Vail Daily columnist Jack Van Ens: Obama’s the best of clashing directions |

Vail Daily columnist Jack Van Ens: Obama’s the best of clashing directions

President Barack Obama’s rug in the Oval Office is inscribed with his mentors’ wisdom. Martin Luther King’s quotation, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” speaks to a clear political choice in the presidential election.

Two political roads diverge at this intersection of justice. Democrats walk a path they refer to as “Fairness Street.” On this thoroughfare, they keep promises made to those who paid into Social Security. They urge the government to stand by its Medicare obligations. With Uncle Sam’s assistance, they believe citizens benefit from investment in transportation, education and university research that keeps us competitive with the Chinese.

Republicans stand at the fork-in-the-political road, too. They head in a different direction, traveling on “Freedom Boulevard.” They claim government erects barriers impeding traffic on the road to recovery. Let individuals assert God-given personal liberties to motor on, they say. Depend on the private sector for economic growth. Don’t let our nation slide toward the soft shoulders of European democratic socialism.

The farther citizens travel on “Fairness Street” and “Freedom Boulevard,” the further they diverge.

Mitt Romney supporter Arthur C. Brooks offers another analogy highlighting our nation’s political impasse. His commentary entitled “A ’47 percent’ Solution for Romney,” describes an apartment building populated by the 47 percent on the bottom floors separated from Romney’s 1 percent in penthouse suites.

“Think of America in 2012,” writes Brooks, “as an apartment building. In the penthouse, people are living pretty well, while the folks in the lower floors are getting flooded out. Unfortunately, the elevator hardly works anymore” (The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 8, 2012, p. A17).

Penthouse residents access a private elevator. They urge those living on ground floor to seize the American Dream by using a public elevator. It’s located near the opportunity desk. Enter there.

Republicans at their national convention in Tampa repeatedly affirmed fiscal path markers to


They traveled a yellow brick road leading to boundless opportunity for each citizen, even those cramped in garden apartments.

Warns Brooks, “Struggling Americans can be forgiven for saying that they don’t believe it (moving up in the world) and that the Republicans seem out of touch. That is why the 47 percent comment (by Mitt Romney) created such a potent political opportunity for Mr. Obama.”

Romney strutted like a rooster on “Freedom Boulevard” during the first presidential debate in Denver. With a trademark half-smile, he confidently denied his fiscal plan would cause sacrifice for the middle class. Romney’s slippery verbal moves sidestepped potholes in his road to recovery. He denied that they existed at all.

He confidently rounded truth’s corners. “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut,” Romney exclaimed. Staring at President Obama, he asserted, “I don’t have a tax cut of a scale you’re talking about.” With each denial, Romney’s nose appeared to grow longer.

The Tax Policy Center, which doesn’t favor one fiscal road over another, analyzed Romney’s errant math. This watchdog agency concluded that with a 20 percent across-the-board cut in federal income tax rates, plus elimination of the alternative minimum tax and a reduction in estate taxes, Romney’s plan adds up to a $5 trillion tax cut.

The result: The Romney plan walks our nation down a rocky road of huge tax cuts that deepen national debt. It will not start a business cycle of private sector growth filling government’s coffers with more tax revenues. Nor will these tax cuts lower deficits or pay down their debt. Romney’s road is a bridge to financial ruin.

Commentator David Wessel concludes in his editorial, “Candidates Avoid Promises on Deficit,” how “The (first presidential) debate was heavy on statistics but light on arithmetic.” Romney “made three explicit statements: ‘I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. … I will not reduce the share (of taxes) paid by high-income individuals. … I will lower taxes on middle-income families.”

Says Wessel, “Because he hasn’t released any details on this tax plan, those three assertions continue to expose him to accusations that he is describing a triangle where the angles don’t add up to 180 degrees” (The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2012, p. A4).

Voters stand at a fork in the road before they mark their ballots. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it,'” advises the scriptures (Isaiah 30:21).

Which road will the majority choose? Poor people’s fiscal elevator is broken. Middle class Americans can’t locate the 1 percent’s private elevator leading to higher floors.

President Obama’s road towards economic progress strikes a vital balance between private enterprise and public authority-fairness with liberty. Obama opens doors to a more just nation.

The 47 percent get a chance to move up in the world.

The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth (, which enhances Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.

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