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Presidential sweepstakes will undermine economic recovery

Published: Thu, January 26, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

President Barack Obama and Dem- ocrats on Capitol Hill should disabuse themselves of the idea that Republicans will put country before political self-interest and work with them to energize the tepid national economy. The words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, serve as the foundation of the GOP’s approach to governance this year: “ ... the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Those words were spoken last year, and were reiterated by McConnell in a television interview when he was asked if he stood by them.

“Well, that is true, [making Obama a one-term president is] my single most important goal along with every active Republican in the country,” the minority leader said on Fox News in July. “But that’s in 2012.”

It’s 2012, and the Republicans have wasted no time in launching their campaign against the president.

Consider this disingenuous comment from McConnell Tuesday, hours before Obama delivered his third — and final, if he fails to win re-election in November — State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress: “It’s hard not to feel a sense of disappointment even before tonight’s speech is delivered. The goal isn’t to conquer the nation’s problems. It’s to conquer Republicans. The goal isn’t to prevent gridlock, but to guarantee it.”

This from the man who laid out in clear terms the strategy of Republicans in Congress.

President Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill will have to face political reality: Bipartisanship is dead for the year. The GOP has no intention of doing anything that may benefit him and his party in the general election. Indeed, Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, can be expected to not only block Obama’s legislative agenda, but to plant political land mines in the hope that the president and his allies will step on one or more of them.

Therefore, the question: Will there be any substantive legislation passed to spur the economy, thus creating jobs? The answer is no. Republicans believe that if the unemployment rate remains at what it is today, 8.5 percent, their chances of making Obama a one-termer will be vastly improved.

Different visions

In his State of the Union speech, the president sought to draw a distinction between his vision for the country and the one articulated by the candidates for the Republican nomination for president by talking about fairness and the free market.

Obama stressed that the economic revival he envisions and is pursuing will benefit all Americans, not just the rich. The goal is to make sure that America does not become a nation of haves and have-nots.

The economic agenda Obama intends to push this year will boost manufacturing, once the heartbeat of the Mahoning Valley, energy and education.

In his speech, the president repeated his call for the rich to pay more in taxes, which coincided with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, releasing his tax returns for 2010 and an estimate for 2011.

The returns show that Romney, who has harshly criticized Obama’s management of the economy, earned nearly $22 million in 2010 and paid an effective tax rate of about 14 percent. That’s a lesser rate than many Americans pay because of how investment income is taxed in the United States.

The contrast between Obama’s call for fairness and the taxes paid by the rich, as illustrated in Romney’s tax returns, will be highlighted in the general election.

It’s clear the economy is improving, albeit too slowly for many, but it’s just as clear that the Republicans aren’t interested in working with the administration.

Such partisanship does not benefit the nation.

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