In his 2008 campaign Barack Obama appealed to many of us who were weary of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and disturbed by entering a troubling recession with his call for hope and change. It is now almost six years after his election as president and some assessments can be made.
The recession has been stabilized and there are some indications of a recovery. With the strong performance of the stock market he has achieved making the wealthy wealthier, but real unemployment remains stubbornly high. The middle class who Obama pledged to serve continue to be mired in rising cost of living and stagnant compensation levels. Eight trillion dollars has been added to the national debt with little tangible benefits evident.
The Obama administration has been beset by numerous developments on domestic matters which have been labeled by his critics as scandals. They include the problems with the Obamacare rollout, the Fast and Furious program, the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax status recognition, and the egregious failings of the veterans administration. Some of the criticism may be unjustified, but it has caused sharp drops in the popularity of Obama’s performance and his public acceptance.
It is in America’s international relationships, however, that crevices in Obama’s policies are more apparent. From the outset of his presidency Obama sought to establish America as a friendlier and less threatening nation. By 2011 he effected a complete American withdrawal from Iraq and he has promised a similar withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2016. There are a host of issues confronting our country at this time in Iraq, Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere for which no answers seem to be forthcoming.
This article is not being written to be anti-Obama or anyone else, rather it is intended to be pro-America. Mr. Obama’s goal of uniting Americans is as desirable today as when it was spoken in the 2008 campaign. The need for solutions to the problems of our nation is compelling.
A major issue is the intense partisanship which prevails. The Obamacare health program which only a minority of Americans approved was adopted by one party without a single vote from the other party. This was a serious mistake. If our country is to have a massive system such as a federally controlled health program, it should have bipartisan support.
President Reagan believed that America’s security was best achieved under a doctrine generally known as “Peace through strength.” If current circumstances require a reexamination of that policy, the subject should be the subject of debate and not unilaterally dismantled.
Currently, our federal government spends over $200 million every day that it does not have. We have already accumulated a debt of more that $17 trillion. This drain cannot be allowed to continue. Our Congress and our administration should address the steps that should be taken to preserve our fiscal integrity.
Effective government requires people of good will and a willingness to make compromises when the need is critical. Intransigence must be avoided. At present we have a badly malfunctioning federal government. Members of each party view members of the other party with varying degrees of animosity. It is not a climate where productive discussion can be held and sensible resolution of issues can occur.
The illegal immigration along our southern border that has occurred and is occurring is an apt illustration of the problems affecting our nation. The education, legal and criminal costs of this influx to our nation is incalculable. One small indication of this effect is that over 80 percent of the incarcerations in Arizona jails arise from acts by illegal aliens. Yet, both political parties are locked into positions designed to improve their attractiveness to the Hispanic community. That is an abdication of responsibility by our Congress and administration. What we need is an end to this partisanship and the adoption of immigration reform and border protection policies that will serve our national interests. The solutions are not easy and will require bipartisan compromise, an almost forgotten skill in Washington.
This rejuvenation of bipartisanship is also requisite in the other issues mentioned earlier. The future of our national healthcare should not rest on the unilateral views of one party when the law enacted is unpopular with the majority of our citizens. The foreign policies that were successfully used by President Reagan should not be reversed without vigorous and thoughtful debate. Fiscal responsibility should be a common objective but reasonable compromise on how to achieve it will be difficult.
In the ultimate analysis, it will be the duty of our citizens to elect and oversee a Congress and a president that will cooperate on serving the national interest instead of their narrower partisan purposes. The future and well-being of our country depends on it.
Walter Lewis is a retired attorney who lives in Lihue and writes a regular column for The Garden Island.