Debating Obama’s leadership legacy

Ethan: I gotta tell you, Phil, with Obama’s State of the Union, it sure feels like the conservative era of former President Ronald Reagan is over.

Phil: And Bill Clinton’s legacy of “the era of big government is over” is in the rear view mirror, too.

Ethan: No, no. Obama made clear that every proposal he laid out was fully paid for either through cuts or closing tax loopholes.

Phil: Except he forgot to address the $4 billion a day we’re borrowing now to feed the status quo. What does your man do now to fundamentally transform America now that his true agenda has unfolded?

Ethan: I do agree that a transformation is at hand. His plans for investing in our economy, improving our educational outcomes, reforming immigration, passing safer gun regulation, pay equity for women, minimum wage increases for everyone and even his determination to get our long-term entitlement spending under control will certainly usher in a new era of prosperity for America.

Phil: I thought the $800 billion “shovel-ready” stimulus that was rammed through Congress in 2009 was supposed to rebuild our roads, bridges and cargo ports.

Ethan: Unfortunately, most of it was tax cuts that your party insisted on and then voted against. Had we been able to convert the tax cuts to truly rebuilding our infrastructure, our economy would now really be humming.

Phil: Actually most of it was used to entice states to lock in unsustainable welfare benefits even though the stimulus money was temporary. As for gun-safety laws, without tackling mental health issues I fear all he is proposing are feel-good measures that will not put an end to the mentally ill person inflicting horror and terror.

Ethan: I agree, but background checks, magazine limitations, restrictions on trafficking and an assault-weapons ban will also do a great amount of good. Do you realize that most gun violence is perpetrated by people who buy guns legally?

Phil: Unless Obama — who is not running for election again — puts his legislative language into the hands of Congress, stating specifically what he means by entitlement reform, we’ll see more of what has been Obama’s “blame Congress” agenda.

Ethan: Obama was pretty clear that he was willing to limit entitlements for those who don’t need them and put restrictions on prescription drug payments to companies. But I actually think it is smart politics to be willing to let Congress write the legislation with his input. He doesn’t care who gets credit; he just wants it done.

Phil: Really? You believe our economy can withstand four more years of Washington back stabbing and posturing? Who has the courage to propose solutions to reduce spending now? If anyone on our side does, the Obama-David Axelrod squad and their sympathizers in the constitutionally protected media will vilify them as they did Mitt Romney. Time for the president to put down his weapons and lead our country, not just the Democrats.

Ethan: Obama has taken the lead on many of these issues. He is clear on what he wants to accomplish with immigration reform, gun safety, investments in education and the economy. I will agree with you that he is less specific on entitlement and tax reform. But while we have political consultant Axelrod, you have Karl Rove. While we have business magnate George Soros, you have the Koch brothers. Both sides have their Darth Vader funded by an emperor, so don’t go pretending we are the only ones who will crucify a tough political position.

Phil: You have the trump card within the mainstream media; they choose to report what advances their complementary agenda, while (with few exceptions) they vilify anyone who objects to the Obama agenda.

Ethan: That’s debatable — in fact, a great topic for an upcoming Agree to Disagree column.

Phil: You’re on. Do you remember Obama saying, “After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three”? The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that we have 1.8 million fewer manufacturing jobs since 2007 and 600,000 fewer than when Obama took office. What did you hear that I didn’t addressing how the heart and soul of our economic vitality is going to improve?

Ethan: Eliminating tax loopholes that send jobs overseas. Incentivizing companies to do business here. Investing in infrastructure that will call on our factories to create the steel needed to build America. Level international trade agreements to protect American-made products. Simply put, continue doing more of what he has done to reverse the trend.

Phil: We’ll see how that works out in the cross currents of carbon taxes, Obamacare, a $9 minimum wage, National Labor Relations Board edicts and the highest corporate tax rates in the world.

Ethan: Highest corporate tax rate in the world, with the deepest loopholes, meaning our corporations actually end up paying less than the European average.

Phil: Speaking of “loopholes” — also known as laws passed by Congress and signed by the president — I assume you include tax incentives for oil and gas, General Electric, General Motors, solar and wind power loopholes too?

Ethan: Sure. Eliminate all those, and watch alternative energy flourish, while the fossil fuel industry cries a polluted river over all the lost taxpayer money that has propped up their industry for the past 100 years.

Phil: Obama has precious time to shape his legacy. Will it be one of winning at politics or winning at a better future for the children? Sure hope it’s the latter.

Ethan: Agreed, although, you gotta win at politics before you can win at policy. And, on that count, you have to accept that Obama has won.