By Bob Lowerre
A fair question in this campaign is, "Are we better off now than we were four years ago?"
A fair answer is, "absolutely."
Just about four years ago, President George W. Bush and his treasury secretary realized that the U.S. economy, and indeed the world's economy, were at the brink of collapse. They initiated a desperate effort to avoid this catastrophe that would lead to a worldwide depression. It centered on rescuing the banks, a policy called TARP. It was continued and expanded to other efforts when President Barack Obama took office.
Do most of us like the government bailing out the banks? Of course not. But where else would you start if the collapse of the economy was triggered by the failure of the banks? These decisions, mainly by the Obama administration, staved off a depression that would have made the recession look like a picnic.
Domestic industry was likewise endangered. A crucial ingredient was the auto companies. Against much advice, Obama acted to save GM and Chrysler, along with countless thousands of jobs. Mitt Romney tells us he'd let them go bankrupt.
The threat of al-Qaeda and its leaders long hung over us. As a result of Obama's courageous decision, Osama bin Laden is now dead. Dozens of other similar leaders likewise have been sent to their just reward. The terrorist threat remains, but in the last four years it has been dealt crippling blows.
In those years, well over 4 million new jobs have been created in private industry. At the end of 2008, more than 800,000 such jobs were being lost per month. While unemployment remains distressingly high, what would it be had Obama not rescued the economy from the abyss? And what might have been done to improve the situation had the Republican congressional leadership not publicly announced early on that their primary objective was to deny Obama a second term?
On another front, tens of millions of our people who are without health care coverage will soon have it. Insurance companies can no longer deny us coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or cut off coverage when we become ill. No longer can a ceiling be put on the total amount insurers will pay. And our children can remain on our policies up to age 26. After all the repeal bluster, even Romney now says he would preserve some of the above.
Under the president's leadership, laws were passed ensuring that the greed and chicanery of Wall Street and the big banks can never again threaten the well-being of the American people. The administration is busy preparing the complex regulations needed to put the legislation into effect. They are harassed at every step of the way by waves of lawyers and lobbyists unleashed by the very powers that caused the crisis in the first place. They are aided and abetted by Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan who, in every speech, deplore regulation.
Our elder citizens now enjoy the guaranteed benefits of Medicare. Under the budget devised by Ryan and endorsed by Romney, the prospect looms that Medicare will be converted into a voucher scheme run by the insurance companies. How much better off are many of us today than we would be under a Romney-Ryan regime!
And there are reasons why the stock market approaches its highest level in history.
Unemployment is too high; the housing market, while improving, has a long way to go. But imagine what they, along with the nation and the American people, would be were it not for the bold and courageous actions of the president summarized above, along with many others.
Bob Lowerre is a retired attorney living in Woodstock.