Would you rather have a president give you what you want, or what you need? It’s not a policy question, exactly, but since policy seems lacking in this election cycle, let’s ask. How about it? What you want, or what you need?
I submit to you, humbly, that President Barack Obama will give you what you need and Gov. Mitt Romney will give you what you want. That’s why I’m voting to give the president a second term. Not because he is always right or always best, but because he’ll give me what I need, even if it isn’t what I want.
Consider Romney’s basic case for president. He has stated he’ll cut $5 trillion in taxes, but it won’t add to the deficit. This claim won’t be refuted here because there isn’t the space, and others with far better qualifications have already done it. He said he’d inject the military budget with $2 trillion in additional funding. He said he’d repeal Obamacare.
That might be what some of us want, but it doesn’t even approach what we really need. Tax cuts are easy. But beating this deficit means asking the stupidly wealthy (whose taxes shrank in the last 20 years) to pay a little more than Joe and Jane America. That’s what we need, even if it isn’t what we want.
More military spending? You bet. Americans love that. But what we need is a smarter military, not a more expensive one. The president’s drone-strike strategy, while controversial, is the cheapest and most effective anti-terrorism measure ever undertaken. American citizens are safer because of it.
Romney wants to show you a fatter military; President Obama wants you to see a smarter one. Romney will give you what you want, but the president gives us what we need.
Obama, for the first time in history, passed legislation aimed at providing 100 percent of American citizens with healthcare. It also outlawed universally-despised practices, like denial based on pre-existing conditions and lifetime dollar limits. It’s what we needed: to finally be the richest nation on Earth without tens of thousands dead annually because they were poor.
But it came in the form of a tax, and now what so many Americans seem to want is repeal. This isn’t what we need. We need to be a nation that can fear no other while also feeding and clothing ourselves. We need fewer loopholes for General Electric Co. and more programs to keep the least of our brothers from hunger, pain, cold and death.
Romney will tell you what you want to hear on abortion, gay marriage, guns, immigrants, healthcare or Iran. Take your pick. He wants to make you happy because ultimately he wants your vote.
Obama will tell you what you need to hear. He’ll tell you that gay men and women can love each other too, even if you don’t want to hear it. He’ll tell you abortion can’t be outlawed because sometimes terrifying things happen to women and — no matter what the atavistic men running for the Missouri Senate and Idaho say — they can make decisions without our input. He’ll tell you foreign policy is more complex than cue card posturing, that healthcare is about clothing the naked man with your own robes and that immigrants are a two-sided coin of people not to be dehumanized by prejudice and fear.
Sometimes, what the people want isn’t what they need. When the Civil Rights Act was passed, a majority of Americans favored some form of segregation. When the slaves were freed, millions stood in opposition. Want and need — we don’t always see the difference, but when we are very lucky, our leaders can.
Every major talking point adopted by Romney is factually flawed or contextually misleading. He tells us what we want to hear: the easy lie. Obama tells us about tough choices and hard times: the difficult truth.
What we want is to elect a man who sees America as a great spreadsheet, itching to get elbow deep in the numbers and turn the whole fledgling business around — make it an efficient thing without prejudice and without sympathy — profitable and heartless, the crystallization of a great empire.
But what we need is to re-elect a man who sees America for what it is: the epitome of opportunity for all, proof of the limitless potential and ultimate good of the human spirit — the City on a Hill.