Saturday, September 08, 2012


Obama or Romney?

The conventions are over and now I must think carefully about how to vote in November.  Actually I've already decided for most of the candidates.  It's still worth while to explain why, if I can.

I will vote for Barack Obama for President.  He's not perfect, and he's done a less than perfect job in his first  four years as President.  I can understand some who is impatient with the slow progress we've made climbing out of this recession and who will vote for the "other guy" in the hope that the other guy will do something different that will make change happen faster.  We Americans are, above all, an impatient people. We want quick action and quick results.  I also understand many of my fellow liberal Democrats who are disillusioned with Mr. Obama.  We expected big things to happen right away.  We wanted a single-payer health care system.  We would like to see some members of the previous administration on trial for war crimes, torture, or deceiving us about the role of Iraq in 9/11.

None of these things happened.  We were angry at the Bush Administration.  We were angry for the war.  We were angry for the collapse of the housing market and the mortgage securities scandal.  We were angry for the deliberate lack of oversight of some of our very large private financial institutions.  We wanted a President like Harry Truman or Franklin Roosevelt who would challenge the other Party for getting us into the mess we're in.  We longed to hear such phrases as "economic royalists" or "snolley gosters" applied to the Republicans.  We didn't get that.  Instead we got a President who tried to find compromises with the Republicans.  Instead of pushing for a single-payer health care system, such as expanding Medicare to cover everyone, Mr. Obama chose a plan that he thought the Republicans would accept.  It was their plan.  It had been enacted in Massachusetts by a Democratic Legislature and a Republican Governor.  For some reason the Republicans would have none of it.  They denounced even their own plan.  Rather than make compromises and deals to create government programs to spur the economy and create new jobs the Republicans chose as their goal victory in the next Presidential Election.  They nearly let the country default on its loans rather than cooperate with "that man in the white house."

Of course I write as a partisan Democrat.  I can't help that.  My father was the town Democrat in the village in rural Republican Michigan where I was born and attended public school.  My Swedish grandfather was a Democrat and most of his descendants have followed his lead in politics.  I know that a mere government can't do much to combat a world-wide business cycle, which is what we're in.  Europe is experiencing a worse depression than we are.  It is very highly likely that the economy will eventually recover by itself even if the government does nothing.  The danger to the government is that if the recession persists and the people perceive the government as doing nothing about it, they may rebel and replace the government.  Several European countries did so in the 1920's.  In this country the new President, FDR, realized that government had to do something at least to relieve some of the misery of the depression.  He persuaded Congress to set up several agencies to provide temporary employment to people who were out of work: WPA, PWA, CCC, and others.  They provided jobs and reduced the misery.  They also provided customers with money to stimulate the economy.  The whole process was called "priming the pump" in those days.  Even though the depression didn't end until the outbreak of the War in 1939 the government programs succeeded in forestalling a revolution.

Some of old codgers like me experienced life in those days.  You younger bucks can and should read about the "New Deal" in history books.  It provides useful clues as to what government can and should do to help us survive and recover from a recession.

In spite of his imperfections I will vote for Mr. Obama this fall.  I know he understands what happened in the Great Depression of the 1930's even though he didn't live through it.  Mr. Romney, his opponent, didn't live through it either.  Even if Mr. Romney understands and appreciates what FDR did to deal with the Great Depression he is prevented by the conservative wing of his Party from adopting any of FDR's policies.  He has made public promises to this wing that he will find difficult to break.  I don't know his own thoughts about what government should do about a recession.  One of my conservative and libertarian friends believes that the economy will recover by itself if simply left alone and any government spending to deal with the problems of unemployment are simply a waste of money.

On the basis of what I believe Mr. Romney would and wouldn't do as President, I shall vote for Mr. Obama.
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