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For U.S. Senate: Lee Fisher

Published: Mon, October 18, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

We have become such an impa- tient nation in so any ways, politics included, that it is increasingly difficult to maintain some sort of historical perspective.

It is the tenet of one political party that in the 21 months since President Barack Obama took office, things have moved far too fast toward “socialism” and far too slowly toward “economic recovery.”

The proper response to this, we are told, is change and change now. The direction in which to change is to go back.

No president, and no political party of a president, has ever been held to so stringent a standard for revitalizing a damaged economy in such a short time. Against what appears to be the prevailing conventional wisdom, we are saying, not so fast.

Economies and budgets do not turn on a dime. Ronald Reagan was not held to a 21- month standard in reversing the rising interest rates and unemployment he inherited from Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton was not held to such a standard in putting the brakes on a pattern of deficit spending he inherited from Reagan and George Bush. And George W. Bush’s eight years, well, we know what the economy was like when he took office and when he left, but the extraordinary events of Sept. 11, 2001, just eight months into his presidency, make it too soon to draw a historical comparison.

All of which is prologue to the subject at hand, The Vindicator’s endorsement in the race between Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher for Ohio’s open U.S. Senate seat.

The candidates

Portman, 54, is a former congressman from Cincinnati who served as U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush and as Bush’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, both Cabinet-level positions.

Fisher, 59, is a former state legislator from Cleveland, a former Ohio attorney general and the present lieutenant governor. He was also director of the Ohio Department of Development for the first two years of Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration.

Portman and Fisher have several things in common. Both are attorneys. Both boast of solidly successful and supportive families. Both have achieved success on their own merits. Both want very much to succeed retiring Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich. Both sat for interviews with The Vindicator’s editorial board. And neither is without some baggage.

Where they differ is obviously what’s important in this race.

Portman would join his Republican colleagues in repealing the health-care reform bill if given a chance. And while we understand that to be a popular sentiment these days (see the first paragraph reference to our national impatience), Portman already had an opportunity in Congress and in the former administration to pursue health-care reform and chose not to.

Decades of avoidance in addressing the changing dynamics of providing and paying for health care in the United States made one thing clear. Every seven or eight years the cost of health care borne primarily by employers and partially by their employees doubled. Left unchecked, that trend was not going to change.

Fisher sees a need to fine-tune the health-care bill, but recognizes that a reversal is a one-way ticket to unaffordable, unmanageable cost increases and to inequities such as refusing coverage to people for an ever-increasing menu of pre-existing conditions.

Taxes and growth

Portman would extend the tax cuts due to expire in 2011, and suggests, as well, a one-year moratorium on payroll taxes — those taxes that support Medicare and Social Security — for incomes of $50,000 and less. As attractive as that may sound, Portman’s suggestion to fund the cut from “unspent stimulus money” isn’t credible. Every politician in the country has his or her eye on the unspent stimulus money.

Fisher suggests allowing the tax cuts for those making more than $1 million to expire, extending the cuts for those making less than $250,000 indefinitely and extending the cuts for the $250,000-to-$1 million bracket for a year.

Portman’s economic bottom line is that a package of various tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs. But the Bush-era tax cuts contributed to doubling the national debt and provided eight years of no job growth. George W. Bush inherited an economy with 132.4 million jobs and eight years later there were only 80,000 more jobs. By percentage, it was the lowest job growth for any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt had higher percentages during all his terms.

There is every reason for Ohioans to be concerned about the nation and its economy. But it is not time to accept the idea that the only way to go is backward.

For that reason — and, yes, we know what the polls are saying — we endorse Lee Fisher for U.S. senator from Ohio.

And for those who like neither of the above, Eric W. Deaton is running on the Constitution Party ticket, Michael L. Pryce is the Independent candidate, Daniel H. LaBotz is the Socialist and Arthur T. Sullivan is a write-in candidate. But they don’t have the answers.

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