What Should Obama Do Next?

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Matt Brownsword

 

The election’s over. Every number has been crunched—at least, I think Florida’s done counting—and President Barack Obama has won, and no amount of Karl Rove and Grover Norquist complaining can change the result. The Democratic Party controls the Senate and the White House, and the Republican Party controls the House of Representatives.

CNN, being the pioneer of the future that it is—have you seen the CNN war room? straight from 2016—has already installed polls trying to guage the front-runners for the 2016 presidential election. Senator Marco Rubio and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were leading the Iowa pre-pre-pre-straw poll numbers for their respective parties.

I, however, would like to focus not on who will lead the country in a little over four years’ time, but on how the country will be shaped when that next president takes over.

No one doubts that the president has a tough job—even some pundits have said that Romney is probably better off on the sidelines for this one—in getting America back to the level of economic prosperity, national secturity, and hope for the future that was acheived during the Clinton Administration. The country has gone downhill from that era, to the credit of the Bush II administration as well as the Obama administration, and now is as good a time as any to start to bring the country back on track.

Economic Recovery

The Great Recession that we have found ourselves in has been debated from its inception to the present day: Who started it? What happenned? Who should be blamed? Who should be punished?

In truth, all of the questions have important answers, most of which will help the American people ensure that an economic downturn like the one from 2007 will not happen again. The most asked question, and probably the one least answered by the government is: What is America going to do about it?

Now from every news station in the United States—and probably the world—correspondents, anchors, statisticians, politicians, and electricians—you name it, they have asked it—have been asked the question: What should America do about it? All this is well and good and promotes ideas, but it is really down to the politicians that are in Congress and the White House to find out what America is going to do to get itself out of the Recession.

The answer, as has been promoted ever since the election ended, is compromise. Republicans and Democrats have to combine their ideas into a well-thought-out, efficient plan for the short-term, as well as the long-term. Republicans, who have been supporting spending cuts from the federal budget, have to accept at least a tax increase—or even a cessation of various tax loopholes and deductions—that Democrats have supported, and vice versa.

People may scoff at the idea that history can tell us a lot about what to do—”It’s a new day, a new age, times are different”—and they are right in a way. However, history is the only predecessor the American people can look towards to for guidance on how to fix a recession. Yes, Americans have to look at the recovery from the Great Depression, lead by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for inspiration on how to fix this mess.

Roosevelt’s New Deal policies were at the root of fixing the Great Depression; Herbert Hoover had sat idly by and thought that throwing government dollars at the problem only increased an entitlement sentiment felt by the lower class, while Roosevelt believed that the only way for America to get going again was to raise them on the shoulders of the government. Roosevelt instituted various spending programs that put people to work—for, albeit, low wages—and in public works projects such as the construction of dams or preserving wildlife. He cut back on corporate fraud and greed, and the maldistribution of wealth that plagued the poorest of Americans, all through spending government dollars to raise the poor from the ditch that the Great Depression had created.

Sound familiar? The situations created by the Great Depression of the 1920s were eerily similar to the problems in America today—inequality in the distribution of wealth, a shrinking middle class, et cetera. However, the response has not been nearly the same, and why not?

The deficit is a huge problem: yes, America had gone to war prior to the Great Depression, but it was 15 years earlier, and the war debts had all been lumped on the shoulders of the Germans. Now, we have other, continuous wars to blame—the Iraq and Afghanistan War have increased our military spending to enormously high rates, enlarging our deficit to a highly problematic level, which makes for domestic spending at New Deal levels tough.

The deficit at the time of the New Deal was raised roughly 250 billion dollars, an increase that in this day and age would be not be allowed. But consider the fact that the Iraq War was the only war that did not see a tax increase: yes, when the economy was prosperous, the government did not ask its constituents to pay a little more like it had in World War I and II or Vietnam, it took the money straight out of it’s own budget, largely increasing the deficit.

Tax increases, especially on the wealthiest two percent, are necessary; they have been every time America has gone to war, and this should not be any different. With extra government revenue, and decreases in the federal government’s spending budget—especially in defense—Obama can begin to institute New Deal policies to lessen the disparity of wealth and increase the size of the middle class.

Compromise—a combination of spending cuts and tax increases for the wealthiest people and corporations in America—can lead America towards a path to get itself out of the recession, and put people back to work. If people begin to spend more, it puts more money into the economy, generating higher profits for corporations and allowing them to put the people back to work. It is Economics 101, and it is high time to put it into action.

Foreign Policy

A center piece of this whole discussion is foreign policy: there are so many unknowns in the discussion, so many nuances, and so many international—and domestic—consequences.

The most important area in the world for the United States is the Middle East, no question about it. The US has to institute a strong, lasting, and beneficial foreign policy in order to straighten out the countries in the Middle East and decrease the violence occuring in that region.

One simple step is, again, right in the annals of history—tolerance. Although the Islam religion is not defined by the extremists that run terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas, the sentiment towards America felt by Muslims is usually the same—anger. Who can blame them? Building military bases outside of the two most purely religious Muslim places in the world—Mecca and Medina—was not exactly a well-thought out plan. American soldiers urinating on the Qaran in Afghanistan while religious fanatics inside the United States burn the Qaran? Not exactly going to help an already damaged reputation.

Americans, and countries around the world, need to learn from their own First Amendment to the Constitution—the freedom of religion. It seems simple, almost too simple, and it seems as if most Americans allow Muslims to practice Islam; however, it is the extremists and the actions of said extremists that infringe this civil liberty. American religious extremists who speak out against the Muslim religion as a whole and talk about the eradication of the Muslim people as a whole are not too different from the Islamic extremist groups that are trying to eradicate American influence in the Middle East. Both are, in large part, not reflective of the feeling of the rest of the tenants of their respective religion, and both are not tolerating enough of each other’s ideas. It was Voltaire who said famously, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. People have to respect the beliefs of other’s; Islams must accept the American values, and America has to accept the Islamic way of life.

Another major issue in the Middle East is Iran. Iran’s prime minister, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been egregiously aggressive towards Israel, saying that Iran will wipe Israel off the face of the Earth if it gains nuclear power.

Israel has been a long standing ally of the United States ever since the end of World War II, in which the Truman administration decided to recognize Israel as a country following the Jewish movement to Palestine. Iran has shown signs of attempting to build nuclear bombs, and the United States’ tie to Israel has created an anti-American sentiment to go along with the hatred of Israel. Iran’s possession of a neclear weapon, with Ahmadinejad in control, will almost certainly lead to aggresion towards Israel and the United States. However, there is no real indication that Iran is anywhere close to the construction of a nuclear bomb, so the United States has to be careful: The President is doing well with economic sanctions and those sanctions let Iran know that the world will not allow the nuclear bombs to be made in Iran. If the process continues, a keen eye will have to be placed on Iran, but the president should hesitate to make a military decision in fear that Ahmadinejad might send the nuke to America.

The most apparent conflicts today are in Syria and between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Syria is ruled by one of the creulest regimes in the world, led by Bashar al-Assad. For months, the Syrian government has been bombing strongholds of the rebels, the people who oppose the Syrian regime, and the bombing has spilled over into Lebanon and Turkey. Obama has already supplied the rebels with American-made weapons, but the rebels have not suceeded much, other than a raid on the capital of Damascus. Obama can not hope to sit out for much longer, because if the violence spills over Syria’s borders into other, already problematic Middle East countries, the already thin fabric of the Middle East will be ripped apart. Obama should help the rebels when the time is right, through military operations on the ground and a restriction of airspace for Syrian war planes so that al-Assad can be ousted and Syria can become a democratic nation and not severely damage the structure of the Middle East.

The Israel-Gaza conflict has ceased for now, after seven days of airstrikes littered the streets of Israel and Gaza with air sirens. Hamas, an extremist Muslim group in Gaza, was the perpetrator of the air strikes against Israel and the main target of Isreali bombers. This conflict is only a product of the constant war that has ravaged the Middle East since the inception of Israel, and since the United States is a longstanding ally of Israel, it must help in its defense. However, Bebe Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, has maintained that Israel has the right to defense itself, and Obama has taken this stance for now; seemingly, it is a win-win, for Obama is supporting Israel while also not putting extra money that the US cannot afford to spend in the conflict.

Hope for the Future

No one can argue that the American way of life has to be altered in order to emulate the success that Americans envision for the future. Education and energy policies, in particular, need to be altered in order for our country to move forward.

Domestically, the government needs to take a larger role in the fostering of education for the younger generation. Teachers need to be payed in the quantities that the important people in society are payed—doctors, lawyers, etc. Teachers are the instruments of learning for children, the teachers of future engineers, mathematicians, the pioneers of social reconstruction and improvement. Jobs like consulting, which have much smaller impact in the benifit of society, are payed at ridiculously higher levels. The federal government, as well as governments at the state level, have to change this and put a higher emphasis on paying teachers higher rates in order to attract more professionals to the position.

Also, governments need to provide more aid to schools in order to attract kids to a school, not push them to leave. For example, cleaning up a school to make it look like a safer and more attractive place can have an enormous effect on a child’s want to stay in school and acheive higher performance, whereas a dirty school will have the opposite effect, raising dropout rates.

Energy policy is  huge issue for the future of America, and unfortunately it is an area that America trails behind other great, industrialized nations. Consider this: 97 percent of scientists agree on global warming—an alarming rate of agreement between all scientists—yet 26 percent of Americans do not. Humankind is ripping a hole through the ozone layer with pollution—among other things—and yet 26 percent of Americans do not even admit it’s happenning. Last year was the hottest year on record and the year before that was the hottest year on record before last year. The scientific evidence is extraordinary, massive, innumerable; however, Americans can not seem to accept it.

It all starts with acceptance—no matter what religion says is impossible, people need to accept indisputable scientific evidence. Once people can learn to accept the fact that mankind is responsible for the harm done to our planet, we can begin to protect it through legislation that prohibits the use of little things like plastic bags. Also, America should invest in resourcing clean energy in any way possible, not only to help the planet, but to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. America, with the largest economy in the world, should be a pioneer in bettering the world for future generations; however, we fall far behind. This needs to change in the next four years under President Obama, and then the world should respect us for being the leader of clean energy policy and environmental improvement.

Overall, America needs a lot of work: From domestic to international, from big to small, from economic to social, changes need to be made. Hopefully this is the right president for the job, and maybe when Arizona’s done counting votes and the 2016 election is upon us—your guess is as good as mine as to which will happen first—the United States will be in much better shape than it is now.