AnnArbor.com endorses Barack Obama for U.S. president
Barack Obama came into office facing daunting challenges: a struggling economy, two wars, fractured relations with some of our nation’s allies.
The Associated Press
We’re not completely happy with the way things have gone during Obama’s first term as president. But the country has made progress in a number of key areas, and we believe the president deserves a chance to finish what he started—while challenger Mitt Romney hasn’t made a compelling case for change.
The single most important issue facing the nation continues to be the health of the economy and, in particular, the stubbornly high unemployment rate. Things are getting better, but very slowly. Romney argues that employment should be higher than it is, and that he could accelerate the pace of improvement. But his plan to accomplish that—make sure everyone has a good education, open new markets, and so on—is not clearly articulated. This economic recovery was most likely doomed to be extremely slow no matter who was in office for the last four years, and it will probably continue to be slow no matter who’s in office for the next four.
One thing seems clear, especially with the benefit of hindsight: Economic conditions in Washtenaw County, the state of Michigan, and the country as a whole would be much worse without the government’s bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler. And Romney not only opposed using government money for that purpose, he predicted the demise of the U.S. auto industry if it happened.
Intertwined with the economy, of course, are concerns about the massive federal budget deficit. Its growth is troubling, but a country trying to climb out of recession might need to live with that problem for a while. Both candidates acknowledge the need to address the deficit, but we believe that Obama has proposed the most practical approach: He supports relatively modest increases in the income-tax rates for the highest earners (back to 2001 levels), and in the capital-gains tax rate. These are reasonable, responsible moves that would raise considerable revenue. Romney says he could eliminate the deficit while cutting taxes further for pretty much everyone, yet we haven’t seen enough detail on how he would do that. What else would Romney do differently than the president? He’d repeal health-care reform, probably the signature domestic achievement of Obama’s first term. While we have some serious concerns with the package, it clearly hasn’t had a chance to work or not work at this early date. And repealing it all in January would surely create an unholy mess for the health-care industry, which is vital to Washtenaw County.
On other, perhaps less pressing, domestic issues, Obama simply makes a better fit for our area: Obama is pro-choice on abortion while Romney opposes it; Obama has come around to support same-sex marriage while Romney has not. And Romney seems to have little to no regard for clean-energy initiatives, an area where the Ann Arbor area could become an important player in the coming years.
Finally, on foreign-policy matters, Obama’s record leaves little to complain about. In an era when simply keeping a lid on things probably counts as a win, we’ve seen the military kill Osama bin Laden, one war ended, and international relationships repaired. Even Romney seems to agree with the administration on most substantive foreign-policy matters.
If Obama does win a second term, we’ll of course hope to see continued economic growth. But there are other areas where he could, and should, show more leadership. We’d like to see more attention paid to the concerns of small businesses, which remain vital to the country’s present and future. We’d like to see more of the Barack Obama who, as a candidate, expressed a clear appreciation for the special challenges facing the Great Lakes. And most of all, we’d like to see more bipartisan cooperation. Yes, Congressional Republicans deserve criticism here as well; but the president can do a lot to set the tone, and early in his first term Obama missed a chance to truly move past the paralyzing partisanship that’s become the norm in Washington.
The AnnArbor.com endorsement team includes Laurel Champion, executive vice president; Paula Gardner, community news director; and members of Gardner’s staff, including Bob Needham, entertainment director and former Ann Arbor News editorial page editor; and Cindy Heflin, managing producer.