Monday, November 5, 2012

Barack Obama for President

This blog enthusiastically endorses Barack Obama for a second term as President of the United States. Since the focus of Visions of Tomorrow is on futurism, I will explain my reasoning for why Barack Obama is a better choice than Mitt Romney with an emphasis on the long-term picture.

Let me start off by saying that despite the tough rhetoric of this campaign cycle, I am not so cynical as to think that a Mitt Romney presidency will bring about a dystopia, nor am I naive enough to think that a second Obama term will solve all of America's problems. Politicians always overpromise and underdeliver, and I do not expect the next four years to be an exception to this rule. The twin drivers of the future - globalization and technology - will continue along very similar (although not identical) paths regardless of who is elected. I believe the world will be better off in 2016 than it is in 2012 regardless of who sits in the Oval Office next January, simply because our technology will have improved and the economies of emerging economies will continue to develop.

Why, then, do I especially prefer Obama to Romney? The American health care system has been growing increasingly dysfunctional ever since World War II, when the practice of tying health insurance to employment began sheerly by accident, due to a tax loophole. Ever since, those lucky enough to have employment in stable jobs have generally had access to good health insurance, while those who do not are left to fend for themselves on the individual health insurance market (or denied the ability to get health insurance at all). Over half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are due to health care costs. Aside from the moral problems with denying health insurance to millions of people, the system is economically unsustainable. Despite having middling results and the worst coverage of any developed nation, the United States spends by far the most per capita on health insurance. The runner-up, Norway, spends 33% less than the United States does, and gets far better results. We should learn from the example of every other developed country: more government coordination of health care tends to lower costs and improve access.

Simply put, Barack Obama is far better on health care reform than Mitt Romney. Obama's call for universal health care is not just a pie-in-the-sky campaign promise that politicians offer every four years. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is the most transformative piece of legislation since the 1960s and is already the law of the land, slated to take effect in 2014. However, Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal it if elected. Although he claims that he will see to it that people with preexisting conditions are able to buy health insurance, Romney has offered no indication of how he plans to do this. In fact, he seems to have no health care plan at all, aside from repealing PPACA and preserving to the status quo. The United States cannot afford this.

Our nation's energy policies in the upcoming years can have a profound impact on how quickly we make the transition to clean sources of energy and get serious about preventing climate change. Solar energy is expanding at an exponential rate, and could become cheaper than coal and natural gas in some parts of the country by the middle of the next decade. However, the coal and natural gas markets are absolutely booming in the United States and Canada, to a degree that no one thought possible just a few years ago. It now appears very likely that the cost of fossil fuel energy will fall even farther than it already has, as the center of the energy universe rapidly shifts from the Middle East to North America. Will the United States succumb to the temptation to abandon clean energy and rely on fossil fuels for years to come? This is essentially the energy platform that Mitt Romney has proposed, criticizing the president for failed investments in solar firms like Solyndra. President Obama has pledged to continue America's investment in solar energy. Although this is not absolutely necessary for solar energy to eventually come out on top (which I think is inevitable), it will speed the process along by several years. Getting our fossil fuel consumption under control is an absolutely essential first step toward halting climate change; only Barack Obama appears to be serious about doing so. Although he probably will no longer be in office by the time he sees the fruits of this investment, it is a long-term investment worth making.

The next president will also have a huge influence over the long-term trajectory of our nation's attitudes toward privacy. Cybercrime and identity theft are becoming more and more ubiquitous. DARPA now has spy drones the size of insects...and it won't be long until they become the province of amateurs rather than the military. Police and public officials are routinely testing the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment in areas where the law has not kept up with technology, such as placing GPS trackers on cars without a warrant, reading emails and searching the cloud without a warrant, or even installing web cameras on citizens' property without a warrant. It is very likely that the Supreme Court will soon tackle some of these issues. Although in many ways President Obama has been a disappointment on civil liberties, he is leaps and bounds better than Governor Romney simply because of the types of justices the two men are likely to appoint to the Supreme Court. The president has appointed two justices with very strong records on civil liberties; Mitt Romney has picked Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as his favorite justices, both of whom are predisposed to deferring to the police and expanding their power.

As I see it, health care, energy, and privacy are the three issues on which America's decision tomorrow will have a profound impact for years or decades. On these issues, there really is no contest. On all three, Barack Obama is superior to Mitt Romney, and therefore deserving of a second term as president. I urge all Americans to cast their ballots for Barack Obama tomorrow.

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