Our view: Presidential race is referendum on government’s role

Romney represents government by corporation. Obama represents something only marginally better.


By Hugh Espey, executive director of Iowa CCI Action Fund. This column first appeared on the Des Moines Register’s A Better Iowa site.

A new Iowa Poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney 49 percent to 45 percent among likely Iowa voters.

Obama’s numbers are improving – in Iowa and nationally – in part because the 2012 presidential election, long assumed to be a referendum on jobs and the economy, is now turning into a referendum on the role of government and who should pay for it.

Romney is having a hard time connecting with Iowa voters after a summer of campaign mistakes has reinforced the Democratic Party narrative that Romney is an out-of-touch CEO who cares more about corporations than everyday people. (Remember his “corporations are people” remark at last year’s Iowa State Fair?)

But Romney’s real baggage is the Paul Ryan budget: the GOP blueprint to cut taxes for big corporations and the super-rich while privatizing Medicare and slashing Social Security. The race is swinging toward Obama because voters are rejecting austerity – the flawed idea that regular people should have to pay for an economic and revenue crisis that was actually caused by the big banks on Wall Street.

That’s good news for the Obama campaign, but what his true-blue supporters won’t tell you is that Obama wants to push $4 trillion in deficit reductions as soon as the election is over. This “grand bargain,” as Obama likes to call it, would also lower corporate taxes while cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

That’s the real rub facing voters this election. The Romney campaign represents a vision of government of, by, and for the corporations, the rollback of vital public services, and the dismantling of the social safety net. It’s no wonder voters are saying no.

But in reality, the Obama campaign represents something only marginally better. For all the public talk about a vision of America based on ideals like the common good and the general welfare, behind closed doors Obama and his team are ready to cut many of the same backroom deals with corporate power as Romney and the GOP.

That’s why independent social movements, labor unions, and grassroots community organizations have to stand up and offer a real alternative to business as usual.

There’s no question that this election offers a stark choice between two competing visions of America, and there’s no question that we all have a civic duty to participate in the electoral process. But there’s a fight brewing on November 7 no matter who wins the presidential election and no matter which party is in power. We need to be ready for it.


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