According to Mitt Romney:
“President Obama has amassed an actual record of debt, decline and disappointment. Instead of solving the housing crisis and getting Americans back to work, President Obama has been building a European-style welfare state.”
I could write pages of useless babble about this that would ultimately just go unread, at least for what it’s worth. So, just let me cordially posit a few of my own points in a succinct, polite rebuttal to this rabble:
- I work in the housing market - namely, the mortgage industry - and it’s plain as day that this whole crisis was certainly a combination of consumer irresponsibility and unrestrained corporate greed. In other words, both ends are at fault. But it is the purpose of the government to regulate that which drives individual irresponsibility in the first place, and in essence, to put a halt to a downward spiral egged on by fat wallets and even fatter heads up top. The plans designed by President Obama’s constituency are far from perfect, but I can tell you from a first-hand perspective that they are: a) keeping a lot more people out of foreclosure than would be without them, b) stabilizing the housing market by removing the incentive to both offer (on the lender’s end) and sign up for (on the borrower’s end) risky mortgages, i.e., ones doomed to fail but designed to inflate quick, front-end profits, and c) giving financial assistance to those who are responsible enough to fight through their period of lost wages and diminished portfolio value. The plans need work, and they’re complicated, but they’re better than doing nothing or deregulating the industry even further. Mitt Romney’s little snap is therefore unfounded, in my opinion, and even more so considering that he blames it on President Obama - who is just one man, by the way - and who has already done an impressive amount of work in only four years, at least by some accounts.
- Getting Americans back to work? See the unemployment rate charts. December 2010 saw an unemployment rate of 9.4%, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and last month - December 2011 - came in at 8.5%. President Obama took office in January of 2009, smack-dab in the middle of a huge percentage increase that started under President Bush mid-2007 and nearly outpaced every other unemployment rate increase since 1950. That increase leveled in the middle of last year and is on a downward path now. The unemployment rates were lower under President Bush, yes, but look at where he started: all-time low rates under the Clinton Administration. (Google has made the charts insanely readable and accessible here.) My opinion: keep the pressure on Obama, but cut him some slack. His administration is working on reversing the largest economic crisis since the Depression - a crisis which occurred under and is partially due to lackadaisical Republican leadership. Of course Bush is not completely at fault either - he is just one man, just like Obama - and thus blame should be directed at his administration and the influential individuals who supported his policy and philosophy.
- These “European-style welfare state[s]” have a much more impressive track record than the United States, and we can take one example: Norway. (Norway has been cited as one of the most prosperous, stable, and powerful countries in the world, and so the entire Republican “American Exceptionalism” mantra should warrant this comparison, if we are to at least entertain it for a bit). Norway enjoys the highest Human Development Index rating of all nations, maintains the second-highest GDP per capita (after Luxembourg), has an unemployment rate of 3.1%, and has the largest capital reserve of all countries in the world. Its welfare system includes what you would expect from a prosperous, first-world nation: full health-care provisions, comprehensive maternity benefits, unemployment insurance for its citizens, free education (including all levels of college), and scores of other “handouts,” to use the over-played Republican catchword. These are provided by the state through progressive taxation metrics and state-controlled industries, and you should find the same trend in other Northern and Western European countries as well. People in those countries certainly seem to have their rights protected and their well-being taken care of by the system into which they put their money, and, at the same time, their country does exceedingly well in the World market. Now, the question arises about what exactly is so bad about “European-style Welfare States”, or is the real interest in Mitt Romney’s statement about his party’s idealized sense of “freedom” and “liberty,” best qualified, in my opinion, by Bertrand Russell:
“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”
Sure, Norway has vast fields of oil (cough, Alaska) - but look at what they’ve accomplished: they take care of their citizens, support their diversity (Norway was an early adopter of LGBT rights, among other minority rights), and help people flourish in what they want to do by eliminating the financial worries and tribulations associated with less comprehensive “welfare” states. I’ll place a shiny penny on the notion that Norway doesn’t have scores of rich people living in gated communities, separated from the rest of society. I can only hope this isn’t interpreted by most Americans - the majority, in that sense - to be a bad thing.
My $0.02: imagine an America where the ordinary citizen isn’t forced to chose between paying their medical bills and paying the mortgage. Imagine an America where students can enjoy their college education without an enormous debt afterward. Imagine an America where most high-school graduates even expect to go to college. Imagine an America where having rich parents isn’t the main key to success. Imagine an America which actually lets you work hard to get what you want. Imagine an America where you’re not always looking up at a hole which is always getting smaller and smaller.
Mitt, opportunity doesn’t come from the top. It comes from the inside, but only when the outside lets it thrive. You can’t sew your seeds in a dry garden. I question your perspective, and I question anybody who offers you a vote on any rational basis. An ideological basis, though, I can’t really argue against - nobody can. And its for that ideological subscription value that the Republican party has such a rampant grip on the hopes and expectations of many Americans still sucked into the ever-elusive American Dream. Because, Mitt, nobody has really questioned it…
…and so I’m anxiously awaiting President Obama’s State of the Union Address.