Op-Ed: Mansfield - Facts and opinion about President Obama
By Eric L. Mansfield
As a state senator, I have focused on the problems of North Carolina and have not generally moved into national politics, because I felt this state's problems deserve my full attention. But after reading Rep. Renee Ellmers' May 23 column about President Obama, I felt compelled to write. Certainly Ellmers is entitled to her opinion, but she is not entitled to express those opinions as fact.
On many occasions throughout Ellmers' column, she pointed to her perception of the president and Gov. Romney's leadership. While she points to the Olympics and his time at Bain Capital, she fails to mention Mitt Romney's time as governor of Massachusetts.
It was likely left out because Romney's time as governor was less than successful for the people and state of Massachusetts. When Romney took office in 2002, the country's economy was expanding. Romney is correct when he says Massachusetts had a net job growth. Massachusetts did have a net job growth of 1.4 percent during his tenure. This was well below the national average of 5.3 percent. In fact, during his time as governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation, and the state lost manufacturing jobs at twice the national average. And what about fiscal responsibility? According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, spending rose an average of 5 percent per year with state debt rising $2.6 billion in four years.
President Obama demonstrated great leadership and resolve when it came to investing in this country to bring us from a recession. A comparison of Obama's first term versus President Ronald Reagan's first term shows Obama's leadership.
Both Reagan and Obama took office when unemployment was fairly high for the time period. In February 1981, Reagan's first full month as president, unemployment was at 7.4 percent and was slowly improving. It dropped down to 7.2 percent by April, his third month in office. However, after 7 months it increased to 8.5 percent and it continued to rise throughout his second year. Nearly two full years after Reagan took office, unemployment was at 10.8 percent.
By contrast, February 2009, after Obama's first full month in office, unemployment was at 8.2 percent and rising rapidly. The economy had already lost 750,000 jobs per month prior to Obama being sworn in. By the president's ninth month in office, unemployment peaked at 10.1 percent, less than the 10.8 percent peak of Reagan's. After that, the country started to see job growth and the unemployment rate declined over the next two years. By comparison, it wasn't until nearly two-and a half years into Reagan's presidency that unemployment finally dropped below 10 percent.
While Reagan is regarded by many as one of our finest leaders, those same people would denigrate Obama as being one of our worst leaders. However, the job growth numbers show the inequity and hypocrisy of such statements.
President Obama has fought for an America that most of us desire, where hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, where everyone has a fair shot and does his fair share and everyone from Wall Street to Main Street plays by the same rules.
Thanks to the president's leadership and commitment to the middle class, the economy is once again growing, although certainly not as fast as anyone would like. Now, instead of losing jobs, we're creating them - 4.2 million jobs over 26 consecutive months of private-sector growth. Corporate profits are at $1.7 trillion, rising at an annualized rate of 8.5 percent, the highest they have been in the last 12 years. And we know that North Carolina's economy has begun to turn the corner and is on a path to recovery. North Carolina employers have added over 108,500 jobs over the last 25 months through March.
There is no doubt that we, as a nation, need to be fiscally responsible. This cannot be done with irresponsible, drastic cuts to education, research, worker training and infrastructure that Romney desires. The question has never been who desires to take our country back, but who has the vision to take it forward.
President Obama wants to continue moving our country forward, restoring middle-class security and making sure everyone here in North Carolina and throughout the nation has an opportunity to pursue the American dream.
Martin Luther King, Jr wrote, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." During these times of challenge and controversy, it is my belief that our president has stood with, and for, the hard-working people of this country.
We can move forward or go in reverse. That's the decision we have before us in November.
State Sen. Eric L. Mansfield, a physician, lives in Fayetteville. He recently lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.