Ethan: OK, this week’s topic is why or why shouldn’t President Barack Obama be re-elected. Next week we’ll do presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. You game?
Phil: OK, Ethan. But let’s have some real fun. How about you take the side that Obama should not be re-elected? Certainly is easier to argue, don’t you think?
Ethan: Are you really saying it’s easier to argue that a guy who prevented a depression, passed universal health care, reformed Wall Street and ended two wars shouldn’t get a second term? Not sure this is even a fair fight.
Phil: May I suggest you take off your rose-colored, Democrat-issued glasses and see how Obama’s policies have blurred the American dream? Many family businesses I work with fear what Obama is going to do next. Obama’s policies have only thwarted job creation and America’s vision of entrepreneurial growth.
Ethan: Enough of the rhetoric. Be specific about what he’s done that you don’t like. From my perspective, the guy has built a resume that is hard to compete with, from the killing of Osama Bin Laden, to repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, to rescuing General Motors, to ending discrimination against women in health care.
Phil: To $15 trillion of debt. To more people qualifying for Social Security disability benefits last month than got new jobs. To record levels of food stamp recipients. To nearly 50 percent of people not earning enough to pay any income taxes. Obama may have a nice-looking resume, but he’s failed the interview.
Ethan: Did you forget that when Obama walked in the door, he was handed the worst economy since the Great Depression? As you may recall, in the month he took the oath of office we lost 600,000 jobs. Prior to the stimulus taking effect, we were losing 750,000 a month. In response, he cut taxes and injected almost a trillion dollars into our economy. Within a year the job losses had halted, and our economy was growing again. What your statistics show is that we are still coming out of one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen.
Phil: That’s interesting, Ethan, because just three years after Jimmy Carter left our country in a slump, Americans were talking about the Reagan Recovery. Compare that to today. Even after Vice President Joe Biden declared the Summer of Recovery was underway, all the Obama administration did was blame former president George W. Bush that things weren’t better.
Ethan: Things are better. Since the third quarter of 2009 (coinciding with the stimulus hitting full steam) our economy has grown every quarter by an average of 2.4 percent. In fact, Obama has had as many quarters of job growth as Ronald Reagan did at this point in his presidency. And Reagan inherited an economy that was growing, while Obama inherited one that was shrinking by almost 9 percent! Any objective look would suggest something is working.
Phil: I think your “objective look” is coming from the special interests that got special Obama treatment. For the rest of us, there are stagnant returns on our savings and retirement accounts and taxes scheduled to go up on health insurance, capital gains, income, payroll and Medicare surcharges.
Ethan: Those who got “special treatment” from Obama were the middle class families and small businesses in places like Bangor who received his tax cut. The local school children in Portland who kept their teachers. The fire and police departments in Lewiston that didn’t have to cut back on public safety. And all of Piscataquis County which saw its unemployment rate drop 27 percent in the past three years. Those things don’t just happen on their own, Phil.
Phil: Meanwhile I’m still looking for the man who said he was a uniter. The guy who said it’s not whether government is too big or too small but rather what works. He said what doesn’t work we’ll get rid of. Instead, what’s growing is a more intrusive government administered in a way that makes business people afraid that the next regulation will put them under.
Ethan: I just don’t know where you get your numbers. Federal spending as a percent of GDP is at about the same level today as it was in the 1950s, and it is increasing at the slowest pace since the Eisenhower administration (no wonder our economic recovery isn’t better). In terms of getting rid of what doesn’t work, he did end two wars and has basically scrapped No Child Left Behind. I know those were the last vestiges of your boy Bush, but if you truly want smaller government, beggars can’t be choosers.
Phil: Do you mean to tell me that the new normal is an 8.2 percent unemployment rate? I bet you believe that Obama isn’t doing enough for these people and that just a few more taxes and government programs will bring America back? That may work to garner votes from those who benefit, but with 48.5 percent of Americans living in a household that receives government assistance, and 49.5 percent who do not pay income taxes (up from only 34.1 percent when Bush took office), I am not optimistic about a second term.
Ethan: Phil, everyone in America receives government assistance. We drive on public roads; we send our kids to public schools; we eat vegetables that are clean; and the police arrive when we call. All thanks to the taxes we pay. But 8.2 percent unemployment is not the new norm, and with Obama earning a second term, I am quite confident the economy will strengthen. Now, when do I get to start bashing on Romney!?
Phil: Patience, my friend, patience. That’s next week’s column.