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President Obama 4President Obama’s popularity numbers have soared recently and it ought not to be a surprise. Despite being held back for years by the stubborn refusal of conservatives to fund an adequate stimulus effort and being far short of where it ought to be, the national economic recovery continues to advance. Better times generally produce better numbers for the President.

Here’s the other obvious factor in the President’s rising popularity with voters: he’s stopped trying to play nice with the forces of reaction. Instead of sticking to his doomed efforts to find common ground with the forces on the Right who would never agree to anything, he’s started taking the bull by the horns and giving voice to the kinds of positions that the people who elected him have long hoped for: a direct confrontation of greed and inequality, assertive immigration reform, a foreign policy that eschews serving as the world’s self-appointed police force and a renewed commitment to combating climate change.

Even for folks who may disagree with the President on some issues, his decisiveness and principled, strong leadership on these and other issues are clearly what people want and expect from him. Let’s hope the President is buoyed and emboldened by the positive public reaction to this new, more assertive leadership style and that it becomes one of the defining features of the final two years of his presidency.

Commentary

President Obama 4Today, Republicans in the U.S. House passed legislation that would reverse the immigration policies put in place by President Obama through executive action. The new legislation would terminate the temporary stay on deportation announced by Obama in November, a change that would have negative consequences for over six million immigrants. The legislation was voted on as an amendment to a Homeland Security funding bill.

A second amendment was also passed that would eliminate Obama’s 2012 immigration policy which granted work permits and deportation protections to the “Dreamers,” thousands of undocumented youth who were brought in this country as children and grew up here. Twenty-six Republicans, including Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, voted against this amendment which narrowly passed in a 218-209 vote.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it will face a tough battle to get the 60 votes needed for it to pass, particularly due to this second measure overturning immigration protections for the Dreamers. The legislation which would supply the Homeland Security Department with almost $40 billion for the rest of the budget year must be passed, with or without the amendments, before the Department’s current funding expires at the end of February.

This legislation comes as no real surprise given the strong opposition and outrage from many Republicans over what they saw as Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders. However, in this battle for political power, it does seem that many of our representatives haven’t taken the time to consider the uncertainty and fear this legislation has brought back into the lives of millions of immigrants.

Commentary
Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

There was once a time in the United States (and not that long ago) in which the idea of guaranteeing every American the opportunity to obtain a free public education all the way through college was a widely — even universally — shared  dream. In the mid-20th Century, states throughout the country worked hard to expand their community colleges and universities and to keep tuition and fees to a bare minimum. Republicans and Democrats were on board. Here in North Carolina, we even enshrined this important value in our state constitution.

And then, in the latter part of the century, the  anti-government, tax-cutting Right reared its backward-looking head. Fueled by millions from reactionary corporate oligarchs, these ideologues commenced a crusade against “government schools” and progressive taxation and within a few decades, thousands of once nearly-free colleges and universities were charging huge, debt-inducing sums to attend.

Now, President Obama, much to his credit, is pushing back against this destructive trend with his proposal to establish a national program — based on work in Tennessee — to make community college free to all students who meet certain requirements. It is an inspired and overdue proposal.

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, the ideologues are pushing back with absurd and hateful blather about “giveaways” and “freebies.” Listen to Louisiana Governor Booby Jindal as quoted in an editorial in this morning’s Wilmington Star News:

“Why stop there?” he said. “Why not have the government buy a car and a house for everyone?”

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. When supposedly serious elected officials equate providing access to public education with giving people free houses and cars, the national political debate has truly sunk to a new low.

As the Star News noted with admirable restraint in response to Jindal: Read More

Commentary

Higher Ed.jpgAny outsider trying to grasp the essence of the ideological debate in modern America in 2015 would do well to look at the two competing takes on President Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college affordable to all Americans.

On the progressive, forward-looking side there are views like the one’s expressed in this morning’s Charlotte Observer editorial:

“President Obama’s proposal to give free tuition to community college students acknowledges a clear shift in the relationship between education and employment: A high school education is no longer enough to ensure a good chance at a decent job….

In states with tight budgets, such as North Carolina, that’s a potentially steep bill. But Gov. Pat McCrory has been a vocal supporter of community colleges, and legislators should recognize the payoff of this investment.

It’s no different, really, from the principles that have long supported K-12 public education. When children graduate from high school, they help themselves and their communities thrive. The jobs they want are changing, however. We need to change, too.”

And on the nay-saying, backward-looking, stuck-in-the-mud side there are views like this borderline offensive blog post on a local conservative group’s blog entitled “Time to Grab Some More ‘Free Stuff’ From the President”:

“It’s amazing how much ‘free’ stuff costs these days — so much so that President Obama declined to put a price tag on the ‘free’ community college prize package he offered up this week to ‘anyone who’s willing to work for it.’ Let’s see now. If someone is ‘willing to work for it,’ how about saving the money earned while ‘working for it’ and paying the tab for tuition? Evidently taking responsibility for one’s future doesn’t qualify as ‘working for it’ when it comes to a leftists such as President Obama.

Commentary

The lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer hits the nail on the head this morning when it says the following about the state of the U.S. economy:

“The recovery from the Great Recession appears to be getting stronger on the eve of Christmas. Alas, politics has dampened the enthusiasm of some Scrooges, President Obama’s critics, who can’t take “yes” for an answer.

As one liberal commentator noted, if this were the second year of a Mitt Romney presidency instead of the sixth year under President Obama, there would be parades in the streets and praise for the president from some of Obama’s perennial critics.

But the facts are the facts. And they’re mostly good.

In November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated, there were 321,000 jobs created, an astounding number. Unemployment is down. The gross domestic product grew at 5 percent, on an annual pace, in the third quarter of this year, the biggest advance since the third quarter of 2003. Consumer and business spending are up.

And as Americans take off on their holiday travels, they’ll see lower gas prices.

And by the way: When the president was formulating the Affordable Care Act, Republicans predicted catastrophic consequences for the economy, with a federal deficit certain to explode. The deficit is down.”

The recovery has started to spread to North Carolina too, of course, and while things have a LONG way to go, there is cause for optimism. As was noted in this story earlier this month, however, the folks on Right-Wing Avenue have taken things to laughable extremes with their absurd attempt to blame every bad thing in the state economy on President Obama and attribute every improvement to Governor McCrory. As we noted in December: Read More