Our choice for President

NYHTC — October 24, 2012

Hotel Trades Council members get out the vote during the 2008 Obama campaign in Tidewater, Virginia.
Produced by New York Hotel Trades Council

It shouldn't surprise anyone that our Union supports the re-election of Barack Obama. He was elected President in 2008 with massive support from unions. At the time, however, few of us realized the colossal extent of the fiscal crisis he was about to inherit from the incompetent, supercilious and bungling administration of George W. Bush. What Barack Obama inherited from Bush and the Republican party was a finance and banking system that was near collapse, an employment picture as grim as any since the Great Depression, a housing market in free fall and two exceedingly expensive unfunded wars.

Indeed, the economy was in critical condition when Barack Obama took office in January, 2009. He had multiple emergencies to tackle. And he had to do it with many congressional Republicans acting not in the best interests of the country but instead banding together in a crusade whose only goal was to defeat him in 2012.

None of these facts can be denied. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch O'Connell said it best. His "leadership" of the GOP's Senate slate consisted of a solitary mantra. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," O'Connell announced. And he and his Republican allies did much to try to accomplish that goal. But Barack Obama stood tall in the face of this obstructionist opposition.

Because of Barack Obama's leadership, our country is recovering from the near economic meltdown that was brought about by the policies of George W. Bush. Now, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to return to those same failed policies. They want more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. They want less regulation of the banking and insurance industries. They want fewer rules for Wall Street.

These reasons alone are enough to call for the support of President Obama's re-election. But a close look at the last few years shows a list of accomplishments for the Obama administration that is lengthy enough to surprise many. Here is a partial list of those achievements:

While President Bush went to war with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist, and did so without ever funding it, President Obama vowed to end the war by the end of 2011. That promise was kept. The last troops left Iraq on December 18, 2011. But the American taxpayers will be paying for this unfunded war for generations.

Seven previous U.S. Presidents, including two Republicans, tried to pass legislation that would provide health coverage to most Americans. They all failed. But Barack Obama passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the most progressive legislation since Medicare. The benefits of this legislation are enormous in number and scope. Almost 40 million Americans who do not have health coverage now will have it by 2014. No longer will insurers be able to turn down people with pre-existing conditions. There will be no lifetime caps on medical coverage. Children are now covered on their parents' health care plans to age 26. People who are not covered through employment will be able to have insurance through exchanges administered by the individual states. Seniors no longer have to pay more than $3,000 in deductibles for prescription medications obtained through Medicare. An equally important but lesser know aspect of Obamacare is that it contains provisions that should limit the increases in the cost of health care that have too often outpaced the rate of inflation. Mitt Romney, like George W. Bush, offers a health plan that says that people without health insurance should continue to use the country's already overburdened emergency rooms.

Another accomplishment of the Obama administration occurred when the President ordered U.S. special forces into Pakistan to apprehend or, if necessary, kill Osama Bin Laden. This action killed the head of Al Qaeda, inflicting significant damage on the most dangerous terrorist network on earth.

He brought about the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to help bring the U.S. out of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Called the "stimulus package," this legislation was in effect only a few weeks before new unemployment claims began to diminish. A year later, U.S. private sector businesses began producing more jobs than it was losing. This trend has continued for 33 straight months, creating 5.5 million new private-sector jobs in the U.S. The $787 billion stimulus package, which many believe brought the country back from the brink of economic chaos, cost U.S. taxpayers much less money than George W. Bush's unnecessary and unfunded war in Iraq.

The Obama administration has begun the closing stages of the war in Afghanistan. President Obama has reduced the number of troops in Afghanistan by more than 30 percent, with more troops scheduled to depart over the next year.

President Obama rescued the U.S. auto industry, saving jobs in more than a dozen states. In 2009 the Obama administration invested $62 billion in General Motors and Chrysler in return for equity stakes and agreements for corporate streamlining. This saved more than one million U.S. auto manufacturing, servicing and sales jobs! In fact, the auto industry has added more than 100,000 new jobs since the Obama administration's rescue of GM and Chrysler. In 2011, Ford, GM and Chrysler all gained market share for the first time in 20 years.

President Obama repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the restriction on gays serving in the U.S. military, and instituted a new policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time. Many high ranking military figures saluted the change in policy.

One of the more quiet accomplishments of the Obama administration has been booting banks out of the federal student loan programs. As we reported in Hotel Voice several times since the enactment of Obamacare, the law contained a provision ending federal subsidies for banks that issued student loans. This year, all students began getting their loans for college directly from the federal government. This will save students and their parents billions of dollars in interest rates and it will also save taxpayers $67 billion over the next eight years, money that previously would have been added to the profits of private banks. In addition, these savings have enabled the federal government to expand the Pell Grant program for low-income students. Because of this action by the Obama administration, an additional $36 billion in scholarship (or grant) money will become available to students over the next eight years at no cost to taxpayers. That's more than five million new grants from the federal government! The Obama administration also created the Race to the Top program, channeling more than $4 billion in stimulus spending into competitive grants to states that institute beneficial reforms in education.

President Obama and his administration deserve a strong salute for increasing support for our men and women who are military veterans. As we have reported before in Hotel Voice, many servicemen and women have returned home with physical and/or mental health problems. During the Bush years these returning veterans had to wait long periods of time for various services. But the Obama administration has increased the Department of Veterans Affairs budget by almost 30 percent in the last two years. The Obama administration is also responsible for enacting a new GI bill that will provide almost $80 billion in educational assistance to veterans over the next 10 years. In addition, the Obama administration has provided a number of different tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans.

The Obama administration rebuilt the U.S. banking system and stood behind the enactment of Wall Street reform. The President signed legislation that re-regulates the financial sector after its practices and the policies of the Bush administration caused the greatest recession in the U.S. since the 1930s. Besides reining in the excesses of Wall Street and limiting the ability of banks to engage in stock trades with depositers' money, this law also set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to stop companies from offering abusive lending products. The Obama administration also restarted U.S. banks during the financial crisis, when it approved over Republicans' objections the Treasury Department's plan to entice private capital into the country's largest banks. This effort put banks back on solid financial ground at no cost to taxpayers.

And we are just getting started in naming the accomplishments of the Obama administration. In 2009 he signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (the CARD Act), a law so important and so beneficial to consumers that we reported on it several times in Hotel Voice. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it much easier for women who suffer pay discrimination to sue their employers. He made appointments to the Supreme Court that caused a dent in that institution's roster of right wing ideologues. Both appointees were women, also reducing the male domination of the court. Working with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, President Obama was successful in bringing about legislation that increased nutritional values and health standards for school lunches. He signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extends protections to victims of crimes based on gender, sexual orientation or disability, in addition to race, color, religion and national origin. He expanded health coverage to an additional four million U.S. children through legislation. He eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

There's more. Although President Obama has not been successful in enacting the immigration reform this country desperately needs, he at least took the courageous step of issuing an executive order that extends certain protections to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The President has said that he is still striving for full immigration reform, and we believe him. His opponent's immigration policy is overly restrictive, especially for working men and women.

President Obama has taken giant steps towards protecting the environment while making the U.S. eventually energy independent. He has steered the U.S. towards green energy, creating more than 100,000 new jobs in the process. He has heightened the reputation of the U.S. throughout much of the world. He has never forgotten his roots growing up in a single parent household, and he continues to recognize that the middle class is the engine that drives this country. He has not achieved everything he has strived for, quite obviously, but we believe his track record shows more accomplishment than many voters realize. We trust Barack Obama. We believe he deserves four more years, and we urge our members and their families to support his re-election effort!