Many of us have a vision for America, where, with hard work and a little luck, everyone has the opportunity to succeed, live a middle-class life and maybe even become wealthy.
That’s also President Obama’s vision. He has lived the American Dream, rising from humble beginnings, the son of a single parent, to become president of the United States. He is a champion and poster child for the American Dream!
So it took my breath away to see our president called “the anti-American President” and a “Marxist” and a “third-world socialist, anti-capitalist despot.” These words used in the July 19 Observer editorial are so contrary to what President Obama stands for that they seemed designed only to generate fear and anger, rather than contribute to a debate.
And maybe that’s the point. This kind of name-calling distracts from the real issues and the debate we must have about two competing visions for America’s future.
The Obama vision
President Obama believes the drive and ingenuity of America’s entrepreneurs are vital to America’s success and growth. On July 23 he said, “I believe with all my heart that it is the drive and the ingenuity of Americans who start businesses that lead to their success. I always have and I always will.”
Obama’s vision for America is to provide our entrepreneurs and our free-enterprise system with the strong foundation they need to turn that hard work into success and growth.
President Obama has articulated this vision for America repeatedly, including during his July 13 speech where The Observer and others focused on one comment to deride this vision.
President Obama said:
“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own … If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
That foundation that we build together includes a strong military to defend our nation, a modern infrastructure, a world-class education system so American entrepreneurs can find the best employees in the world right here in America, a strong middle class and customer base, a legal system where we all play by the same rules and a tax system where we all pay our fair share. With this foundation, our free-enterprise system will generate jobs and economic growth to benefit us all.
The Romney vision
Mitt Romney’s vision for America, in my opinion, ignores the need for this strong foundation, and instead suggests we can build from the top down. As I hear him, he would cut taxes for the rich like himself, gut support for our infrastructure and education system, deregulate the banks and transfer control of our personal healthcare decisions away from us, giving it to corporate insurers.
Romney’s own website tells most of this story, as has Romney himself in his speeches and in ads.
His tax-and-spending plan tells the rest. According to the Tax Policy Center (a joint effort of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute), the bottom 20% of taxpayers would actually see their taxes go up under Romney’s plan, while the top 1% would see tax cuts of as much as $150,000. Overall, his tax plan would add trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next 10 years.
On the spending side, Gov. Romney is vague, simply vowing to dramatically cut spending, limiting it to 20% of GDP while still providing an increase in military spending. The only way to accomplish this would be with cuts for education, infrastructure, health care, scientific and medical research and more. Nearly every piece of the essential foundation businesses and entrepreneurs need to be successful would be slashed.
Romney’s vision doesn’t work. The chart from the Center for American Progress shows that tax cuts for the rich have never created jobs and prosperity — except for the rich. In fact, some of the nation’s best job growth happened when the top marginal tax rate was 50% or more.
Romney’s vision, in my view, is ultimately one where the wealthy would get more, the poor would get less and unregulated corporations would have a much larger role in our lives, including making our health-care decisions for us. And because of the lack of corporate regulation, individuals would have much less to say about their own working conditions, their health, their futures and the future of our country.
This November, we will choose between these two competing visions. So let’s end the name-calling and have the debate about how a strong economy is built — by giving more to the rich or by protecting the middle class and building a strong foundation for growth and free enterprise.
Rita Ferrandino is chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party.