Editorial: Congratulations, Mr. President
Today President Obama joins Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush on the list of modern presidents elected to a second term. We congratulate him.
We know what Obama will do in his second term because it will be a continuation of what he set out to do when he first took office: improve the nation’s economy, reduce the unemployment rate, increase America’s ability to compete by improving the education of its citizens, protect the nation from threat, extract it from war, reduce the deficit and combat climate change.
Our hope now is that Republicans, free of the requirement to be another brick in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wall against a second Obama term, will be willing to search for compromise. Their constituents should demand that they do so and keep them accountable. The nation can’t afford a repeat of the current do-nothing Congress.
Nor, as the recent devastating storm confirmed, can the nation afford politicians who continue to argue about climate change while the water rises. The United States must take immediate action to reduce emissions of the gases fueling climate change and prepare a comprehensive plan to cope with rising seas, fiercer storms, the more frequent inundations of coastal areas like those devastated by Hurricane Sandy, longer droughts, more frequent wildfires and all the other ills that accompany a rapid warming of the planet.
The president made a good start in his first term by doubling fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks over the next dozen years and supporting efforts to develop clean energy sources. But very little has been done to prepare the nation to deal with the new climate reality by protecting its coastal cities or moving them gradually inland.
The president should build on his signature health reform legislation by intensifying efforts to reduce the cost of health care. In doing so he would put a dent in the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid, the federal programs that are among the biggest impediments to a balanced budget.
Obama should lead an effort to reform and simplify the nation’s tax code, an effort that must go far beyond simply letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. He should continue the attempt to improve America’s public schools that began with the well-meaning but badly flawed No Child Left Behind Act. His Race to the Top program to reward schools that improve student outcomes and improve teacher effectiveness has already begun to pay dividends. That program should be expanded and higher education made more affordable.
The president should continue the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure that began with the stimulus program to stop the economy’s slide into recession. Doing that without adding to the deficit will be tricky but possible at a time when the federal government can borrow money for practically nothing. The nation’s roads, bridges, rail systems, power grids and other systems are in such poor shape that the cost of refurbishing and upgrading them will be paid for by increased productivity. Abroad, the goal for the president should continue to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and foster democracy abroad without becoming entangled in more wars. At the risk of asking too much, we encourage the president to renew efforts to achieve compromise on immigration reform. Our current policy is neither efficient nor humane.
Much of what the president accomplishes in the next four years will depend on the willingness of Republicans to give up their policy of thwarting him whenever possible. The president began his first term, perhaps naively, with a promise to change Washington and work to end bipartisanship. He gave up on that particular change when his efforts failed. He should, in his second term, try to do so again, but with clearer eyes and lower expectations.
As both he and his opponent chanted mantra-like during the campaign, Americans can accomplish so much if they pull together.