COLUMN: Selecting A President - Is Obama Really The Best Choice?
By Professor Bentley Whitfield
Nationwide (August 30, 2012) -- Imagine the unthinkable, your child is dying. They have some strange disease that no one seems to recognize. There are only two doctors to choose from. Both doctors are accomplished. Both have great educations. Both have had successful and distinguished careers. Both are good men. One doctor is an emergency room physician. He's spent his entire career helping people who've been injured or experienced a sudden illness. The other doctor specializes in rare diseases. You have to choose one or the other. Your child lives or dies based on your decision. Who do you choose?
You know the ER doctor. He's warm and affectionate. It's clear that he cares about his patients. You approached him when your child first became ill. Your child has been in his care for sometime but they remain gravely ill. Friends and family advise you to stay with the doctor you have. They argue your child is still alive and in time may get better. They also point out that the rare disease doctor is personally cold and unknowable; he's secretive. He has few friends. He also attends some strange church you know little about. You have a lot of questions about the rare disease doctor. Now you have to choose one or the other. Your child lives or dies based on your decision. Who do you choose?
Children are too precious. You'll be courteous and listen to advice from friends. But you're going to make this decision on who has the best chance of saving your child. A long, happy and healthy life for your child is the only thing that matters. As a parent that is your focus, your only focus. All other issues and questions are meaningless. You will seek out and listen to advice from experts. You'll do research on your own. And despite all the bad things you've heard, you're also going to meet with the rare disease doctor and hear him out. When all is said and done, only one thing matters, saving your child. This decision must be made on the most relevant facts, not the most relevant friendship. Our children are just too precious.
In 2012, our focus as Americans must be as narrow and as selfish as any parent trying to save a child. The question we must ask ourselves is which candidate is best qualified to heal our diseased economy? Yes there are other issues. Immigration, abortion, healthcare, race, education, gay marriage etc. are all important issues, but the economy is a national life and death issue. Thoreau once said, "What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?" What good are the best progressive policies if we don't have a solvent nation to deliver them? We can fix other issues later. Our economy must be fixed NOW! Our focus must be which candidate is best qualified to save our economy. It's that simple.
The greatest single problem confronting our nation at this moment is our chronically diseased economy. Left uncured, this disease is as potent as any enemy we've ever faced on the battlefield. It attacks our families, our health and our communities. It has the ability to pit white against black, black against brown, or brown against white. A weak economy is literally an attack on the life, liberty and happiness of the American people. This enemy is the cause of 23 million Americans being unemployed or underemployed. It is the cause of millions of Americans having given up on looking for jobs. It is the cause of 49 million Americans being on food stamps. It is the cause of 53% of college graduates being unemployed or underemployed. The national debt is nearly $16 trillion (and rising) and threatens to steal all of our children's futures. The federal government is borrowing almost 40 cents of every dollar that it spends. No nation, business or household can survive that for a prolonged period. At some point the house of cards collapses. Close your eyes for a moment and think of how many friends, family and acquaintances have been attacked by this weak economy. This disease is the cause of broken families, divorce, rising crime, misery, suicides and dreams deferred.
Clearly, President Obama is not the cause of the weak economy. He inherited a mess, two costly wars, an economy on the brink of collapse and world opinion sharply critical of the United States. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have collectively cost $1.36 trillion. 4,486 Americans have died in Iraq and 2,102 in Afghanistan. 47,548 more Americans have been wounded. To President Obama's credit he has aggressively prosecuted the war against terror; over twenty top Al Qaeda leaders have been killed on his watch, including Bin Laden. The president's stimulus package has not adequately jump-started our economy, but a strong argument can be made that it has helped stop the bleeding. Obama also supported TARP which was initiated under the Bush administration. TARP helped to save eight major banks, AIG, community banks, GM and Chrysler. Those who worship at the alter of pure capitalism argue that weak companies should perish. There is some merit to this argument, but when we look at the context under which TARP and the stimulus plans were born, the strength of that argument fades. 2.6 million jobs vanished in 2008. It was sudden, swift and catastrophic. Given that backdrop President Obama's decision to support these policies seems fair and reasonable. Our economy was teetering on the brink of disaster. It's better to have invested in these companies and saved them, than to have paid out billions of dollars in unemployment to people who would have lost their jobs.
However, the real question is not who caused the economy to get sick. The question we must answer above all other questions is which candidate has the best chance of healing our diseased economy. This situation requires research, careful thought and listening to both sides, Republican and Democrat. We know the minds of our relatives, friends and associates. But how often has someone said something bad about another person, yet after you've met that person you come away with an entirely different view? We've also heard the opinions of a few talking heads on television. But have we done our own research? Have we read the platforms of both candidates? Have we read articles or just listened to thirty-second commercials? Have we gone to meetings or at least called the campaigns and asked tough questions? We would research every option if one of our children was chronically ill. Now the future of 308 million Americans is in danger. Isn't the same effort required?
Part Two Next Week - Evaluating the Candidates
By Bentley Whitfield
Bentley Whitfield is an African American and a professor with the State University of New York (SUNY). The views expressed are his. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516 909-1874.
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