Thursday, November 18, 2010

A One-Term President?

With the midterm election behind us and the lame duck of Congress in session, it is important that the newly elected Republican majority in House take the time to stand up for the American people and help us continue moving this country forward. Although I strongly believe Democrats have done more to help this staggering economy and improve the quality of life for Americans, I welcome the Republicans help and hope they are willing to work together in the name of progress.

So far, however, it has been somewhat confusing. On one hand, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, recently endorsed President Obama’s moratorium of pork-barrel projects (known as "earmarks"). As a long time defender of using these special funding requests, McConnell has sought nearly $1 billion worth of earmarks, primarily benefiting his home state of Kentucky. Although he “does not apologize” for his actions, his reversal will help eliminate such wasteful spending.

On the other hand, the Republican leadership decided to postpone a bipartisan congressional meeting with the president at the White House due to scheduling conflicts. John Boehner told the White House that “the crush of business setting up the new Congress while juggling a lame duck session of the old one was too much”. If the new speaker of the House cannot manage a simple meeting with the President of the United States, how can we expect him to lead Congress? According to current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, “I can never remember an instance where President Bush asked the Democratic leadership to meet with him and we did not accommodate our schedule to that request.” This is not only a sign of disrespect, but also does not reveal a future of healthy cooperation and bipartisanship.

Obama wanted to hold the bipartisan meeting to discuss national issues following the midterm elections, including such economic issues as the possible extension of Bush tax cuts set to expire January 1. As I mentioned in my blog post, America in the Driver’s Seat, the Republican argument that these tax cuts would encourage small businesses, stimulate the economy, and create jobs are misleading and haven proven wrong since their enactment in 2001. Even BILLIONAIRE investor Warren Buffett agreed that “we should raise taxes on the very rich, and I think maybe we should cut taxes for the middle class." If one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs sees the benefits of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, I think it’s something to make note of.

Although the Republicans say they want to work with the Democrats, it is hard to imagine any talks of bipartisanship when the day after their victory, McConnell says, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” This proves that the Republicans are simply a party of NO, failing to put aside politics for the success of the American people.

They are against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the discriminatory policy preventing any American who wants to defend our country to do so; against extending unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans; against supporting the DREAM Act, which would award citizenship to illegal immigrants who have gone to college or served in the military; and against ratifying the new START treaty, a bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement between the U.S. and Russia signed earlier this year. If ratified, the treaty will reduce Russia’s nuclear arsenal to the lowest level since the Cold War.

But, I guess when politics is put before policies, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Continuing the Message of Hope and Change

Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama is currently on his 10-day Asia tour aimed at spurring domestic job creation through increased trade and American exports. With the tenth consecutive month of American private-sector growth, this tour continues Obama’s efforts to create jobs and improve the American economy.

As an Indian-American, I take great pride in the fact that Obama hosted his first state dinner with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Now, with India as his first stop in Asia, our two worlds seemed to have come full circle.

This is especially true when Obama said, “I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as president of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared and inspired with America and the world.” It truly gives me an inspiring and patriotic feeling.

As the largest democracy in the world with one of the fastest growing economies, Asia’s nuclear-armed giant has proven itself a global power. With the U.S. economy as his top priority, Obama announced a host of new trade deals with India, supporting tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and creating a deeper and stronger partnership between the two nations.

Furthermore, in an address to India’s Parliament, President Obama endorsed India for a permanent seat on the United Nation’s Security Council. Although this has sparked some criticism from China and Pakistan, I believe it is well deserving and a smart move.

By strengthening U.S.-India efforts to fight and prevent terrorism, a permanent seat on the Security Council will also help America control the spread of nuclear weapons in the world and check the influence of an increasingly assertive China.

Although the U.S. image across the world had worsened during the past administration, President Obama’s message of hope and change are strengthening old relationships and creating new ones, helping to reverse this process.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Responsible Reflection

This past Tuesday, after months of campaigning for the Democratic Party and working with Organizing for America (OFA) volunteers across the state of Maryland, I found myself in a bittersweet moment. We handily won the Governor’s race, as well as many other state and local races I was involved in. However, as the polls came in from around the country, I came to understand the harsh reality of politics: nothing is certain.

The Republicans had major victories on Tuesday, and for that, I must give credit where credit is due. However, to say that the election is a direct referendum on President Obama’s policies or that Democrats had lost focus on economic recovery is misdirected. In fact, each measure proposed and passed by the Democrats actually sought to help the economy.

For this reason, it is hard to believe that the American voters voted against: 1) adequate health insurance, where their insurance companies can no longer drop their coverage due to a pre-existing condition; 2) student loan reform, where getting and paying off college loans is easier and more affordable; 3) stricter credit card regulations, where credit card companies are prevented from raising interest rates on existing balances and without notifying you; 4)Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which provides tax cuts and lending assistance for small businesses; 5)the Emergency Jobs bill, which prevent states of laying off teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers; 6) Emergency Homeowner Loan Program that help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures; 7) the stimulus package, which prevented another Great Depression and helped save the U.S. auto-industry; or 8) ending the Iraq War and bringing our brave troops home.

Instead, the major problem Democrats encountered was that of communication. Despite the fact that the economic problems we face began under a previous administration, or that when any one party controls everything—the House, the Senate, and the White House—that party will almost always lose seats in midterm elections, we needed to better explain our successes to the American people. We needed to show the voters that our major concern was, and always has been, economic growth. From health-insurance reform to ending the Iraq War, each policy taken by the Democrats aimed at stimulating the economy and creating jobs.

But as the President has made clear: "Each time progress has come slowly and even painfully, but progress has always come -- because we’ve worked at it and because we’ve believed in it, and most of all, because we remembered that our first allegiance as citizens is not to party or region or faction, but to country -- because while we may be proud Democrats or proud Republicans, we are prouder to be Americans."

Let's keep moving America forward.