In the blur of competing presidential campaigns and debates, some citizens could become confused by the Republicans’ claim that President Obama has not accomplished much during his first term.
I chaired Barack Obama’s Maryland campaign 4 years ago – and again this year. I know President Obama to be a brilliant and decent man, a President we are fortunate to have at our nation’s helm.
I also know that our opponents have been fighting us on almost every initiative he has advanced to help our country. They have said “No” to almost every proposal for 4 years, and now they are arguing that the President does not have the capability – or the courage – to lead our country.
The Republicans are wrong about these claims.
Allow me to briefly refresh their recollection about some of the critical issues that Americans face – beginning with our economy and the cost of health care.
The Republicans want us to forget that, in the days before Barack Obama was sworn in as President, America was losing more than 700,000 American jobs every month.
President Obama squarely faced that economic hemorrhaging – investing billions of dollars into America’s (and Maryland’s) economy during our darkest hours.
As a result, we were able to keep hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers and fire fighters on the job. We began to make our bridges safer – including those on the Beltway and on the Harbor Tunnel Throughway – and we saved the American auto industry from collapse, preventing the loss of another 1.4 million American jobs.
We are not yet where we want to be. Yet, with this “federal stimulus” as a foundation, America’s private sector is rebounding, creating or saving 4.6 million jobs during more than 30 consecutive months of private sector job growth.
We can be proud of these accomplishments. Yet, the President and I both know that we must continue the work of building a stronger, more sustainable 21st century economy.
Every American who is willing to work hard should be able to earn enough to raise a family. We should be able to send our kids to college, own a home, and still be able to put some money away for our retirement days.
President Obama and I believe that these simple goals should not be beyond our reach in the most powerful and affluent country in the world.
The Republicans are fighting us, but the path to achieving these everyday goals is not rocket science. We need only follow the “politics that are at the center of people’s daily lives,” as former Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) once advised.
This, precisely, is what President Obama has been doing.
With his leadership, we made college more accessible to hundreds of thousands of additional students by ending billions of dollars of federal subsidies to the banks – and using those savings to pay for double funding of the federal Pell Grant Program.
We have begun making substantial investments in clean energy manufacturing to jump-start good American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The last Democrat-controlled Congress passed - and the President signed into law - Wall Street Reform to better protect Americans from unfair lending practices and rein in the excesses that drove our economy into the ditch.
We are fighting to close tax loopholes to ensure that millionaires and billionaires don’t pay less in taxes than those of us in the middle class.
This is President Obama’s straightforward and effective strategy to build a stronger economy and restore the American “social contract” of shared opportunity and shared sacrifice.
We also have witnessed our President and congressional Democrats fighting to improve our health care system so that no American dies prematurely – or goes broke paying medical bills. When we hear the Republicans’ complaints about “Obamacare,” we should remember these two fundamental facts:
At least 25,000 Americans die each year because they could not afford health insurance. At the same time, the staggering increases in health insurance premiums are threatening to break the bank.
If we want to continue to have a world-class health care system, we must keep insurance premiums affordable. That is why the Affordable Care Act now requires insurance companies to justify rate hikes – and pay us back if they don’t spend at least 80% of premiums on our care, not profits, marketing or overhead.
We must expand the insurance pool so that everyone is covered and prevent insurance companies from “cherry picking” only the healthiest among us - casting others aside to government programs or no care at all.
This is what the Affordable Care Act does for 32 million Americans - assuring coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and shrinking the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole.”
We are making progress building a better America – but our job is not yet done.
In Barack Obama we are blessed with a brilliant, decent and determined president – a man who has earned our support.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s seventh congressional district in the United States House f Representatives.