Vince Lombardi may have spoken the bald truth: “Winning is not everything it is the only thing.” But how do you define victory?
Technically Barack Obama has won far less than what he sought at the onset of his presidency and the odds of bettering that record are growing longer each day.
However, he has already scored something of a triumph by taking ownership of “middle class economics” and it is altering the Washington landscape.
Republicans have the choice of accepting this or merely stiffening their resistance to push legislation dead on arrival, which will only force the president to exercise his veto pen.
Despite shortcomings and notwithstanding legions of critics, Obama arguably has racked up significant achievements that help the middle class and may give the next Democratic nominee some running room.
Eleven million new private sector jobs were added since Obama took office. The economy is seeing its highest growth in a decade and the lowest health care inflation in 50 years. People are buying homes again; deficit reduction is barely mentioned anymore; gas prices have plummeted; reliance on foreign oil has declined sharply; and companies, though still sitting on mountains of cash, are investing.
As liberal Berkeley economics professor, Alan Auerbach, dead-panned to an appreciative crowd at the Commonwealth Club’s Annual Economic Forecast luncheon last week, “This is not so bad a nation to be living in when you compare it to Europe’s problems.” Co-presenter and former conservative GOP Presidential candidate, Steve Forbes, agreed.
This president for a variety of reasons was never likely to get much of his agenda adopted. Still, he makes a convincing case that the country is in far better shape today than when he arrived. Nonetheless, persistent wage stagnation, an anemic job recovery, crumbling infrastructure, halting progress on energy reform, and a deficient educational system still cloud the horizon.
Ironically, some top Republicans with sights on the presidency seem to be taking a leaf from the Obama playbook.
None other than Mitt Romney, who just a couple of years ago was ready to throw 47 percent of Americans under the bus, is now talking about making poverty the central issue of his next campaign.
Jeb Bush, a leading rival, recently offered this startling statement, “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.”
A majority of voters apparently agreed when they reelected Obama in 2012, despite the drubbing Democrats received in the mid-term elections which opponents were quick to interpret as vindication for their policies.
Now, the GOP seems poised to hijack the income-inequality issue—a ploy reminiscent of President Bill Clinton when he tacked right to curtail welfare entitlements a generation ago, incurring the wrath of his liberal base.
However, the last thing GOP leaders want is fighting battles on Democratic turf and creating greater dissension within their ranks. But, if this means taking positions that many winning candidates ran from during the mid-term elections if it could benefit GOP chances in 2016, you can expect a lot more homage being paid to working class Americans.
If such a philosophical shift is in the works, the message may not yet have gotten to the Senate and House leadership which seem more prepared to continue fighting yesterday’s battles over spending excesses, executive authority limits and other issues of great importance to the Tea Party wing.
With the new Congress just weeks old, help for the middle class has already taken a back seat to GOP disagreements over such things as liberalizing immigration rules, imposing carbon taxes and even dismantling affordable health care where it is working.
Obama cannot be crowing, “mission accomplished.” But with its majority takeover of both houses of Congress, the GOP needs to get its act together before it can effectively focus on 2016.