Better Off? Hell Yes!

Leo Gerard – USW Intl. President

Damn right America is better off than it was four years ago.

Four years ago was September 2008. George W. Bush was president and Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers was collapsing. It was a time of fear. It was a time of panic about the future. Recalling that anxiety is unsettling. But it’s important for comparison sake.

Lehman filed for bankruptcy this week four years ago – Sept. 15, 2008. Global financial markets spun into a panic. Credit markets froze worldwide. The stock market plunged. GM and Chrysler fell into crisis. Foreclosures were spiking and housing prices plummeting. Main Street shops and factories couldn’t get ordinary loans essential to sustain routine business. Nearly half a million workers lost their jobs that month. It was the ninth consecutive month of massive job losses. The Bush administration had converted a vibrant economy and budget surplus it had inherited from former President Bill Clinton into the Great Recession and massive deficits. America was still mired in two wars, including one Bush started on false pretenses.

Now, in September 2012, global financial markets have stabilized. Credit is available to Main Street. GM and Chrysler are building cars and creating jobs. Unemployment is declining as the private sector has added jobs to the economy every month for the past 30. The value of housing is rising once again, creating wealth for the middle class. Now there’s a financial reform law to prevent another Wall Street bailout. There’s Obamacare to help families retain and secure health insurance. The war in Iraq is over and Osama bin Laden is dead. Is America better off than it was four years ago? Hell, yes it is!

September 2012 can’t be described as boom times. But it’s sure not the dread-filled days of September 2008. As former President Clinton so eloquently said last week in his convention speech, describing the Republican attitude toward President Obama:

“We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.”

Republicans want Americans to put them back in charge. Their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has promised to “restore” America, to return the country to the days before President Obama.

The Romney plan to “restore” America involves repealing, revoking and rejecting every advance President Obama has achieved, including health insurance reform and Wall Street regulation. As Andy Borowitz suggested, if Romney could, he’d revive Osama bin Laden and kill Detroit. Anything to take America back(wards).

Luckily, Romney wouldn’t be able to undo President Obama’s auto bailout – although he opposed it from day one, urging “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” He wrote:

“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”

Well, GM and Chrysler got bailouts, and both are doing fine, thank you, Mr. Romney. In fact, in January GM reclaimed for a few months the title of world’s largest car manufacturer. Both companies are repaying the government loans and 1.45 million people are workingas a direct result of the bailout, according to the nonpartisan Center for Automotive Research.

Would America be better off without GM and Chrysler? No, it would not. That according to 1.45 million employed people.

Also luckily, Romney couldn’t undo President Obama’s stimulus. He’d like to, though. His campaign is repeating the false GOP meme that the money was wasted.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the stimulus created or saved as many as 3.3 million jobs. Romney would have preferred no stimulus. He’d have abandoned those workers – your father-in-law, your kid, your neighbor – rendering them unable to pay their mortgages, unable to support their families, unable to imagine a future.

Would America be better off without the stimulus? No, it would not. That according to 3.3 million employed people.

A President Romney could, however, reverse the financial and health insurance reform measures. And he’s pledged to do that “on day one.” Without financial reform, Wall Street could resume, unfettered, the same risky betting that plunged the country into the Great Recession.

Without the health reform law, insurance companies would immediately cancel coverage for millions of young adults now on their parents’ plans and cut off untold millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions and those who have exceeded the now-banned lifetime caps. In addition, senior citizens would have to pay more for prescription drugs and preventative care.

Would America be better off without the financial and health insurance reforms? No, it would not. That according to Americans who would be sicker and poorer and at greater economic risk without the laws.

Romney also promises to restore America to the Bush days of special deals for the rich and up the ante by giving the 1 percent additional tax reductions. Bush didn’t pay for his tax cuts, resulting in massive deficits, and Romney hasn’t specified how he would either.

Would the country be better off if the rich paid even less in taxes? No, it would not. That according to the 99 percent and President Obama. He pledges to end the Bush tax cuts for those making over a quarter million and begin paying down the nation’s debts.

President Obama plans to take the country forward, to create a better tomorrow.

As former President Clinton walked onto the convention floor last week, the Fleetwood Mac song “Don’t Stop” played in the background. This is the refrain:

“Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,
It’ll be, better than before,
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.”

Yesterday’s gone. Thank goodness because America is much better off than it was four years ago. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.


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