September 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

The case for electing Barack Obama

Our choice of a President could determine whether we suffer for a decade or put the economy on the road to recovery.

In 40 years in publishing, I have not supported a candidate in print. That ends with this endorsement of Barack Obama for President. My case for Obama rests on what this magazine is most concerned about-a stable economy in which e-commerce can flourish.

That stability is in grave danger. We have not faced such a frightening economic outlook since the crash of October 1929. President Herbert Hoover had just taken office, but his election sealed our fate. An efficient administrator, Hoover was at a loss in reversing the economy’s death spiral. His preference for volunteerism over dramatic government intervention did nothing to stabilize the economy. Worse, his signature is on the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that produced a trade war that led to global economic collapse.

Now, we stand at the precipice of another economic upheaval. Our choice of a President could determine whether we suffer for a decade or put the economy on the road to recovery. There is Obama, who from the beginning has argued eloquently that the pitiful state of our economy is the result of government built on cronyism and neo-conservative policies that reward wealth over work. There is John McCain, who swerved to the far right to get his party’s nomination but lately talks like Teddy Roosevelt. Yet his support of the Bush tax cuts favoring the rich (cuts he once opposed as irresponsible), his long-time promotion of laissez faire economics, and his admitted lack of understanding of the economy are more believable than his disingenuous post-convention populism.

At his core, McCain is still a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution, adhering to an anti-tax, anti-government philosophy of neo-conservatives, who wrestled control of the GOP from the fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republicans who once prevailed. Since 1980, the national debt has soared from $900 billion to almost $10 trillion and from 33% to 66% of the GDP, with most of the increase attributable to Republican administrations. George W. Bush increased the federal debt by $4 trillion, twice what FDR borrowed in today’s dollars to finance World War II.

McCain now seeks votes by railing against unregulated greed on Wall Street, which he sees as the bogeyman behind the financial meltdown. But how less greedy was a Republican leadership that cut taxes mostly for the rich while prosecuting a war and adopting an anything goes oversight of the economy? McCain has long favored deregulation-before it became politically expedient to change those stripes. Obama, meanwhile, has steadfastly advocated tax cuts only for households making less than $250,000, the people who power our consumer economy. He will increase taxes on the 5% who make more than $250,000 in order to begin to undo the damage caused by reckless fiscal policies. On this difference alone, he promises to be a better guardian of the nation’s pocketbook.

It isn’t the only difference. When McCain proclaimed the economy to be “fundamentally strong” immediately after last month’s bloodbath in financial markets, he recovered by explaining that he was referring to the fundamental strength of American workers. But how strong is the American work force when unemployment is growing, when ever more Americans go without health insurance, when mortgage foreclosures soar, when the number of people in poverty has grown 20% since 2000 and median personal incomes have not grown at all, and when the minimum wage is still not a living wage?

Obama sees the desperate need to invest in working families by subsidizing health care insurance for those who can’t afford it, providing mortgage relief for homeowners in trouble, dramatically increasing the minimum wage, and providing grants to college students who perform community service. McCain proposes much less support for middle and lower-class Americans while preserving tax breaks for the wealthiest.

McCain argues we can’t afford the domestic spending Obama proposes, which is true so long as we finance the occupation of an oil-rich country that has an $80 billion budget surplus. After six years of American support, Iraq should be ready to manage its affairs. Obama will end this travesty sooner than McCain, who mistakes military might for national strength. It’s time we fight the war on terror by targeting terrorists rather than invading countries whose regimes-distasteful as they are-are no direct threat to our security.

The next President will not have the option of undertaking foreign wars as a proxy for fighting terrorism. His policy imperatives must be at home: rescuing the nation’s financial system and making the investments needed to move our economy away from its dependence on oil. Far more than McCain, Obama understands that successfully waging a war on terror requires a multinational effort, not an expensive unilateral one. That cooperation can only be secured through skillful diplomacy. All our war mongering of the last five years has not dented al-Qaeda.

The next President will be charged with cleaning up the economic mess left by his predecessor. It will take a fresh approach to governing. It will take someone not tied to the policies that got us into this mess, someone with patience and foresight, someone not prone to knee-jerk reactions. These are the characteristics of Barack Obama.

jack@verticalwebmedia.com

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