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LIBERAL & PROUD

Obama is gaining steam

Exclusive: Ellen Ratner is amazed president hasn't received credit for economic work

President Obama is slowly gaining in steam, and the election is just a few weeks away. He is not going to pick up enough steam to change many of the polls, but it shows that when the president gets out with real Americans, people like what they see.

After I read former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s book “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future,” it is amazing to me that the president hasn’t received more credit for his work with the economy. Reich details how the main lesson learned after the 1929 stock-market crash is that government had to step in, and step in quickly. Obama and his team did. It prevented a complete financial meltdown, but the anti-Obama crowd has just been slamming the president with the “jobless recovery” mantra.

The job situation is not going to change quickly. It is going to take years to build the infrastructure necessary for innovation. It is also going to take a tax code that makes the rich spend more money and not keep it. As Robert Reich points out, when people such as Warren Buffet keep money and don’t spend it, that doesn’t create jobs. Our tax policy has to aim to create jobs. Obama has tried to address that, but he gets painted with the words “raising taxes.” If you raise taxes on 2 percent of the population but keep or lower the percentage paid by the rest of Americans, it is hard to say that you are raising taxes, but the Republicans keep saying it. Any politician knows that if you keep saying things often enough, people tend to believe it.

Obamacare has also dominated the political landscape. It is quite shocking that the Republicans are billing it as the “biggest takeover by government.” I often wonder why they did not say the same thing when President Bush signed into law the drug benefit for Medicare, known as Part D. Few voices were heard on that one because Republicans wanted to win points with the seniors in their districts and help the drug companies who help them win elections.

The Republicans have urged scrapping of the “Affordable Health Care” bill and starting from scratch. There were a few pieces of legislation filed by some Republican members, but the rest of GOP did not jump on the health-care bandwagon. Instead, they decided to throw potshots from the outside. Obama and the Democrats decided to take it on, head on.

Whenever I am asked about health care from a radio listener, I often get the same question. Why, they ask, is it more than 2,000 pages? My answer is always the same. If you reduced the font to a standard size for reading the bill, it would be about 700 pages. Much of the bill had to be written in legislative language, which defines every term, and every profession that provides some kind of health care. Those 700 pages are taken up with definitions such as “marriage and family therapist” and “occupational therapist.” These kinds of darts thrown at Obama stick, but the Republicans have not developed any real alternatives.

The tea-party folks have promised to “change Washington,” but even if every tea party-supported candidate were to win, they would have almost no influence in getting jobs, health care, tax or any sweeping health-care legislation passed. If they were being realistic and truthful, they would be talking about bridge building and working with the Democrats and middle-of-the-road Republicans to get legislation passed. However, most of them are focusing on how to get elected – not how they will help make laws once they arrive in Washington. It is too bad, as they will have to face the same electorate during the next election cycle when they will have to defend their campaign promises.

The Republicans have also been extremely successful in painting Obama as being either weak or a socialist. The record simply doesn’t show it. It is good that he is going to states all over the country. When people see and hear the president, it helps to undermine the GOP attack machine. It is a machine that is well oiled and has plenty of money behind it. It may cause many Democrats to lose their seats, but the GOP machine won’t do much to help American govern its way out of our problems. That might take cooperation and a willingness to put the American people before individual desires to get elected.

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