Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Reflective Look Back

During a recent news conference, President Obama said, "I think it's fair to say that this has been the most productive post-election period we've had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we've had in generations."

As we wrap up 2010, it is important to take a reflective look back and see the progress that we have made thus far.

When Obama took office back in 2008, the economy was in a freefall. We were suffering from a trillion dollar deficit, losing over 700,000 jobs a month, and a more than 10% unemployment rate. Without any government action, the U.S. Labor Department predicts we would have lost more than 11 million jobs. Instead, the stimulus package was passed, focusing on long term job creation, preventing another Great Depression, and lowering the unemployment rate to 9.5%.

According to Bloomberg News, the S&P 500 Index has gained almost 39 percent since Congress convened in January 2009, the biggest increase for a two-year congressional session since 1997. With a 10.4% market rise during Obama's first 100 days in office, compared with Reagan’s 4% gain during his first 100 days, and George W. Bush’s 2.3% loss for the equivalent period, we are showing solid signs of economic improvement.

Thanks to comprehensive healthcare reform, 32 million Americans are now insured, and millions more, like me, will no longer be denied or rationed care due to a pre-existing condition; Medicare funds will last longer than expected; students can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26; and taxpayers, patients, businesses, and hospitals pay less in insurance fees.

The Obama administration has also succeeded in passing:
the Financial Regulation bill (instituting greater financial regulation that has put
Main Street, not Wall Street, back in charge);
the Small Business Lending bill (providing small businesses with tax cuts and lending
assistance, creating American jobs and spurring domestic investment);
the Credit Card Reform bill (making credit card companies become more transparent and
less aggressive);
the Student Loan Reform bill (improving the Pell Grant system, making it easier to pay
off student loans);
the Homeowner Loan Program (helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures and giving
tax credits for home buyers, increasing investment in new homes);
the Emergency Jobs bill (preventing states from laying off over 300,000 teachers and
public workers);
• and the Auto-Industry Bailout (saving the entire U.S. auto industry).

Not to mention, he also ended the Iraq War; made larger investments in cleaner energy programs; nominated two females to the Supreme Court, one of which is the first Latina justice; increased transparency in our government (this is the first time the White House guests list is online); and inspired our youth to engage more frequently in community service programs.

All this progress was achieved before the Democrats lost control of the House and narrowed their margins in the Senate. Even so, this has proven to be the most productive lame-duck Congress in decades.

In just a few weeks after the midterm election, Obama has succeeded in ratifying the START treaty, reducing the payroll tax for 150 million Americans, providing tax cuts for 100 million middle-class families, extending unemployment benefits to over 2 million jobless, working with BOTH parties, and overturning Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

However, while Obama has made significant strides to reach across the political aisle, many on the right have simply proven themselves a party of “No”. With 2010 behind us, and a new Congress taking over in just a few short weeks, I hope we can continue making progress and working together on behalf of the American people.

For more information on the progress we have made, please checkout this article from Bloomberg News:

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Arc of Justice

After preventing another Great Depression, creating millions of domestic jobs, overhauling the nation’s healthcare system, requiring greater financial responsibility of Wall Street, improving foreign relations, saving the U.S. auto industry, increasing transparency in the government, and ending the Iraq War, it seems our president is keen on keeping his campaign promises.

Obama has long advocated for repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the discriminatory policy prohibiting gay people from openly serving in our nation’s military. In an effort to uphold the American values of freedom and equality, the Senate voted yesterday to repeal the law.

Not only does ending DADT make us a better nation, but according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “no longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result."

Although a few Republicans joined the Senate Democrats, this measure was passed largely on partisan lines. But as Democrat Senator Ron Wyden put it, “I don't care who you love. If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn't have to hide who you are."

It was the right thing to do, and proves that Obama and the Democrats are serious about getting our nation back on the right track.

“Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice...." (Senator Obama, 2008).

With the DREAM act failing to overcome a Republican filibuster, I am curious to see which way the GOP is bending the arc of justice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Era of Compromise

Call it bipartisanship at its best.

On Monday, President Obama negotiated a deal with the Republican leadership to temporarily extend ALL the Bush tax cuts (those for the middle class and the top 2 percent), along with unemployment benefits that have expired. While this deal is not perfect, I believe it was the right course of action.

Although Obama is still against an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent, as it would be detrimental to our staggering economy and cost us an additional $700 billion in lost revenue, he has avoided a larger threat and won an extension of unemployment benefits; a temporary reduction in payroll taxes for 155 million workers; tax cuts for the 100 million middle-class families; and 100% expensing for businesses next year, generating more than $50 billion in additional investment in the U.S. (U.S. Treasury Department). All these measures will provide benefits to millions of Americans and help spur domestic job creation.

For weeks, the debate has been at a standstill with both sides of the political isle unwilling to give in. The federal unemployment benefits expired last month, leaving two million jobless without any support; and the Bush-era tax cuts for every American were set to expire January 1st. If no action was taken and the middle class tax cuts were allowed to expire, 98 percent of Americans would see a $3,000 tax increase and the economy could have shed more than one million jobs (U.S. Labor Department and the Tax Policy Center).

While the deal may not be suitable to everyone, especially those within Obama’s own party, this is the true essence of “compromise”. With their new majorities in Congress, Republicans were holding the extension of unemployment benefits hostage to a deal on extending the upper-bracket tax cuts. The options were limited.

A compromise does not make our president look weak. Instead, it shows that he is truly putting politics aside and doing what he was elected to do: lead. He is not the President of the Democrats, but the President of the United States.

The hope is that Obama’s ability to reach across the political isle may prove helpful to Democrats in the next legislative session. However, Republican senators made clear they are unlikely to budge in their opposition to other national priorities. Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation that sought to provide medical care for 9/11 workers; and today they voted along party lines to prevent the passage of legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell”.

With the DREAM act and START treaty soon to approach the Senate floor, I hope the GOP leadership is taking a few tips from our president and will stop the political bickering. Will 2011 bring about a new era of compromise? Let’s wait and see.

For another look at the President's compromise, watch this video from the White House: