Matthew is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.
Dear President Obama,
I have been a staunch supporter of you ever since June 3, 2008, the day you seized the Democratic nomination. At my non-secular high school in conservative Orange County, California, I am one of your few supporters and unceasingly defend your policies from daily attacks by my peers. In the weeks before the 2008 and 2012 elections, I wore your campaign shirts every school day and even worked at a local phone bank to solicit support for you and other Democrats. After watching the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations come to life, for the first time, I am very concerned that during the next four years you may be content to address only America's immediate needs and maintain the status quo.
In your latest campaign you promised me and millions of Americans that you would preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Taxes were a critical issue in the campaign, and over 51 percent of the voters endorsed your plan for those earning over $250,000 to contribute a little bit more to our society. I am frustrated because you abandoned these positions. In the New Years' deal, you increased your $250,000 threshold to $450,000. In addition to capitulating on the tax front, you proposed indexing social security inflation. Even though that proposal failed in the obstinate Republican-led House that opposes any new taxes, it lays the groundwork for an entirely new line of attack from the GOP. In the future, when the GOP says Democrats want to cut entitlements, they will not be lying like they did with the $716 billion cut from Medicare myth.
If this is how you will address issues where you have a strong position and maximum leverage (e.g., since the Bush tax cuts were expiring for all income levels, the GOP demand that the tax increases be retained for all had the unenviable position of holding hostage tax increases for 97 percent of taxpayers), how will you deal with issues that do not require immediate action but will have a dramatic impact on the future well-being of our nation? I am a junior in high school and my concerns relate to America now and the America of my children and grandchildren. One has to go back to the Great Depression and its aftermath to find a period of US History as ominous and threatening as the present. In his book "The Price of Inequality," Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz observes that "The United States has the highest level of inequality among advanced industrial countries... We are now approaching the level of inequality that marks dysfunctional societies... including Iran, Jamaica, Uganda, and the Philippines." Will you effectively address the escalating inequality and the instability? Will we continue to define America's competitiveness in terms of a quarterly income statement and encourage American industry to "race to the bottom" by relocating to the lowest cost producer and leave the low-paying "service" jobs behind? As Hurricane Sandy tragically illustrates, significant parts of America's infrastructure are reaching the end of their useful lives. It is estimated that over $2.3 trillion is required to upgrade our transportation, energy, and water infrastructure. Does your unsuccessful $50-$75 billion infrastructure proposal in the year end negotiations imply that this is not a real priority?
The White House website acknowledges, "Our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We must transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building." This should be your second term mission.
I realize that an intransigent House and inflexible GOP Senate minority will continue to challenge the adoption of your policies; however, you have a position of strength in these negotiations. Your priorities are the priorities of most Americans. In a September 2012 Pew Research Poll, voters selected "economy, jobs, health care, and education" more frequently than "budget deficit" when they were asked what was very important to their vote. In addition, you have retained your formidable campaign infrastructure that contacted one of every 2.5 people in the country and was able to raise over $1 billion. Please use it now to educate the public and Congress to generate the support you need. Before the focus shifts to the 2014 elections and early 2016 candidate handicapping, please seize the moment to clearly establish your priorities and make every effort to implement them.
An astute leader once said, "I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves, that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity, for history tells a different story. History reminds us that, at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas." You were correct when you gave the nation that assessment in your first State of the Union Address, and you and the entire country will be well-served if it guides you now.
PS: In your victory speech, you promised to fix America's voting system and make it easier for our nation to vote. California's on-line registration and vote-by-mail guidelines provide policies that would be effective elements of any solution.