just needed a little financial breathing room.
And President Obama delivered.
So he's getting our vote.
Of course that's not the only reason.
I've got two more.
# # # #
I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because I wanted to end the disastrous war in Iraq. I wanted to bring troops home from Afghanistan. I wanted to end illegal torture and indefinite detention. I wanted a stop to illegal wiretapping. I wanted America to regain the stature it deserves on the world stage.
I wanted that, and more. Some of it we got. A lot of it we got. Some of it we didn't. Some of it is a work in progress.
But none of it -- none of it -- matters now, because this election is different than the one in 2008. It's different for America, it is different for me.
For both the country and myself, 2008 was about looking backwards. It was about righting many of the grave injustices of the calamitous Bush Administration. It was about cleaning up a mess.
2012 is about looking ahead. In 2008, the Obama Campaign embraced the word "Change" as a slogan. This year, I've seen them use the word "Forward," and I think that's exactly right.
When you have children, the fundamentals of elections change. They become something else, something more important. Elections become about a larger future, about something greater than yourself. And that is as it should be.
I'm not saying that people who don't have kids aren't important, or aren't impacted by elections. We all share the same future. It's just that with kids, you think about electoral outcomes in a context broader than the horse-race too often reported by media outlets incapable of doing anything else.
For me, the future for Finnegan and Emeline lies largely in a world they can, well, simply inhabit.
I don't know what will be on President Obama's agenda when he wins a second term, but I hope that he would tackle energy issues and the environment (I see them as one and the same) as an area where the government needs to -- at long last -- lead, instead of play catch-up to the rest of us.
President Obama has made a start.
The world Finn and Emeline will occupy will be different than the one I grew up in during the 1970s and 1980s. Finn will never drive an International Scout -- which I'm sure got single-digit gas mileage -- like me and my brother and father did for a while. Emmy will never get a 1968 Camaro -- also incredibly high gas consumption, though that's just one of the many reasons she'll never get a car like that... (unless, of course, she lets her dad drive it every now and then).
Our world will necessarily be different, science deniers be damned. That matters less for me than it does for my children, and so from my view, our leaders taking action on global warming and the environment is not just sound policy and good politics, it is very much a question of morality.
I have no doubt, by the way, that President Obama's opponent would sell the environment out to the highest bidder.
# # # #
There are more reasons to vote for President Obama than I can list in a post that has already gone overboard.
To be sure, I have had my complaints about this administration. But, like John Cole at Balloon-Juice, I believe that an Obama loss would be far worse than the opportunity to continue building towards more positive change, towards building a better America.
A stripped and totally gutted Environmental Protection Agency.
Lowering taxes on the wealthy -- again. Shifting the burden for everything to the middle class and to the poor, who are already beyond the breaking point.
Health reform, gone. Medicare, Medicaid, gone. Social Security on the chopping block.
Gay rights, stalled at the very best, set back by years at worst.
War with Iran.
In other words, moving back, not forward.
None of that is acceptable, and it is exactly what we would get with a Romney/Ryan Administration. But if I've said it once on this blog, I've said it a million times: elections are rarely about a vote against someone or something.
They are about voting for something.
I'm voting for my family, my kids and my home.
Go support President Obama however you can -- and go vote for him.