by Ron Kenner
Baldwin Hills, Calif.
November 25, 2012
Part I: OBAMA'S MAJORITY MANDATES REAL PROGRESS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Having had a week to savor the decisive victories of President Obama and the Democratic Party, maybe it is safe to say that we are not a center-right nation anymore.
As of my last reading, though, Republicans have yet to do the math.
After all, Obama amassed more electoral votes in 2012 than John F. Kennedy in 1960 (303), Richard Nixon in 1968 (also 303), Jimmy Carter in 1976 (297), and George W. Bush in 2000 (271) and 2004 (286).
Obama also won a clear majority of the popular vote over Republican Mitt Romney, which has the added benefit of voiding conservatives' arguments about the lack of an electoral mandate.
But now the hard work begins. It begins with President Obama facing up to a reality that he should have figured out by the end of his first year in office - Republicans are petty, vindictive, dishonest and have no interest in governing unless they control the White House.
Proceeding from that point, the President and the Democrats have no reason to compromise.
Since they won the election by promoting growth, rather than austerity, it's time to seize the initiative and push for policies that will create a stronger, more inclusive economy while moving our nation away from perpetual war and unfettered corporate power.
Start by rejecting austerity, and ignoring the repeated calls to cut social welfare spending in the name of debt reduction. Our European neighbors are doing this, and they have plunged the Continent into a deeper recession.
Continue by rejecting the notion that our nation going over a so-called "fiscal cliff" come January 2013. That's when $1.2 trillion in "sequestered" automatic federal spending cuts is scheduled to take effect. But the two more important things to remember about that figure are that the cuts are to be spread out over the next two years, and that allowing the extension of the Bush tax cuts to expire on schedule would eliminate the need for cutting $1.2 trillion.
The problem with the U.S. economy isn't the federal deficit. The problem is insufficient economic growth to create new jobs and widen prosperity. Raising taxes on the middle class while cutting government spending in a time of high unemployment would slow economic growth, and make the deficit bigger.
But if you extended the Bush tax cuts for those with incomes under $250,000, while allowing the higher rates for those who make more than $250,000, it would generate $4 trillion in revenue over 10 years.
If you exempted the first $20,000 of income from the Social Security payroll tax while increasing the ceiling on income subject to the tax (from the current $110,000 to at least $250,000), Social Security would be solvent for another century.
Again, it's not a deficit problem, it's a jobs problem. And raising taxes on the wealthy, while increasing government spending on education, job training and rebuilding public infrastructure, will increase economic growth.
Cutting from the grotesquely-bloated military budget would also reduce the deficit and create jobs, A billion dollars spent on the military and related industries supports about 11,000 jobs. That same amount spent on health care supports about 17,000 jobs, and on education? Nearly 27,000 jobs.
In this election, a majority of Americans voted for economic policies that favor the 99 percent. But looking beyond the economy, Americans also voted for an end to the endless war in Afghanistan, for concrete actions to deal with climate change, to restore our civil liberties, and end the expansion of the national surveillance state. Also, voters clearly want to put an end to the war on women.
It is up to every American who wants a better nation to make President Obama live up to the words he spoke when he gave his soaring victory speech last week: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
That means we must insist that the President and the Democrats in Congress do what they were elected to do without compromising or surrendering to conservatives that are determined to obstruct and destroy any hope of progress.
What's the point of winning an election if you roll over and surrender to the people you defeated? President Obama and the Democrats must not squander this opportunity to rebuild our nation's long-neglected public infrastructure. Let's step back from our role as global policeman, and instead mobilize the best minds in our country to find a way to avoid a climate apocalypse.
As voters and Americans, we need to make them do it.
AR Chief of Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut, a graduate of the Harvard School of Governemnt, has been a prize-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.