Next Tuesday’s election is described by many as the most important and crucial vote of our time. Indeed, while such declarations are usually dismissed as time-honored cliches and hyperbole, there's no doubt the 2012 elections are crucial in determining the future of US economic, strategic & moral leadership. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are neck-and-neck in the polls but Governor Romney is steadily moving ahead in key swing states. And there's little doubt why: President Obama is struggling to defend his record on a number of fronts, primarily related to his stewardship of the economy.
At a whopping $16 trillion and growing, the debt is the biggest threat to our national security. Indeed, top national intelligence and defense officials have warned that the debt is the single greatest threat to the national security of the U.S., trumping even global terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As it stands, we're currently borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar we spend. Worse, we're borrowing this money primarily from China, and this is money our children and grandchildren will have to repay with billions if not trillions in interest. We're in our forty-seventh month of unemployment at about eight percent, 23 million Americans are out of work, 1 out of 6 are in poverty, gas is more than double what it was when the President took office (at close to four dollars per gallon), the median income for the average family has gone down by nearly $5K (down from $55K to $50K), and the national debt has surpassed $16 trillion (up from just over $10 trillion in 2008).
But beyond these numbers, for the most vulnerable--youth, women, and minorities, the situation is considerably worse. Young people, ages 16-29 (who came out in record numbers for Obama in 2008), have been hit especially hard. To date, 250,000 youth jobs have been lost with 53% unemployed or underemployed. And while we've heard quite a bit about the "war on women" this election cycle. If there is a war, it's on the poorest women. The poverty rate among women rose to 14.5 percent last year, up from 13.9 percent in 2009—the highest rate in 17 years. More than 17 million women were living in poverty last year, compared with 12.6 million men. As usual, things are worse for older women; twice as many women over 65 were living in poverty, compared with men. For Hispanic and black women, the poverty rate increased even faster and rose higher—to 25 percent for Hispanic women and to 25.6 percent for black women. As usual, single mothers are having the hardest time of all. More than 40 percent of women who head families are now living in poverty.
To be fair, the President came into office at a very difficult time of our economic history. But his policies have exacerbated the struggles of the middle class, and he's yet to convince a majority of voters that the next term will be any better. For example, President Obama claims he wants to only raise taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” but in reality he's actually targeting successful small companies. A recent study by Ernst & Young projects that this tax rate hike will kill 710,000 small business jobs. And in singling out the oil industry for corporate tax hikes, it should be noted that the industry already pays a higher marginal tax rate at 41 percent compared to 26 percent for the rest of businesses in S&P’s 500. What some label an oil subsidy is neither a subsidy nor a tax treatment specific to the oil and gas industry. These are broad tax policies that apply to all industries. When taking aim at the oil and gas industry, it’s essentially a targeted tax hike. According to the Congressional Research Service, these tax hikes would increase the price of oil and gas for Americans.
Governor Romney, to the contrary, has made an increasingly effective case for the "moral" imperative of rehabilitating the economy for all Americans, particularly the middle class and the poor. In underscoring that growth beats redistribution, Romney has articulated a strong case that the best and only effective way to economically assist middle-income Americans is to enact federal and state policies that create strong, rapid, and continuous economic growth.
Finally, both President Obama and Governor Romney have engaged in a helpful discussion of governance and partisanship as it relates to economy. Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers in Congress for two years. During this time, in addition to passing the second so-called "stimulus" package of almost $800 billion of borrowed money, the President signed his health care bill after it passed on a party-line vote. In a stunning rebuke, in 2010 the American public handed over control of the House to Republicans. Since, House Republicans blame Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for blocking their bills, and the President blames the House for blocking his agenda. In negotiating major legislation through an overwhelmingly democratically controlled state legislature, Governor Romney has demonstrated that he can break through the partisan gridlock and get things done on behalf of the American public.
The primaries, party conventions and debates are all behind us, and if there is one common theme throughout, it is that the economy is central in voters' minds. And while it's unclear who stands to win the highest office Tuesday evening, there's little doubt that our economic, strategic and moral future is at stake. Let's hope we choose wisely.
Suhail A. Khan is a Washington, DC-based attorney.
This article is part of the “Election 2012 – American Muslims VOTE!” series, which is running on Altmuslim at Patheos, Altmuslimah, Illume, and Aziz Poonawalla’snews and politics blog on Patheos. Click on this special topics page to view all articles in this series and add your comments. Tweet your thoughts on this article, on the series, and on the 2012 elections at #MuslimVOTE.