Gen Y “He Said; She Said” on Hope and Change

Last month, we introduced a new feature at The Recovering Politician: the Gen Y “He Said; She Said” debates.

“He” is Zac Byer, a longtime staff contributor at the RP, an outspoken Republican, and currently works for one of the leading minds behind GOP national strategy, Dr. Frank Luntz. “She” is Jordan Stivers, a passionate Democrat who currently serves on the communications committee of the newly formed Young Democrats of America Faith and Values Initiative.  As you might be able from the picture at left, “He” and “She” are dating.  Or talking to each other.  Or in a relationship.  Or whatever Gen Y calls these types of relationships.

Anyway, enjoy their debate about Hope and Change:

JORDAN:   This week, I read an article by the senior editor of The Atlantic in which he explains why he thinks Obama is losing, though the election is six months away.  He says it’s not because voters don’t like Obama, or don’t think he is qualified, but because he has “simply failed to bring the change he promised.”  I’ve heard this argument quite a few times, mostly from Republicans, who, as soon as President Obama was elected made it their main objective to create as many obstacles to bipartisan success as possible.  My Senator, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is one of these.  He openly stated that he planned to do everything in his power to make President Obama a one-term President.  What a winning attitude.

I was an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama in 2008 in part because of the bipartisan environment he wanted to create, but also because I trusted his instinct to lead us in a direction that would make the United States more of a place of opportunity for young people like me, and for the many people that were used to finding themselves without any power in the political process.  I believe that in that second objective, he has delivered the change he promised.  Through health care reform, the JOBS Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and now his open support of marriage equality, he has brought more positive change to this country than President Bush did in his two terms.


Of course I wish that Congress could actually function and compromise the way the founders intended, but why their dysfunction is being laid entirely on President Obama’s shoulders I don’t understand.  The people who should be held responsible are Speaker John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid.  The politicians and pundits who are complaining that not enough change has happened are the same people who were actively trying to prevent change from happening, for purely political reasons.  Any sucess for Obama meant a loss for them.  What they did not consider is what would be a success for Americans as a whole.  Instead of mocking the words “hope” and “change,” Republicans should realize that those words mean a lot to people.  The only way things can change for the better and people who are downtrodden by the economy can have hope again, is for Republicans and Democrats to work together.


ZAC:  Working in language and message consulting, I agree that words “mean a lot to people.”  And clearly, in 2008, “hope” and “change” carried a particular significance surpassing any presidential campaign mantra.  But here’s the issue — words can only take us so far.  There must be actions to bolster the message, otherwise the latter only amounts to hollow rhetoric.

The JOBS Act was a rare symbol of bipartisan cooperation…but it started as a House Republican priority that Senate Democrats and the President realized they couldn’t say no to without falling on the sword.
To say Obama has delivered the change he promised through his health care reform is tantamount to a baseball owner saying the new pitcher he signed has changed the franchise before he has even thrown his first pitch.  Nancy Pelosi herself said it’ll be a matter of time before anyone truly understands the consequences of the legislation, and I don’t expect the Supreme Court to go quietly into the night.
And I applaud Obama for finally putting principle before politics and admitting that he supports same-sex marriage.  An evolutions?  Good grief!  If I was a Democrat who cared strongly about that issue, I’d be downright angry that the only reason why Obama made his declaration of support two weeks ago was because Biden did what he’s been doing for over thirty years.  Real courage would have been an announcement in support of same-sex marriage in 2008, no matter the electoral consequences.  Be that as it may, I don’t expect his announcement to change much at all, as this will remain a states’ issue (as even Obama desires it to be).
Ultimately, we head into November 2012 staring down $5 trillion more in debt, unemployment stuck above 8%, and a failed $800 billion stimulus.
I’ll be the first to admit that the cooperation from the congressional Republicans has been minimal at best.  But, when you look back at Obama’s first two years in office, what’s your assessment?  He worked with Democrat majorities in both the House and the Senate, and rode a wave of public support into the White House.  Are you truly satisfied with how he and his counterparts prioritized — Cash for Clunkers, health care, and Solyndra instead of legislation aimed at relieving the burdens on small business owners and job creators, or incentivizing businesses to keep jobs in America, or tackling entitlement reform?
JORDAN: I agree that words are meaningless unless backed up with action.  I think the person that most needs to absorb that truth is Mitt Romney, who seems to be willing to say whatever he feels is necessary to get elected.  He may have an army of very talented messaging experts telling him what to say, but when we compare what he’s saying now to what he has done in the past, there’s a lot of contradictions.

Regarding health care reform, I believe that President Obama lived up to his vow to take action to fix a health care system that everyone agrees needed to be repaired.  Since none of us can see the future, of course we are not certain of the long-term effects of Obamacare. We can, however, take the advice of non-partisan experts at the Congressional Budget Office who agree that The Affordable Care Act reduces the debt and keeps our promise to seniors by strengthening Medicare.  What we do already know about the impact of Obamacare is that it helps people now.  It allows young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, stops insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, and provides cheaper prescription  drugs for seniors.  It also includes a small business tax credit to make it more affordable for small business owners to provide health insurance to their employees.  All Mitt Romney says is that if elected, he will repeal Obamacare (which was modeled after the health care reform he championed while governor of Massachusetts) and implement a vague “common sense approach to health care.”  What could be more common sense than Obama/Romneycare?
It’s interesting to hear Republicans criticize President Obama for taking time to reflect on his views about the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, considering that their candidate’s current position on abortion, another very controversial issue, is the exact opposite of what he used to say he felt about abortion.  While Romney was running for the U.S. Senate in 1994 and for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he said “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”  Now he is saying he opposes abortion and wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood.  So it’s okay for Romney to “evolve” on this hot-button issue, but not acceptable for President Obama to on same-sex marriage?  I don’t think so.
Finally, President Obama is the candidate who has provided incentives for businesses to insource jobs instead of sending them overseas, as Mitt Romney is known to have done at Bain Capital.  Romney touts his experience as a businessman as his main qualification to be president.  Romney’s purpose at Bain Capital, however, was first and foremost to make money for investors, whether that meant creating some jobs or closing companies and eliminating jobs here at home.  I understand that that is how vulture capitalism works, but we don’t need a vulture capitalist in the white house.  We need someone whose first priority is the average American worker, not just the wealthy investors.


ZAC: I’m not sure either Romney or Obama were doing much soul-searching when they “evolved” on abortion and same-sex marriage, respectively.  I’d rather call it “vote-counting.”  And I realize that doesn’t bother every voter.  None of us – in our personal or professional lives – are models of consistency.

Vulture capitalism?  Really?  DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the new Socialist President of France Francois Hollande would be proud!  Here’s hypothetical A:  XYZ Corp. hires outside consultants to determine how the business can operate more efficiently.  The consultants recommend that some branches are merged, some are closed, and some new ones are open where the market will support them.  Here’s hypothetical B:  The Board of Directors of XYZ Corp. spends several days around a conference table, determining how the business can operate more efficiently.  After their internal review, they decide to merge some branches, close some, and open a few new ones where the market will support them.
Help me understand why A and B are different — why the recommendations of Bain Capital or McKinsey or BCG consultants are less valid than those of the Board of Directors.  If, because of the realignment, XYZ Corp. generates more revenue, investors are satisfied and employees remain employed.  And if modifications proved fruitless, at least the consultants or the Board made an effort.  That’s what separates the real economy from the Washington economy.  There’s never a time when Washington must absolutely make a good faith effort to cut the deficit or reform entitlements, because our federal bureaucracy is here to stay.  Whereas XYZ Corp. would close if the Board and consultants sat idly by, Washington would just get bigger.  Romney has his faults, but at least he’s experienced the real economy.  He understands economic freedom and its incentives for small business owners and job creators.  He’s seen it.  He’s lived it.  And Obama hasn’t.


JORDAN: Like I said before, I understand how it works.  My issue is that while yes, of course Mitt Romney has experience with the real economy, he is misrepresenting what he actually did at Bain Capital to voters.  He’s making it sound like he created all these jobs out of thin air, and not mentioning the many other workers that were laid off.

I actually think that we could use more principles of business in government.  There does need to be more efficiency in general, and accountability for what is and is not accomplished by congress and the federal bureaucracy.  But I don’t think that the government should function exactly like a for-profit corporation either.  The difference between Romney and his colleagues at Bain, and a board of directors, is that Romney often made a lot of money by bleeding companies of their capital resources for his own personal gain, while a board of directors has a fiduciary responsibility to the company, its shareholders, and employees.
As president, would Romney try to stop a federal program that provides assistance to low-income people because he deems that it isn’t operating efficiently enough?  While we always want government initiatives to be efficient, we have to remember that people’s lives are at stake, not just whether a company makes more or less money.  I fear that in his quest to cut spending and government, the most vulnerable would be the ones to suffer the most.
While Romney’s record of amassing personal wealth has been remarkable, even considering his privileged background, President Obama has managed tremendous success considering he was raised by a single mother with a middle-class background.  The President is more inclined to represent the interests of the average American worker, not the corporate elite.


ZAC: I don’t think he would try to “stop” such a program.  Because he treats most problems like business school case studies, I expect he would do a thorough review of the program and re-evaluate how it can be made more effective.  If the program isn’t operating at its optimum efficiency, as you suggest, then it likely isn’t achieving all that it could.  And that is detrimental on various fronts:  To the people the program aims to serve, to the taxpayers who fund the program, to the program administrators who don’t have to face the consequences of a sub-standard operation…

Obama may not have worked in corporate America, or accumulated millions of dollars in hard-earned wealth, but that doesn’t automatically make him the best person to represent “the average American worker.”  According to economists at Duke and the University of British Columbia, 95% of the net job losses during the recession were in middle-skill occupations such as office workers and equipment operators.  There are over 5 million fewer Americans employed today than there were in 2008.  And when Obama took office in the first quarter of 2009, median household income was $54,797.63.  By the final quarter of 2011, median household income dropped by over $2,400.
Hardworking taxpayers are suffering at the pumps, banks, stores, and stock market.  This president talks a great game, but the numbers just don’t add up.
JORDAN: When President Obama took office in 2008, the U.S. economy was losing 780,000 jobs per month.  Let’s not forget under which party the problem started, Republicans controlled the White House from 2000 to 2008.  Now, thanks to The Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we’ve seen 25 straight months of private-sector job growth, for a total of 4.1 million jobs over that period.

This recession is no different from any other recession in U.S. history, in that most of the jobs lost have been middle-income.  That doesn’t have anything to do with President Obama.  It’s a result of President Bush’s failed economic policies, which Mitt Romney wants to return us to.


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