President Obama has a unique opportunity. He can do what is absolutely right for the country and he can secure his place in history beyond being the first minority president
To accomplish these goals requires that Obama tackle jobs, deficit spending, entitlement reform, tax reform, and immigration reform. Some of this he will be able to accomplish during his second term, the others he will have to leave for completion by others.
Most people would argue that entitlement reform should be the highest priority because it is currently unsustainable in its current format and its impact on the debt. I would agree, but the political reality is that the Republicans are not going to allow Obama and by extension the Democrats run the country for the next 20 years. The last time the country had meaningful entitlement reform it was done by Democratic President Bill Clinton. If Obama were to successfully enact meaningful entitlement reform, then he would seal his place in history. He would be the first president to implement universal health care and entitlement reform. Add that to his place as the first minority president and all that talk about Obama being the next “Jimmy Carter”’ would be replaced with Obama being the next FDR. And no matter how many people try to rewrite the history of FDR he remains one of the greatest president’s in history. Quite frankly that would make the Republicans irrelevant for at least two more elections.
Given that political reality, Obama should still try to get something moving in the right direction, but in the short term he should fight to pass the American Jobs Act. The country needs jobs. We need regulation reform as well, but not as much as we need jobs now. The provisions and implementation of the American Jobs Act can be debated and negotiated but there is no question that the payroll tax break, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and protecting the jobs of teachers, and first-responders are a winning solution for the American people. The only people who don’t think so are the ones that have jobs and are not facing layoffs.
Obama should let the sequestration process go forward. Let the mandatory cuts happen. The government spends too much money. There is enough waste across the board to find the $1 trillion dollars scheduled to be cut from the budget. Obama signed the Sequestration Transparency Act that requires that he identify $1.2 trillion dollars in domestic and defense spending cuts if Congress cannot agree to a deficit reduction plan by end of the year.
Obama should then turn his attention to immigration reform. This bipartisan need has to be embraced by Republicans or they will further alienate the fastest growing demographic in America (one that they lost by 50 points in this election). By implementing the Dream Act including a co-authored Rubio bill, securing the borders using some of the ideas of Texas Governor Rick Perry and a comprehensive guest workers program will signal to the southern states that the unions don’t control the Democrats. A full amnesty program is probably too much to envision but these measures are significant steps that will work for the country. Republican President Ronald Reagan was the last president to implement immigration reform. That was in 1986. Twenty years is long enough.
A major reform of the tax code hasn’t happened since Reagan’s second term. There is broad bipartisan support to eliminating some deductions and closing loopholes. A fair estate tax, a fresh look at capital gains and a complete analysis of corporate taxes should be included in the reform process. Energy, climate change, drug policy and gun control legislation are important issues, but they are not going to define Obama’s second term. Obama has established his controversial foreign policy, and absent of some major event, like Middle East war, he is not going to make any radical changes. And Obama still has to oversee the full implementation of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.
That’s a very full agenda. The American Jobs Act, deficit spending and immigration reform are low hanging fruit which should be easy pickings for Obama and Congress, something that should be able to be completed in the first year of Obama’s second term. They should get it done. Obamacare and Dodd-Frank amount to unfinished business. Entitlement reform and tax reform, of course, will take longer.