The inauguration represents a metaphorical starting line for the Obama administration. In reality, the re-elected president takes the oath proposing new gun control legislation, while pressing fiscal policy looms in large part as a result of consistent congressional delay. Media describes Congress as “polarized” and “divided” with little hope of substantive change coming from either side. Regardless, the president appears optimistic in his proposals for the upcoming term, and I assume the same approach in this article, through which I express my desires for the next four years.
Primarily, I propose an acceptance of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and a move to implement its policies rather than deny its legitimacy years after its passing. To those opposed to the laws, I suggest specific amendments addressing grievances, as PEW Research Center polls indicate more than half of Americans support the policy’s measures already implemented.
From a larger perspective, the continued debate reflects the type of polarization found in this Congress in which points of contention remain ideological rather than substantively based in policy. Obama calls these debates “absolutism mistaken for principle” in his inaugural address and cautions that “we must act, knowing that our work will be only partial.” I interpret this as an acknowledgement that compromise necessitates dissatisfaction on the part of both parties, and implementing any impactful changes to fiscal and immigration policy in the coming term will require sacrifices in ideology.
We need to address comprehensive immigration reform within the next term.
Obama’s major attempt to do so was the Dream Act: a six-year path to citizenship for graduating high school students requiring the completion of military service or a two-year college degree. While this legislation has some bipartisan support, it has failed to pass after multiple introductions signaling the difficulty in acquiring a congressional majority. We cannot continue to ignore the millions of undocumented immigrants living inside the country and must recognize that integrating these residents into society presents opportunities for tax revenue and economic growth.
Our current system perpetuates worker abuse, reinforces a class system in which people of color occupy an inferior position (“illegal”), and most importantly fails to legitimately address the issue. Building a wall may stem the flow of immigrants, but it does nothing to resolve strife already present within our borders.
For those opposed to an integration of immigrants: Deportation is not a realistic solution. Primarily because of the sheer number of undocumented immigrants, but also because of the importance these undocumented workers play economically as a low-wage labor source. Deportation requires massive amounts of government spending to logistically find and transport people, then provide for their children born to undocumented persons living in the United States.
Its effects are devastating both economically and culturally, and we should move away from unilateral solutions and toward options like the Dream Act.
Perhaps a more challenging issue is the fiscal cliff, deferred again by Congress at the beginning of 2013. Reducing the deficit effectively requires a long view, something rarely present in this Congress. Also pivotal is a distance between corporate financing and fiscal policy — also absent in this debate following the Citizens United decision. We need solutions that address corporate loopholes and subsidies (both phenomena serve as rhetorical devices for politicians but also legitimately fuel excessive spending) without the influence of those benefiting from these programs, as well as an effort to protect programs which reduce income inequality and serve to educate a future work force.
My pipe dream for this term: a radical budget proposal which shifts our private sector economy away from the military and towards green energy (acknowledging climate change), while offering job training and economic assistance to those affected during this economic transition.
Yes, I know it’s a pipe dream.
Meghan Holmes is a second-year southern studies graduate student from Arab, Alabama. You can follow her @styrofoamcup.