Obama vs Romney: Republicans Blame President for High Poverty Rate They Helped Create

Poverty sucks. That's as close as the presidential candidates get to agreeing about the U.S. Census Bureau's recent release of America's poverty rate. Currently, 15% of Americans live in poverty — the same share of Americans experienced poverty in 2010.

And from those facts, both parties derived an entirely different interpretation. The administration claimed a tenuous victory, arguing that without President Obama's economic policies, the poverty rate would be much higher. In this, he has support. The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen nonpartisan academics, think tanks, and economists in July prior to the Census release. They predicted that the poverty rate would reach 15.7%. 

But in Obama's claimed victory, Romney sees a dismal failure. His team issued a sarcastic press release, titled, "Another Obama Achievement." The release stated, "While this may be the best President Obama can do, it’s not the best America can do."

I admit it. Romney is right. It is the best President Obama can do, and it isn't the best that America can do. But he is dead wrong in blaming the president. Intransigent Republicans are the main culprit.

Obama's stimulus package passed in 2009 with bipartisan support. Although the bill extended unemployment benefits, it also created and saved jobs. Americans who would otherwise collect unemployment checks re-paved roads, weatherized houses, and conducted medical research. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post reviewed nine reputable studies of the stimulus's effect. His conclusion? It worked.

Then, radical Republicans yanked their party rightward. Rather than engage Democrats to find solutions to the economic woes that afflict Americans of all political persuasions, the Tea Party Republicans stone-walled the president. Not only did the Republicans not support legislation that actively sought to relieve economic distress, they actually took action to tank the economy

The debt ceiling crisis is a case in point. As Obama offered up the Democrats' sacred cows, radical Republicans refused to agree to a compromise to raise the debt ceiling if it included the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts. Even as the deadline to reach a deal inched closer, the intransigence of House Republicans continued, rankling the stock market, creating an unfriendly environment for business, and leading one ratings agency to downgrade the country's credit rating. Democrats tried to compromise, and even Speaker of the House John Boehner tried to compromise. But the radicalism of House Republicans persisted until the last minute. 

Republicans refused to consider the American Jobs Act in the fall of 2011, a piece of legislation championed by the Obama administration to create jobs and alleviate economic distress.  

While the presidential challenger is right to articulate his vision for change, Romney should make sure that promoting bipartisanship is at the center.

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Jillian McLaughlin

As a current student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, I study public policy, take advantage of student discounts, and spend way too much time playing Settlers of Catan.

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