It’s been a depressing four years.
President Obama asks us to accept the sinking economy in this country – subpar economic growth, chronically high levels of unemployment, declining incomes, shrinking housing values, vanishing savings, an undervalued dollar, high gas prices, 1 in 6 people living in poverty, 47 million Americans in need of food stamps – as the “new normal.” Not in those words exactly, but in a speech he gave just after Labor Day, the president told us his economic recovery plan “may be harder, but it leads to a better place.”
Better for whom?
President Obama’s implicit response to these dismal conditions are, “I’m not done, trust me, eventually it’ll be worth it.”
All the economic misery of the past four years will make things better for someone, somehow, someday. It’s all very vague and frankly, I don’t understand how American decline is going to lead to his utopian “better place.” Maybe I’m dense, but I’m just not “getting it.”
There’s an Eagles song from a few years back, “Do Something,” with a line that says, “I pick up the morning paper, and all the news is bad. How did we get on this road we’re traveling?” I heard the song again recently and when they sang this line, all I could think was, “That’s exactly how it’s felt these past four years.”
Every day the front pages are full of stories about an across-the-board deterioration in the economic and international status and power of the United States. How did this happen to us?
Fortunately, my belief in my cognitive abilities is restored when I listen to what Mitt Romney says about the past four years. His words make sense to me. He gets it.
At last Tuesday’s candidates’ debate, I loved some of the things Romney said precisely because he doesn’t suggest we must accept what’s become of our country. He acknowledges things have been awful; he's sure they don’t have to be this way; and he promises to implement policies that will enable our country to prosper again if he’s elected.
His words are very encouraging, very reassuring.
Here's some of what he said the other night that sounded right to me:
“…I look at what’s happened in the last four years and say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this. We don’t have to settle for, how many months, 43 months with unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job right now…
“We don’t have to live like this. We can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it…I want to make small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they’re going now because of the policies of this administration.
“I think you know that these last four years haven’t been as good as the president just described and you don’t feel like you’re confident that the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.”
I’m not so naïve to believe just because a politician says he’s going to do something means he’s going to do it. During the past four years especially, I’ve come to expect words and actions to diverge. If anything, this experience has made me much more wary of elected officials’ promises.
Still, I think I have enough residual faith – maybe it’s idealism, maybe it’s trust – to believe what Mitt Romney says. I believe that he’s a sincere man.
But my faith isn't blind. Romney has an extensive record of accomplishment that we can look to. He’s a man with deeply held moral values who has lived those values his entire life. He not only says the things that, admittedly, I want to hear; he also possesses the knowledge, the experience and the conviction to actually implement these things.
He doesn’t strike me as a deceiver, a cynical manipulator, a pretender, a man who’ll say or do anything to gain power for himself.
With Mitt Romney, I get no sense whatsoever that “it’s all about him.” I sense only that it’s all about restoring a sickly, beaten-down America to vigorous health.
Romney was exactly right when he said, “…(this election is) about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.”
This is still America. We still have the right – the birthright, in fact – to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Here’s hoping for happiness, for looking forward to a brighter future again, come Nov. 6.