It’s undoubtedly important which candidate wins the presidential race on Tuesday. But more important is what happens after the election dust has cleared. Can the president and Congress work together to address a multitude of issues facing our country? That’s why the majority of this editorial will be about what needs to be done.
The two candidates, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, have been battling for a long time. We’ve heard their speeches, listened to three debates plus a vice presidential debate and visited their campaign websites. Still, there are a lot of specifics on the issues that are murky.
Obama is an engaging campaigner and orator and this newspaper endorsed him four years ago. But his leadership has not lived up to his promises. In this election, he has failed to be specific about the goals and mission for a second term. It’s tempting to believe a second Obama term — without a re-election in the future — would bring about an action-oriented White House. But Obama hasn’t put forth an agenda to make us believe that will happen.
Romney seems stiff and unfeeling. He has a plan to put the nation back on its economic feet, although the details aren’t as clear as we’d like. But his plan — lowering federal spending, cutting tax rates and eliminating unnecessary regulation, is a good start.
At this juncture, the country needs a stabilizing force and Romney fits that bill better than Obama.
But our expectation of whoever is elected is that he will work with Congress, and Congress will work with the president. We cannot afford continued political gridlock, a situation both Democrats and Republicans created.
Our concern is mostly about the issues and here are four of the biggest ones that need to be addressed:
- The economy and jobs: No matter who wins, it’s likely the economy will improve in the next four years and the number of jobs will grow. The economy is much more affected by cycles than by policies. But the president and Congress can help, primarily by doing their jobs better. The process of putting off decisions until the last minute — such as the upcoming “fiscal cliff” — makes American businesses wary about spending money. What business needs is certainty and stability. U.S. businesses have money to spend, but it’s currently being socked away. Remove that uncertainty, and businesses will invest. The federal government also can help by removing unnecessary and expensive regulation, establishing a comprehensive and clear energy policy and reducing federal spending.
- Entitlement spending: The costs of Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable in their present forms. That’s a fact both parties know. The fix for Social Security isn’t difficult mechanically — either increase the retirement age or reduce the benefits for those young enough to adjust their retirement plans. Medicare is much more complicated, but the problem has to be addressed. Although it’s a popular political scare tactic, ending “Social Security and Medicare as we know it,” is a fiscal necessity.
- Health care: Over the last several years, health care and insurance have been taking a bigger bite from the average American’s paycheck. Most are getting less and paying more. Obama’s health care plan has some attractive elements — coverage for pre-existing conditions and extending the care of young people under their parents’ policies are two. But an overhaul of the system has to drive down the costs for those who pay. Obama’s plan will provide insurance for everyone, but it likely will increase the costs to individuals and businesses. One solution is to bring more competition into the health insurance market and make it more closely resemble the market for auto and home insurance.
- Federal spending: The federal government cannot continue to spend more money than it takes in. That means every aspect of government needs to go on a spending diet. We are all — every one of us — too dependent on government. There is tax money to be saved and the president and Congress need to address the issue in a comprehensive manner.
That short summary would be an aggressive agenda for any president. Romney is the best one to carry out the plan, but it is obvious the president can’t do it alone. Every member of both parties needs to resolve to work toward solutions and move away from putting partisan politics ahead of the good of the country.