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Published: Sunday, 10/28/2012

Re-elect President Obama

A second term for President BARACK OBAMA would be a better outcome for Ohio, Michigan, and the rest of the country — and would offer more hopeful prospects for the next four years — than would his replacement by his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. The Blade recommends the President’s re-election.

During his administration, President Obama has provided pragmatic, steady, centrist leadership that has served the nation well. He has dealt effectively with economic recession at home and turmoil abroad, much of which he inherited from his predecessor. The stimulus he promoted — along with the auto and bank bailouts — helped prevent the recession from becoming a depression.

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Mr. Romney blames what he calls the still-dismal state of the national economy on the President’s inept stewardship. The challenger says his experience as a business executive would enable him to slash the federal deficit, create 12 million jobs, restore fiscal stability, and accelerate economic recovery.

In fact, Ohio’s current unemployment rate is 7 percent — nearly one-fifth lower than it was when the President was inaugurated in January, 2009. Nationally, the jobless rate has dropped substantially over the past year and also is lower than when Mr. Obama took office.

Jobless rates are still too high. But imagine what the economies of Ohio and Michigan would look like today if Mr. Obama had not presided over the federal rescue of Chrysler and General Motors as they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

That rescue was vital to Ohio, which depends on the auto industry for 850,000 jobs — one of every eight. It has preserved and created assembly and parts production jobs in Toledo and across the state.

Without it, Chrysler and GM likely would have gone out of business and the domestic industry and supply chain would have collapsed, taking Ford with them. Instead, U.S. automakers now are preparing to achieve huge gains in the fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks.

The auto bailouts began under a Republican president, George W. Bush, but Mr. Romney has continued to oppose them. In last week’s debate, he claimed disingenuously that he would have supported federal “guarantees” of private investment in the automakers.

But in the depths of the Great Recession, no such investment was forthcoming. A high-powered businessman — and the son of a Detroit auto CEO who plays up his Michigan roots — might be expected to acknowledge that.

Reform and invest

President Obama’s health-care reform is poised to insure tens of millions of Americans who now lack medical coverage, while reducing the federal deficit. The financial reforms he guided into law are curbing the abuses on Wall Street that contributed greatly to the national and global economic meltdown.

As he seeks to limit spending, Mr. Obama understands the economic importance of results-based investment in such things as alternative energy, transportation, job training, and infrastructure repair. His Race to the Top school reform program and emphasis on community colleges are prescriptions to ensure there will be enough workers to fill high-skill jobs. His agenda contrasts with that of Mr. Romney, for whom tax cuts — especially for the rich — are an all-purpose nostrum.

In foreign affairs, the President has ended one war begun by his predecessor in Iraq, and is overseeing an orderly troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. He ordered the attack that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terror attacks on this country.

Mr. Obama assembled the international coalition that helped free Libya from four decades of Moammar Gadhafi’s tyranny, without putting U.S. troops in harm’s way. The tough economic sanctions Mr. Obama and U.S. allies have imposed on Iran offer the prospect of forcing that country to give up its development of nuclear weapons.

In challenging the President’s first-term record, Mr. Romney has displayed a chronic eagerness to say anything he thinks will win him the support of the audience he is addressing at the moment. That raises the question of what he truly believes: He has changed positions so often on so many basic issues — health care, women’s rights, government regulation — that it seems his only fixed principle is his own advancement.

Mr. Romney has largely repudiated his moderate record as governor of Massachusetts. The Obamacare that he condemns is based on his own effective health-reform program.

His economic “plan” consists of popular but conflicting imperatives: cut tax rates by 20 percent, increase military spending while exercising budget austerity elsewhere, reduce the deficit without raising revenue. He refuses to resolve these contradictions, other than to pledge to close tax “loopholes” and eliminate deductions he won’t identify. His top-down approach would shift tax burdens from the nation’s wealthiest Americans to the middle class.

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Similarly, even as Mr. Romney vows to repeal Obamacare, he promises to keep the features of the reform law that Americans like — without saying how he would pay for them. At the same time, he would convert Medicare largely to a system of private vouchers, and Medicaid to a program of block grants to states. Those initiatives ultimately could force elderly and poor consumers to pay much more out of pocket for health care.

A 1964 Blade editorial described the GOP nominee’s father, then-Michigan Gov. George Romney, as “a successful man of affairs who sees nothing soft-headed about wanting to do good for others.” We had hoped to be able to say the same of Mitt Romney. We can’t.

Mr. Romney’s vast wealth, gained largely in the private-equity industry, need not be an impediment to leadership. But he too often seems to have little understanding of the lives, problems, and aspirations of Americans who do not inhabit his economic and social strata (see “47 percent”).

On an issue of particular importance to Ohio and Michigan, Mr. Obama has been an enthusiastic promoter of a new bridge between Detroit and Canada, linking the project to more than $2 billion in federal aid to fix Michigan roads and bridges. Mr. Romney has refused to endorse the bridge — another expression of his idea of leadership and the depth of his concern for his native state.

There have been lapses in President Obama’s first-term performance. He has not met his goals for reducing unemployment and shrinking the deficit. Although he has been more friendly to cities such as Toledo than Mr. Romney would be, he has not developed a true urban agenda.

Republican lawmakers in Congress have worked hard to block Mr. Obama’s program at every turn. But the President’s own aloofness and diffidence have at times made him an ineffective negotiator for his administration.

Mr. Obama has not produced the comprehensive immigration-reform proposal he promised. Too often, like Mr. Romney, the President has allowed his valid ideas on trade enforcement to morph into China-bashing. He has shown a worrisome penchant for secrecy in the name of national security.

The President has said too little about a range of vital issues: entitlement reform, Great Lakes restoration, man-made climate change, the environmental implications of expanded domestic oil and gas drilling, rational gun control, alternatives to mass incarceration, and his best intelligence about what happened at the Libyan consulate in September to cause the deaths of four Americans. But Mr. Romney’s prescriptions on such matters, to the extent he has any, are worse.

What Ohio voters decide about this year’s presidential election appears increasingly likely to determine its outcome for the nation. The choice between the candidates is clear and momentous. Ohioans will best serve their own interests, and those of the country, by re-electing President BARACK OBAMA.



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