Columnist Linda Turley-Hansen has written a couple of pieces lately, exhorting us to vote in the upcoming presidential election. In one, she ended with this: Our choice was either socialism or freedom (guess who the socialist is?). In her more recent one, she tells us to vote because Obama is killing the coal industry. In other words, a second Obama term is Apocalypse Now.
I’d like to encourage you to vote, too, but to look at some history as well.
At the end of 2008, America was losing about 200,000 jobs a month, over two million for the year, 510,000 jobs lost a month in the last three months of that year.
At the end of 2008, the Dow Jones was at 8550, down almost 4,000 points for the year.
At the end of 2008, over 3,000,000 homes had been foreclosed upon, we had the largest drop in home sales in over 25 years, the average home value had dropped almost 7 percent, and some locales had 30 percent to 50 percent drops in home value.
At the end of 2008, a variety of banks and other financial institutions were on the brink of complete collapse, which would’ve taken the rest of the economy with it.
At the end of 2008, both GM and Chrysler were near folding, taking with them their employees’ jobs along with thousands of jobs related to the auto industry.
At the end of 2008, many saw their retirement accounts decimated, causing them to rethink their retirement plans.
And four years later?
We are gaining -- however anemically -- jobs each month, for the last 19 months. We’d have even better news in jobs except for one area, the public sector, where job cuts have continued even as the private sector began to rehire.
We have a much healthier stock market, rising now above 13,000, an almost 5,000 point increase since its 2008 low.
Home foreclosures continue to decline, the housing industry has had some modest growth, home values are rising again.
The financial sector is healthier, though still prey to its own greed and the instability of European economies.
GM and Chrysler are alive and hiring.
401(K)s and other retirement plans have grown, some having completely recovered from the disaster of 2008.
In other words, to answer the question, “Are we better off now than we were four years ago?” in many ways, you’d have to say, “Of course.”
Of course, that’s not entirely true. We still have stubborn unemployment, but the figures are trending the right way. In 2008, we began the year with 6 percent unemployment and ended the year at 7.5 percent, soon to explode to 9 percent.
Now, if the president can be criticized for his failures, he should also be applauded for his accomplishments.
Is he the perfect president? Of course not. Only the most rabid partisan would say he is.
Health care reform -- at least his version of it -- should not have been his top priority early in his first term. And the reform should’ve initially focused on cost containment rather than expansion. Expansion is actually one part of cost containment, but with health costs continuing to be exorbitant, the president should’ve made that his goal.
And he could’ve done more to stimulate the economy, understanding that Republicans fought him all along the way as it was.
And he should’ve pushed for adoption of the Simpson-Bowles commission to reduce the debt.
But the economic apocalypse our country was staring at didn’t happen. And it didn’t in large part because of actions the president took.
Contrast those actions with the comments of his challenger, the one Turley-Hansen not-so-subtley points us to.
The candidate who wants to simultaneously cut even more taxes, cut the deficit, and increase the defense budget even as we have left one war and are winding down the other.
The candidate who has the “Trust Me” tax plan, the aforementioned cuts for the wealthiest paid for by closing loopholes, according to Turley-Hansen’s candidate.
Which ones, you ask. Don’t bother. Mr. Romney employs the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” answer. Just wait until he’s elected, he says. Then you’ll find out. Sure.
The candidate whose idea of health care reform, as he said on a recent “Meet the Press,” is to send folks without health insurance to emergency rooms. That kind of health care is the most expensive, not just to hospitals but to us, since the hospitals pass those costs onto their insured patients and those patients’ insurance companies. Who then pass those costs back onto us, the insured.
The candidate who actually said in response to a college kid asking what his alternative would be if federal college loans were curtailed, “Borrow money from their parents.” As if their parents had that money in the first place.
The candidate who said that 47 percent of our country see themselves as “victims” and can’t be convinced to take personal responsibility for themselves. And who’s in that 47 percent? The working poor, the elderly, kids in poor families, folks who are on Social Security, military veterans. Not all of the 47 percent are the Reagan “Welfare Queens” that Romney conjures for us.
So Ms. Turley-Hansen is correct in one area: We do have a crucial choice ahead of us in November, just not the choice she imagines.
No, we choose a pragmatic president who, despite the failures of some efforts, has much to be proud of.
Or, we can choose a man afraid to run on his record as Massachusetts governor, a man who decries the class warfare card even as he engages in it himself, a man who has a fanciful economic plan that even he can’t defend.
Take your pick.
Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.