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Obama is the better choice for troubled times ahead

Published: Sun, October 26, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

Obama is the better choice for troubled times ahead

Hard times require hard choices, and we fear the nation is looking at hard times ahead.

In 2000, we enthusiastically endorsed George W. Bush for president; in 2004 we issued a reserved endorsement of his re-election.

Now, in 2008, The Vindicator endorses Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain.

The need for change has become a catch phrase for both campaigns, so much so that the word’s various meanings can be easily confused or lost. So let us define our expectations: This is a time to alter the course that America has been on, to transform an economy that has rewarded short-term gains at the cost of long-term stability and to convert the United States from a nation that has been willing to mortgage its future to pay for today’s wars, social programs and economic stimulus packages to one that lives within its means.

Do we think that either candidate would be able to do all that? Frankly, no. To be brutally frank, the process both parties have developed for picking their nominees is seriously flawed and has not produced the strongest candidates for the Republicans or the Democrats — for either president or vice president. But that is a topic for another day.

Today, we are forced to conclude that Barack Obama is less tied to the failed polices of the past than is John McCain.

Talking trade

One area in which that is especially so, and an area that is of special interest to the Mahoning and Shenango valleys, is that of trade.

In these uncertain economic times, one thing is clear. To rebuild America from the ground up, Americans must make things. Intellectual property is great, but an idea is profitable only until the next, better idea comes along. And even in the area of intellectual property, the Bush administration was woefully lax in protecting American interests from patent and copyright pirates.

The service economy has its place in the scheme of things. And isolated pockets within the nation or a state can thrive on a diet of service revenue. Banks and insurance companies have to have their offices somewhere. But for the nation as a whole to thrive, Americans must make things that other Americans buy and things that the rest of the world buys.

We still do some of that, but not to the extent we once did.

There’s no going back to the days when the banks of the Mahoning River were lined with steel mills, but someone who wants to buy a tire or a light bulb or a winter coat that is made in America shouldn’t find it next to impossible — all those things were once made right here.

Obama can’t pull the nation out of NAFTA, but he’s declared that NAFTA has not fulfilled its promise to America and that some of its provisions should be renegotiated. Nations that use domestic content laws to discourage imports should not have unfettered access to our markets. Likewise, tax laws can be recast in ways that encourage companies to invest in America and to create jobs here, rather than help companies move jobs off shore.

That will shore up the American middle class.

Back home in Ohio

Gov. Ted Strickland is convinced that an Obama presidency would be good for Ohio. He notes that Obama proposes the investment of $15 billion a year for 10 years in renewable energy (one of Strickland’s economic development target areas). Obama supports investment in infrastructure and education. He would facilitate Ohio legislation that was passed by Republicans and Democrats to provide health coverage for children, but was blocked by the Bush administration.

All that said, we have our concerns about Obama and the Democratic Congress he would undoubtedly inherit. If they go for what they see as the quick fix — taxing small business unreasonably, attempting to repay union backers or tort lawyers with prize packages that will hobble productivity — they would quickly do more harm than good. They must recognize that this is very much a 50-50 nation, that, if it tilts at all, it tilts toward the conservative. If they make it their priority to pay off short-term political debts rather than addressing the enormous challenges facing this country, they will find their time in power to be of a short-term nature as well.

Obama has taken command of the national stage as have few others in U.S. history. But he would be neither the first nor the last politician to fail his nation if he cannot heal its divisions, set a difficult course and convince both supporters and detractors that they must band together, make sacrifices and recognize that the lifestyle most Americans have come to cherish is in jeopardy.

The financial turmoil on Wall Street and the ways in which it is trickling down to Main Street have prompted allusions to the Great Depression. There is reason to believe that we are on the brink of a deep recession. But no one knows what lies a month or a year down the road or when a turning point will be reached. It is, however, certain that the nation did not get where it is — with trembling markets and dwindling jobs — in a year or two, and it will not emerge from this dark and scary place overnight.

Of the candidates in this race, Obama has the youth, the energy, the education and the flexibility that will be needed for the next four years. John McCain performed with distinction in military service and in Congress. We are not departing in any degree from honoring that service in expressing our belief today that the country will be best served by the election of Barack Obama.

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