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Obama Pushing for Economic Recovery, not Socialism

There are without a doubt competing views of the appropriate role of government in the United States.  On the one hand you have people, like me, who believe the role of government, generally, is to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves individually.  That’s a paraphrased quote from Abraham Lincoln, founder of the Republican Party, who was referring to our collective need for government to build our roads and bridges, care for the young and sick and provide education.  On the other hand, you have today’s conservatives who would rather government do nothing or go back to the same failed policies that caused our current economic crisis.  Rush Limbaugh, the current leader of the Republican Party, openly wishes the economy collapses entirely so his party can continue the great job it’s been doing concentrating all of our nation’s wealth in the bank accounts of the top 2 percent. 

President Obama’s economic recovery plan and his proposed budget have conservatives clutching their pearls.  Why the hysterics?  For the first time in decades the government is addressing the needs of average folks:  education, health care, jobs, housing, energy.  The free ride for the wealthiest is over.  It is truly a testament to how little working people have been able to rely on their government for leadership when something as simple as the President’s recovery plan – put money into the hands of people who will spend it - has the Right screaming about the end of civilization and the advent of socialism.  They didn’t have much to say when Bush Administration policies were driving dollars into their own pockets by privatizing profits and socializing losses.  Unfortunately, those policies also drove us right into a ditch.  The bad economy is a problem President Obama inherited and his solutions are the very ones on which he campaigned.  The hysterics are nothing but a transparent attempt to demonize their way back into power. 

Reasonable people understand this isn’t about some national ideological transformation; it’s about fixing a disastrous economy.  Period.  President Obama’s plan is what our country needs at this moment.  It returns fairness to our tax code, takes control of the deficit, and makes significant down payments on quality, affordable health care, world-class education and a clean energy future.  When the private sector retreats from the economy, the duty of government is to step in and protect all its citizens, not just the wealthy.  The President’s proposals are not an attempt to turn the U.S. into (gasp!)France.  In fact, more than 90% of the jobs created through the economic recovery plan are in the private sector and the White House has pledged no money will go to government programs that are better left to American businesses. 

Yes, there is plenty of spending on unemployment benefits, health care, food stamps, and other programs that provide temporary assistance to the most vulnerable.  These programs, like Social Security and Medicare, the cornerstones of our social safety net, make our counterparts on the Right, who think tax cuts for the rich are the solution to every problem, positively apoplectic.  They’d rather our nation’s seniors survive by eating tuna out of a can.  But really, it’s just good business.  President Obama knows that for every dollar the government spends on food stamps, $1.73 gets pumped into the economy.  Expanded unemployment benefits, money used to pay mortgages and utilities and grocery bills, get spent immediately and reduce the pain in an economy that is hemorrhaging more than 500,000 jobs a month.  A publicly funded health care system makes American businesses more competitive and gives small businesses the flexibility to expand.

That’s recovery, not socialism, and it is the first step toward rectifying the decades long failure of government to work for everyone.

Amy Isaacs is National Director of Americans for Democratic Action.

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