Country's wrong direction not president's fault

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:23 PM

Craig K. Rushforth And Vance C. Pace, Standard-Examiner

In his Sept. 1 opinion piece, “America’s direction is still wrong,” Robert K. Wolthuis presents an array of inviting targets for the enterprising analyst of current events. While we agree the country is not going in the right direction, we see the causes differently from those Mr. Wolthuis represents.

He chides the President for his inability to govern. While it is true that the country is virtually ungovernable, the fault lies primarily with the Republicans in Congress. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell publicly stated that his party’s primary purpose was to deny President Obama a second term. Politics thus trumped governing in the best interests of the country. To castigate the president for his unwillingness to cooperate with the opposition is laughable.

Mr. Wolthuis decries the bureaucracy associated with Obamacare. This is an easy and obvious target, but who is responsible and what is the remedy? The culprits are again the congressional Republicans who worked with health-care-industry lobbyists to prevent passage of a better bill. Furthermore, Obamacare is essentially a carbon copy of the Massachusetts plan pushed through by then-Governor Mitt Romney. It originated in the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation. These facts lead any objective observer to conclude that opponents of the policy oppose it simply because the president advocates it.

The remedy is surely not to revert to the previous system characterized by high costs, millions of uninsured citizens, 700,000 bankruptcies per year, and third-world outcomes. Our view is that we should move forward toward a single-payer system that would provide universal coverage at reduced cost with less bureaucracy and much-improved outcomes. Anyone who considers that impossible should study the health-care system of virtually any other industrialized nation.

In the matter of the economy, Mr. Wolthuis provides an incorrect diagnosis as well as an ineffective remedy. Our most serious economic problems are unemployment, low wages, and financial inequality, not the national debt. A majority of economists, including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, point out that the debt is in fact very manageable, and would be even more manageable with the proper fiscal policies. Had the Republicans in Congress not opposed the stimulus policies of the president, thus reducing employment in the public sector, unemployment would be much lower than it is. Virtually all recent gains in employment have been in the private sector, while employment in the public sector has actually declined. Making further cuts in the current economic climate is certainly not the proper policy and would make matters worse, not better. Moreover, such cuts would be disastrous for those living at the margins who badly need more help, not less. Austerian thinking appears to be remarkably resistant to the facts.

Nobody laments the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three Foreign Service colleagues in Benghazi more that we do. It was indeed a failure of intelligence, but blaming the president for it is ridiculous. It is even more ironic, since Republicans in Congress blocked funding for the office of diplomatic security in the Department of State. Furthermore, Mr. Wolthuis might be wise to respect the wishes of Ambassador Stevens’ parents who pointedly asked that it not be exploited for political ends.

Mr. Wolthuis appears satisfied with the tragic deaths of more than 30,000 people from firearms each year — two-thirds of them by suicide. We are not.

Finally, we find it interesting that Mr. Wolthuis chooses to blame America’s first woman speaker of the House of Representatives and its first African-American president for virtually all the ills of the nation. His party lost the presidency and several congressional races in part because of the perceived animus of its candidates to women and minorities. We suspect that a continuation of these attitudes will not serve the GOP any better in future elections than in 2012.

Craig K. Rushforth is retired from the University of Utah where he taught electrical engineering and was associate dean of the college of engineering. Vance C. Pace is a retired Foreign Service Officer. They live in Kaysville.

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