May we build bridges and not walls…

As I grow older I find myself thinking about politics, policy, and elections less in terms of what it means to me and more in terms of what it means to the country that I live in and love. That is not to say that when I vote I do not vote in what I feel is my best interest, but instead that my interests have been shaped more by the world in which I live and the people that I love than the things I believed when I was younger. I do not think that I am alone in this evolution.

The opinions we hold are shaped by the lives we live and the interactions we have with the people and environment that surround us. It is therefore natural that as our lives progress our views and opinions will change. Everyone lives a different experience and therefore has a different view of the world that is unique unto themselves. I can no more understand the world through a wealthy person’s eyes than she can through my own. Our perception of the world is fundamentally different because our experiences are unique. However, that does not mean we cannot choose to understand.

Just because our experience is unique does not mean we are condemned to be perpetually ignorant to the experience of others. We are not bound to ignorance unless we choose to be. Ignorance is not an excuse for misunderstanding, it is a symptom of failing to make an effort to understand. In the 21st century, with all of the technology and information we have available to us, a failure to understand has no excuse and is a conscious choice that someone makes. Yet many have chosen ignorance nonetheless.

I think after this election it’s clear that too many people have simply chosen to not understand. Too many have chosen to not build bridges but instead walls, to fall victim to divisive rhetoric instead of calls for unity. We as a people have chosen to find what makes us different more than what makes us the same, to separate ourselves into distinct groups with disparate interests instead of communities with common values. Far too many have chosen to take comfort in their ignorance than to force upon themselves the discomfort of trying to understand.

Make no mistake about it, choosing to seek out an enlightened perspective over ignorant assumptions is not comfortable. Challenging long held, very personal beliefs and assumptions about the world is not easy. It can and will make you uncomfortable when confronted with a reality that proves previously believed unfounded facts to be surprisingly false. It is not natural for us to step beyond our comfort zone, to listen instead of talk, to admit error in our reason and not confidence in our opinion. Though it may be difficult and uncomfortable to find understanding and the ability to empathize with people we may not know or understand, I believe it is absolutely essential at this point to do so as Americans if we are ever going to reach our full potential as a nation.

The fact that Americans suffer from an epidemic lack of empathy is undeniable. We just went through one of the most divisive and bruising elections and the result exposed our divisions and lack of understanding like no election before. What we witnessed was a general lack of understanding, respect, and open-mindedness that produced one of the most polarized, yet apathetic electorates ever. Our lack of empathy and unwillingness to see ourselves in others has so poisoned our political discourse and our cultural interactions that we value soundbites more than nuanced debate, easy to accept lies more than hard to accept truths, comfortable misperceptions over unbearable veracities.

This lack of empathy is evident on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum. Ignorance is not exclusive to either Democrats or Republics, Liberals or Conservatives, rich or poor, black or white or brown, Christians, Jews or Muslims, straight or gay people. Ignorance comes in many forms and holds a place in each of us in some way or another. No one person or group is exempt from this ignorance. We all own some amount of ignorance. We all exhibit a blindness to the experience of one group or another at some point and therefore a misunderstanding of them.

Each individual’s ignorance is different based on their own experiences in the world. These blindspots yield the misunderstandings that feed into the bitterness of elections such as the one between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We are bitter because we do not understand. We do not understand because we fail to seek truth. We fail to seek truth because the truth is often times harder to accept than the lie.

We end up finding identity in our differences instead of in our commonalities. We embrace those parts of ourselves that separate “us” from others instead of those that which bind us all together as Americans. We often find it easier to find a sense of self in what we are not than in what we are, for we can look at others and say they are this or that and I am not. Yet that analysis is false because in a lack of true understanding and minimal exposure our conclusions are based on unfounded beliefs. Unfortunately this is the reality of the America we live in, but it does not have to be, and it cannot be if we are to meet our true potential as a country.

In the wake of elections such as the one that has just passed there is an opportunity to confront our ignorance and in doing so better understand each other and the world in which we live. The vitriol with which the campaign was waged has laid bare the divisions which separate us from each other. Be the divisions economic, racial, sexual, social, or political, we have an opportunity to discuss our differences at this time more than any other. It’s a lot easier to find a remedy when we know the disease.

We know our divisions now better than ever, so why not find within ourselves the strength to bridge those gaps? Why not set aside our own biases and listen to the grievances of each other? Why not try to understand the perspective of people we do not understand so that we can better empathize with their plight? The vast majority of Americans hold common hopes and dreams, the only difference is we seek them out in different ways because our own experience in America is unique.

At this time we may not understand each other, but we can affirm that we would like to know one another better. We can choose a new, better, and more united way forward than the divided path upon which we have already traveled. We do not have to sacrifice the things we believe in to better understand people we do not agree with. We can and always will hold differing opinions, but that does not mean our conversations must always be disagreeable, or that we cannot respect the differing opinions of others. There is a better way forward than the track we are currently on.

What has been, does not have to be. We are no more bound by our past than set free by our future. We can, if we open our minds and our hearts, find a part of ourselves in our shared experience as Americans. We can find common interests that bring us together instead of divisive words that tear us apart. We can choose to reach out to those who have fallen and give them a hand up. We can make those marginalized feel as if they have a place in this country as well. There is plenty room enough for all of us in this country to have a place that we can not just call home, but feel at home in. We can look past what separates us as individuals and find what unites us as Americans. All of this we can do, all of this we must do.

We must do this in order to remain true to our origins. For our founders, faced with unfathomable odds against their fortunes, drew upon their shared grievances and set aside their differences, found strength in the cause of something larger than themselves, pledged not just their lives, but their sacred honor and fortunes, so that we might enjoy the freedoms we do today. With little more than hope and virtue, they committed themselves to a task that seemed impossible. Yet in their unity they found strength, in their strength they found courage, and in their courage the will to face down tyranny and defeat England.

Today we are not faced with such daunting odds nor is the future of our country in such doubt. However, we are faced with a decision of what kind of country we are and what kind of a country we want to be. We are confronted with the uncomfortable reality that we have hard work left to do if we are to pass on to future generations a better country than the one we inherited.

It is now up to this generation of American’s to decide if we will be true to our founding principles of liberty, justice, equality, fairness, inclusiveness, and community or will we allow ourselves to be divided further? Will we find the courage to not just look in the mirror and see what is wrong, but also compassion to look at others and see what is right? Can we find the self-control to recoil from our propensity to divide ourselves over things immaterial to who we are and find ground that is common with people who are foreign? Can we live up to the examples set by generation after generation of Americans across the past 240 years who sat aside their differences and came together in the name of making this country as close to the perfect union as they could?

These are the questions we must now answer as we look at ourselves and the country in which we live. A better future is not guaranteed but it is attainable if we apply ourselves to the cause at hand and commit ourselves to confronting our ignorance. If we commit ourselves to a world in which we all choose to seek understanding when we do not know, common ground when we are apart, and unity over division then we will succeed in passing forth those great gifts of liberty, equality, and justice that have been given to us. It is time for us to start building bridges instead of walls.

Every. Vote. Matters.

I’ll be honest I came into the 2016 presidential election campaign during the summer of 2015 not entirely enthused. I was not overly excited about the choices being presented. Bernie Sanders seemed a little too far off to the Left, probably unelectable by a larger electorate, Joe Biden decided not to run, and Hillary Clinton just did not excite me in the same way that President Obama had four and eight years ago. I calculated that given the fact that most Republicans were outright loathsome of Hillary, it might be difficult for her to actually win the general election.

Yet over the course of the campaign, the more I found out about Hillary Clinton the more I liked. Conversely, the more I found out about Donald Trump the less I liked. From his very first press conference when he called Mexicans rapists, there really was not any chance I was going to vote for him. Throughout the entirety of the campaign he fundamentally disqualified himself fromthe presidency in my eyes, and ultimately, as it would happen made the choice of Hillary Clinton that much easier and legitimately exciting for me.

You see I take politics very personal. I have a degree in political science and I love American history. Over the course of my life I have come to realize that true progressive change can only come from the citizens of this nation and that change is more often than not pushed by the ballot and those we choose to represent us. Throughout the history of the United States, every fourth year citizens have gone to the polls on the first Tuesday of November and carried out their civic duty in choosing the next president.

Our ballots have been cast in times of peace and prosperity as well as war and poverty. Sometimes the ballots we have cast have taken us in the right direction, and other times not as much. Yet if you look at the long history of the United States, it is pretty clear that as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Through two hundred and forty years, the United States during Republican and Democratic administrations alike, has made progress on almost every moral, ethical, and civil question we have faced, and that progress has universally been in the direction of a more free, just, equal, fair, and safe America.

Progress has not always been easy nor quick, but it has been made nonetheless. There are instances and events in our history that we would rather forget, yet they are an essential part of who we are. Without that part of our history we would lack the perspective gained that has led towards being a more perfect union. There is a certain pain in our past that is essential to the joys we now enjoy. We are better for the mistakes we have made for they have taught us timeless lessons for generations to come.

With this context in mind, and as the campaign progressed, I started to think more and more about the stark choice we were being presented with in this election. With each passing week it seemed that Donald Trump was on a personal kamikaze mission that would end in the dismantling of all of the progress this country has made. He consistently played to the fears of the disaffected, instilled fear in his followers, sowed doubt about the very systems that hold our country together, insulted our leaders and democracy, belittled entire ethnicities, races, and religions of people, behaved like a bully and lied, and showed himself to be temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

In the abstract those things are bad enough, but when you think about them and how they apply to you and your life, they’re so much worse, and so I decided that I wanted something different. I decided that if my choice was Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton there was really no choice to be made. I would vote for Hillary Clinton. I chose the progress that our country has made over the last 240 years over the apparent desire of Donald Trump to set us back generations in almost every way possible.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I believe that our leaders should be decent people. I believe they should be an example of what we aspire for and not what we are embarrassed of. I believe they should be held to the highest of moral standards, and if they fall short, that they are unqualified for the presidency. I don’t need the purity of a priest in a president, but I do need someone who I can be sure won’t say something our children should never hear.

When I cast my vote tomorrow I’ll be thinking about my nieces Sarah and Abbey, two of the most precious and amazing little girls I know. When I think about them and I think about the two different America’s they could live in depending on the outcome tomorrow, the choice becomes that much more consequential in my mind. I want them to grow up in an America where they are not judged by how pretty or skinny they are, but instead by the vibrancy of their personality and their god given talents. I want them to know that being a woman is no longer a disqualifying trait for the highest levels of service in this country. I want them to believe, and have evidence to support their beliefs, that the only limitations on their lives are the scope of their dreams, and that if they are willing to work hard and persevere all things are attainable. I want them to come of age in a world that is not driven by insults, but instead compliments. A world in which we listen to those who we disagree with, choose to embrace our differences instead of exploit them, and choose a path forward that is united and not divided. I want them to grow up in a world where the objectification of women is not only unacceptable but illegal.

When I cast my vote tomorrow I’ll be thinking of my sister Rachel and the amazing woman she is. I’ll be thinking of her and about how she is the hardest working woman I know. A woman who finds no sacrifice too large when it comes to her family. A woman who has worked her heart out year after year to ensure that the her children are taken care of. I’ll be thinking about how much further ahead her and her family might be if it weren’t for the gender pay gap that exists in this country. How much better off would she be if she made 25% more for every dollar she earned?

When I cast my vote tomorrow I’ll be thinking about my step-mother who works in an office where she has had to fight tooth and nail to be paid fairly for the work she does. How she sits there and endures the endless talk of men who show little regard for the people they employ or respect for the women who actual handle the money they make. I’ll be thinking about not just her but also her late mother Lise.

I’ll think about Lise and about the fact that she came to this country unable to speak the language. How she was a German immigrant shortly after WWII and if one of this year’s presidential candidates had been president back then that she might not have even been allowed to enter this country. I’ll think about the fact that over the course of her life she learned the language, worked hard, made a living for herself, and provided for the common good. I’ll be thinking about how she was so proud to be a naturalized United States citizen. That she enriched our country with the culture she brought with her from her homeland. I’ll think about the fact that her story is a microcosm of the story of America, and that her story is unlikely in any country not named the United States.

I’ll think about my own grandmother when I cast my ballot tomorrow. A woman who was born just after the 19th amendment had been approved but who was never afforded the opportunity to actually vote for a woman for president. I’ll think about her being a housewife during WWII and about how her, and the rest of the women of her generation, helped to hold this country together while their husbands were off fighting to protect our way of life. I’ll think about the fact that she had a fierce independent streak, took no lip from anyone, and was the embodiment of a strong woman. I’ll think about the fact that no matter what life threw her way, she overcame, and found herself to be stronger because of the struggle.

I’ll think about my own mother tomorrow when I cast my ballot and be thankful that she’s still alive. I’ll think about what could happen if Hillary Clinton is not elected and the possibility that she could lose her health insurance. I’ll wonder how she’ll continue to pay for the eight prescriptions she has to take everyday if Obamacare is repealed. I’ll think about the fact that distant debates can come to your doorstep in a moments notice, and that we should never take any of the progress this nation makes lightly. I’ll think about all that she has sacrificed throughout her life for myself and my sister.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about every woman who has ever been made to feel not good enough because of the way she looks, or how she dresses, because her boobs are too small, or her waist too thick. I’ll be thinking about every woman who has ever been catcalled, groped, or propositioned without invite, and what impact that has had on their lives from that day forward. Tomorrow I’ll be thinking about every woman who aspired for more but was denied simply because she was a woman. Tomorrow I’ll be thinking of every paycheck where a woman made less than a man for doing the same job.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about why I believe in the sanctity of life but feel I have no right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. I’ll be thinking about every man or woman who had been previously denied the opportunity to officially love who they wished to love but can now do so without fear of that right be stripped from them. I’ll be thinking about those who could serve if they were gay but couldn’t talk about it, who can now come out and say I’m proud to serve this country’s military and I’m proud to be gay.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about the Iraqi American soldier who I happened to get into an accident with in a parking lot 6 years ago on a cold snowy day in Michigan. How after we got out of our cars and started talking, I found out that he had just returned from overseas, and that his dad had just given him the car whose bumper I had smashed. I’ll be thinking about the fact that he was not mad, but understanding. I’ll be thinking about how he told me he was a translator for the United States Army in Iraq and had a target on his head because he was highly valuable to the American cause. I’ll be thinking about the fact that he had been shot multiple times while serving but continued to sign up for another tour because he was proud to be an American and could think of no better way to show that pride than to serve in the military. I’ll be thinking about the fact that I don’t know if he’s even still alive today, but that this country is better off because his parents were allowed to immigrate from Iraq 20 years earlier and that he was born an American citizen and served our country.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about Mohan and Justin, Chinese foreign exchange students who my sister cared for for two school years whose parents sent them to the United States because this country is still viewed as that shining city upon a hill. I’ll be thinking about the fact that Justin was accepted to the University of Michigan last year and that he is now studying there. I’ll be thinking about how much better off my sister and her family are for having the opportunity to host them. How much living with people of a different culture helped them to understand that although people may come from distant lands, they hold common values and hopes. I’ll be thinking about the fact that if Hillary Clinton is not elected, students like Justin and Mohan may no longer be afforded the same opportunities as in the past.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about the Hispanic immigrants from more countries than I can list who shop at my store everyday and have made it the most successful new store in the country this year. I’ll be thinking about the fact that they always refer to me as “my friend”, that they see no value in highlighting our differences, but instead coming together to bridge the gaps between our languages and cultures.

Tomorrow I will cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton in hopes of shattering that one highest remaining glass ceiling in this country. Yet in doing so, if she is elected, we must remain aware that there are plenty of other glass ceilings that remain within our society that we must continually work toward breaking as we move forward. Much in the same way the election of Barack Obama did not solve every race relation issue in this country, or immediately lift the station of every African-American, the election of Hillary Clinton will not automatically remove every barrier standing in the way of women in this country. However, we should not diminish the historic reality that we could very well elect a woman as President of the United States for the very first time tomorrow. As Joe Biden might say, it’s a big f*cking deal.

Lastly, I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I believe that there is no one more capable or qualified person to help this country reach its full potential at this particular time in history. Though we have come a long way, we still have further to go, and the road to perfecting this union still has miles to be traveled upon it. Therefore our work remains unfinished, but we have every opportunity to make progress in this election. However, that progress will only happen if we elect Hillary Clinton.

In this election, in this year, at this moment in our history, let us once and for all proclaim that there is not a single job that a man can do that a woman cannot. Let us declare that if a woman has been blessed with the same abilities, the same motivation, and possesses the necessary knowledge to do a job then she should be paid the same for doing that job and be afforded the same opportunities as any similarly qualified man. Let us show the world that when our founders wrote within our founding documents that, “All men are created equal,” that it was truly not exclusionary of women. Let us prove that our country is finally, at long last, after 240 years of struggle, willing to live up to that creed, and let the world know that by nothing more than the origin of our birth all of us are truly equal.

Let us say to the world that while our past may be imperfect it does not mean that perfection cannot be obtained, or is not worth striving for. Let us prove that we have learned from our mistakes, that we have made progress, and that only through struggle and perseverance positive change can and has happened, and that we will always strive to be a more perfect union.

May we affirm that we will never lose hope in our ability to reach our full potential as a nation and live up to the very highest of our ideals. This has always been the driving force of our nation, hope. From our founding days, through the almost two and a half centuries of our existence as a nation, we have held on to hope and fought time and again in the name of perfecting this union and living up to the noblest of standards set by our founders. So it has been and so it must be in this election and into the future.

We must once and for all reject the politics of fear and hate. We must not let ourselves be divided along lines of sex, race, religion, class, color, creed, sexual orientation, or otherwise. We must stand up and proclaim that we truly are better for our diversity and that only if we are united can we continue the work of making this country and the world a better place than the one we inherited. Our history has taught us that we truly are stronger together, that no challenge be too large, nor no obstacle immovable if we come together with common focus and desire to overcome whatever the odds may be.

We cannot forget our history or how far we have come. It is important to remember that under the 13 stripes and 50 stars that grace our flag countless battles have been fought in the name of the United States of America. Battles waged in the name of freedom, equality, justice, and fairness have been carried out on battlefields from Gettysburg to Iwo Jima, in convention halls from Philadelphia to Seneca Falls, in the streets of Detroit and on a bridge in Selma. Fearless and visionary leaders with the names of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, King, Lewis, Anthony, Stanton, and Milk have carried forth the values of this nation, fighting in successive generations to perfect our union.

So in this election it is incumbent of us to not forget that history. It is absolutely essential that we not be distracted by inflammatory rhetoric. Let us not fall victim to the vitriol that consumes our politics or lose hope in the process that has delivered to us the nation we love today. We cannot fall prey to cynics who wish for nothing more than to depress our hopes and our turnout. We cannot be scared into not exercising our most basic but important of rights. We should not be distracted by false innuendo, irrelevant recriminations of past issues, or bound by dogmas that have long since been proven irrelevant. We cannot be disheartened by the tone of our political discourse. There is simply too much at stake in this election and absolutely no time for apathy.

We have come too far, sacrificed too many, and accomplished too much as Americans to turn back now. Let it be said, that on this election day we chose hope and had faith in our values, that we chose unity of purpose over discord and dysfunction, and that we reaffirmed that we are one nation indivisible by even the most turbulent of times and acidic of debates. On this election day, we cannot be told to stay home, that our votes are invalid, illegitimate, or that they do not matter. Every vote matters. It all matters. Go Vote!

Out of many, one…

There has been so much talk throughout the 2016 presidential election about immigration that I thought it would be important to set a few things straight and to help people better understand the reality of immigration in the United States in 2016. Between Donald Trump’s rhetoric about building foreign-funded walls, banning Muslims from entering the country, to his musings about over-weight beauty queens and Mexicans being rapists and stealing our jobs, I can understand why people are so concerned with this issue in 2016. Yet, again, like the other issues I have already discussed, the reality does not match up with the rhetoric.

In 2009, when President Obama was sworn in, there were an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living within the United States. As of this year, the estimated number of illegal immigrants living in America has dropped to 11 million. This means that in the 8 years President Obama has been in office, the estimated number of immigrants living illegally within our borders has decreased by a million.

Directly related to this drop in illegal immigrants living within the U.S. is President Obama’s policy to target and remove as many law-breaking illegal immigrants as possible. In fact, more illegal immigrants have been deported during President Obama’s presidency than during any other president’s tenure in the history of the United States. During the first 7 years of President Obama’s presidency 556,000 more illegal immigrants have been deported than during the entire 8 years of President Bush’s own presidency. It should also be noted that the illegal immigrant population within the United States actually increased from an estimated 9.4 million to 12.2 million during President Bush’s 8 years in office.

So, again, when you compare the reality of the situation with the rhetoric of Donald Trump, in this case regarding illegal immigration, his words simply do not match up with reality. If you listened to Trump alone you would think America was being completely overrun by illegal immigrants, that they were flowing over our border at a faster rate than the Rio Grande, but it’s simply not true. Illegal immigration has actually reached a net negative under President Obama and there are less illegal, and even less criminal, immigrants living here than when he took office in 2008.

It’s imperative that we remember in this election who we are as a people and where we come from. We should remember that this nation has and always will be a nation of immigrants. All of us, unless purely Native American, can trace our roots to far off distant shores. Be them in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, or elsewhere, we all came from somewhere else.

Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. For in our differences we find culture, and in culture, understanding, and in understanding, community, and in community, family, and in family, a sense of who we are as individuals. We do not discriminate on account of someone’s land of origin, or race, intellectual capacity, or religion. We do not ban people because of what god they do or do not pray to nor what land they call home.

We must always remember those core values that make us uniquely American. E pluribus unum, out of many, one. It’s written in our founding documents and printed on our currency. Though it may be politically expedient to play to the nativist fears of those who lack an understanding of other people and their cultures, we should never fall prey to their calls. We are better than that as Americans.

We don’t need a wall to keep people out, we need common sense policies that keep people who enrich our nation and our country in. We need leaders who find value in diversity, who embrace difference as a strength, and who are open to extending a hand in friendship and not a fist in fury. Barack Obama understood this, Hillary Clinton understands it, and I hope you do as well.

Hillary Clinton is the only choice in this election…

On Tuesday millions of voters will head to the polls to choose who will lead our country for the next four years and the choice could not be more stark. In the long history of our nation, there might not be an election in which there was a clearer distinction between the two candidates or more divergent paths down which the country could travel. Make no mistake about it, in this election, our votes will matter as much, if not more, than ever before in determining what kind of country we will be moving forward.

On the Right you have Donald Trump who has shown us exactly who he is and how he sees the world from the first day of his campaign. It was at his very first campaign event when he proclaimed that, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Since then Mr. Trump has done nothing to suggest that he is someone other than the man who spoke that day.

He has consistently stereotyped entire groups of people based on the actions of a few, even going so far as to suggest banning Muslims in the name of security. When challenged on the value of these views, he doubled down and decided to insult the grieving Muslim parents of a Muslim American soldier who died fighting to protect the very American values he has shown such little regard for during the campaign and throughout his life.

Once his views became politically inconvenient, he suggested that we instead ban foreigners from entering the United States from certain countries with a history of terrorism. While suggesting this he failed to take into account that many of our allies, such as France, are now countries with histories of terrorism. He also apparently fails to understand that the vast majority of terrorist attacks in this country have been carried out by natural born citizens or those who entered the country legally.

Furthermore he has referred to African-Americans as, “the blacks”, suggested that they all live in hell in inner cities with rampant crime, no hope, and lacking basic human values. He consistently fails to see the diversity of this nation as a positive, instead choosing to divide and exploit us along lines of race, class, and religion. He has failed to outright disavow the endorsements of racist people such as former KKK leader David Duke and done this while playing to the nativist fears of poorly educated white Americans who fear their station in American life is threatened by an nation becoming increasingly cosmopolitan.

Mr. Trump has sought to sow seeds of division among the American populace at every opportunity and exploited the real fears people have about their futures. He has played with the politics of fear instead of hope, depending upon the very worst of our instincts instead of the very best of our character. He has shown little regard for the damage he has done in his pursuit of the presidency and has consistently put his own interests ahead of that of everyone else, addicted to self-promotion and oblivious to his own faults he is entirely devoid of self-introspection.

He has played fast and loose with the norms of American campaigns, told more lies on the stump than truths, and even gone so far as to attempt to undermine the legitimacy of our elections. In doing so, he has failed to understand that one of the very cornerstones of a representative democracy is fair, honest, and open elections in which the results are trusted to be legitimate and that we respectfully concede to the winner when apparent we have lost. He has also suggested that freedom of the press is flexible and susceptible to the whims and musings of the president. Therefore promising to endanger the important and essential freedom that our press enjoys from the influence of government.

His disregard for reality is epic in scale, and only matched by his own ego. With skin so thin he can be baited by a tweet, and a temperament that borders on psychotic and deranged, he is someone that should never hold American lives in his hands. A man who is averse to any opinion that might conflict with his own views, who fails to accept blame for any mistake he has made or slight he has spewed, is not someone we can trust to thoughtfully consider the risks and rewards of the monumental decisions he would be asked to make as president. Instead of practicing the essential introspection needed by a president, he consistently lashes out at anyone critical of him. He has even failed to apologize to John McCain for saying he wasn’t actually a hero because he was captured. He doesn’t care how many bridges he burns or how many people he offends so long as he gets closer to his goal.

Mr. Trump has shown on multiple occasions that he feels the objectification of women is acceptable. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women, agreed that his own daughter was a piece of ass, has called women fat, pigs, slobs, bitches, and worse. He has denied the accusations of sexual assault accusers on account of their looks and not facts to prove otherwise. In the world of Donald Trump, women are a weak, judgmental subservient class of people who should be discarded once their looks fade, are susceptible to the power of wealth, and can only be “10s” if they have big boobs and a beautiful face.

However, though horrible enough, his disregard for decency doesn’t just stop with women. Throughout the campaign he has insulted just about every group of people possible. From mocking a disabled reporter, to coming up with childish and immature names such as “Lyin’ Ted”, “Little Marco”, and “Crooked Hillary” for political opponents, to implying that all Mexicans are rapists and all Muslims terrorists, there really is not a group he has failed to offend. On multiple occasions he has used Twitter as a battering ram to insult his opponents, racking up in excess of 200 instances in which he has bullied someone about something on Twitter alone.

Just as troubling as his lack of decency are his views on the world in which we live. He has, while not realizing the impact of his words, suggested that we reevaluate the very alliances that have kept the world for the most part stable since WWII, suggested that torture is a legitimate interrogation method without realizing what implications that would have for our own citizens if captured by our enemies, and suggested that killing the families of terrorists is fair game. Mr. Trump has showed an unusual affinity for dictatorial strongmen such as Vladimir Putin, denied their obvious attempts to influence our elections, and been woefully oblivious to himself playing right into their hands. In addition to this, he has thrown around the use and availability of nuclear weapons without realizing the terrifying and destabilizing impact an increase in nuclear weapons could have on the balance of power in the world.

Back home he has shown absolutely no respect for the hard working people who have helped build and keep his various business interests running. He has stiffed contractors consistently throughout his life, showing little regard to the impact that such a slight can make on a small business. He has played the tax codes to his advantage, paying little if any taxes since the mid-1990s. While the average American has footed the tax bill, paid to fund our schools, build our bridges, and support our military, Donald Trump has paid nothing while taking advantage of those same average Americans for his own profits. He is unfit for the presidency because he is exactly what is wrong with corporate America.

In short Donald Trump is a bigot and demagogue, whose sexist, misogynistic views and chauvinistic tendencies make him uniquely and exceptionally unqualified to be president. His lack of experience, patriotism, disregard for facts, false sense of reality, and aversion to criticism of any sort would assuredly cause him to make poorly informed decisions and critical mistakes in the most consequential of positions if he were elected. His affinity to bully opponents, lie, and cheat until the false reality seems real would be all the more harmful to our country when working in an office that yields some level of immediate legitimacy. I find it to be quite ironic that in a year that we have someone as uniquely unqualified as Donald Trump, that we also have someone so uniquely qualified as Hillary Clinton running for president as well.

Hillary Clinton has spent her entire adult life in service to the American people. Starting immediately after law school, she went to work helping to ensure that the civil rights of minority students were respected. Her work helped usher in much needed public school reform while First Lady of Arkansas. As First Lady of the United States, she was a vocal proponent of healthcare reform. Though reform failed at the time, it helped lay the groundwork for the Affordable Care Act that would be successfully passed in 2011. She was however successful in helping to create the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that remains in place today, providing health insurance to millions of children who would otherwise lack coverage.

After Hillary and Bill left the White House, she returned to public service as a Senator in the United States Senate. While serving as senator she took a leading role in investigating the 9/11 attacks and securing much needed funding for first responders dealing with a litany of health issues caused by their exposure to harmful materials on 9/11. After her unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in 2008, she swallowed her pride and went back to work for the American people as Secretary of State.

During her time as Secretary of State she was a vocal proponent of human rights around the world, influenced other nations to expand the rights of women, and helped to repair the image of America abroad. She played an essential role in the development of sanctions and isolation that would eventually force Iran to the negotiating table and yield the deal in which they gave up their nuclear arms program. Though the agreement finally came to fruition after she had left her post as Secretary, there is no doubt that she played an integral role in the eventual accord that was agreed to.

In addition to her formal work within the federal government, Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea Clinton have also spread positive influence around the world through the Clinton Foundation. Through the humanitarian work of the foundation, they have helped to deliver life-saving HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other drugs to impoverished nations around the world. The work of the foundation has had an immeasurable impact on the quality of life for countless individuals who would have otherwise gone without.

While her opponent has spent his entire life promoting himself and ensuring his own wealth, Hillary Clinton has dedicated her life and work to helping others without regard for how it would benefit herself. She has shown herself to have a steadfast work ethic, dedication to making positive change, and strength in the face of adversity. She is someone who would enter office with immediate legitimacy and respect from leaders the world round.

Her ascendancy to the presidency would immediately change the heights to which girls could dream and help to shatter the highest glass ceiling in this country. Born just a generation beyond women gaining suffrage, she would be the embodiment of American progress and reaffirm that this country always has the opportunity to improve upon itself.

Hillary Clinton is someone who has the right temperament, judgment, and level of self-restraint required of a president. She is someone who is thoughtful of the consequences of her actions, aware that she has made mistakes, and committed to not making the same ones again. Her penchant for privacy is at times a fault, but as president may well yield itself to positive outcomes. She is not someone who is afraid of seeking out advice in fear that it may conflict with her own opinions, is able to put herself in the shoes of others, and find common ground with those across the aisle.

When you talk about strength, I’m not sure if you can find another woman who has endured what she has publicly and still had the stamina to wake up everyday and keep moving forward. Her life has been litigated in public and private for more than 30 years, and yet after 30 years of intense scrutiny, no one has actually found evidence that she has done anything to break the law.

The failings of her husband have embarrassingly played out in front of the world and yet she has stood steadfast by his side and only become stronger from the scrutiny, never apologizing for her choice to remain with the man she loves, and unwilling to abandon him in the name of political expedience. She has been accused of being complicit in his missteps without any evidence to prove being so. She has endured years of personal and political attacks and has not been diminished in the least by them.

Hillary Clinton is someone who is not afraid of a challenge. A woman who embraces hard work with the knowledge that with enough elbow grease all things are possible. Though she could have easily lived in the shadows of her husband, she struck out for herself and has created an enduring legacy of her own. A personal legacy that has at every step been about someone other than herself. From the children of Arkansas, to the first responders of New York, to the villagers of Africa, there are people across this world who owe a debt of gratitude to Hillary Clinton. Yet she is humble and gracious enough to not expect such platitudes. Content in the knowledge that her life has made a positive difference in the world, she has but no other interests than to continue her work.

At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton should be elected President of the United States on Tuesday for everything she is, and also, for everything she is not. Though she has faults and carries the baggage of 30 years in public life, she is immeasurably more qualified, prepared, and able than her opponent to lead this nation at this time. Her experience at home and abroad has provided her with the perspective needed to lead in an ever evolving world. The difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could not be any more profound, and so Tuesday’s vote matters more than most. May we elect someone who our children can look up to, that the leaders of the world respect, and who will work tirelessly to preserve the progress we have made over the last eight years.

Patient and with hope we waited…

I remember election day 2008 as clear as the blue sky holding the bright sun on that warm November Day. I wore a light blue Obama shirt that read “Obama ’08” across the chest and had a white silhouette of the man whose ballot I had cast earlier that morning. I had gone home for the weekend so that I could vote in person. I didn’t want my ballot to get lost in the mail. It mattered that much to me.

That morning I waited with other people in a line that stretched around the building and down the block. Many of the people with whom I waited could already feel their grasp on their own American dream slipping away. A sapping of the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to avoid the impending economic catastrophe was written upon their faces. Many of the people I waited with were losing their homes, falling behind on their credit card payments, lacking healthcare, recently out of work and concerned with the quality of their children’s education and what that would mean to their ability to compete with an evermore interconnected world in which we lived.

Many of our fellow Americans knew they would likely lose it all in the weeks and months to come, yet on that day they held on to the hope that their vote mattered. That regardless of the dark days ahead, that their vote would elect their choice to guide us through the dark and back into the light. Some voted for John McCain, a majority voted for Barack Obama. The thing is, depressions are indiscriminate in who they affect. Everyone in that line suffered or knew someone who would suffer from the economic collapse in some way or another. Republicans, Democrats, Independents…we were all suffering, we had all lost jobs, and with those jobs, confidence in our societal standing and direction as to where we were going.

The one thing we could all hold on to that day was our ability to choose what direction we saw fit for the future of our country. The one common thread that tied us all together as Democrats, Independents, and Republicans was that we were all hoping for better days. So on that day we waited, patient and with hope, that our right to take part in that most basic, yet fundamental and necessary part of our democracy would bring better days. We waited because we knew that our vote would matter.

The reality, regardless of what hopes we held, was that things would get a lot worse before they even had the slightest semblance of improving. The economy was collapsing and would continue to do so for what seemed like an eternity. The future I had envisioned after college when I arrived 4 years earlier seemed to grow bleaker by the hour. Just 3 months prior to election day I had returned from doing an internship in the United States Senate that I thought would assuredly set me upon a path in public service the second I graduated from college. Yet I failed to read the writing on the wall or grasp the gravity of the depression that was coming.

Not I nor anyone else could have guessed during that shining summer what we would be facing in the course of a few short months. The economy lost over 8 million jobs between February 2008 and December 2009. It started relatively slow, with 86,000 lost in February, another 79,000 in March. By the time the November jobs report came out, the pace had picked up dramatically, with 769,000 jobs lost the month we cast our ballots.

Even with such despair falling upon a crestfallen nation I was still hopeful. I had hope that even though the challenges the country was facing seemed insurmountable, that we had chosen the right man for the job. I hoped that Obama’s mix of hopeful, unifying rhetoric grounded by his real world experiences and influenced by a realistic world view would give him the right mixture of leadership and temperament for a much sought after but highly undesirable job at the time he took office.

I appreciated the hopeful rhetoric about what could be a bright future, mixed with a blunt realism about the state of where the country was. There was no sugar coating the depths to which America had fallen, and Obama didn’t try to sweeten the truth. He spoke honestly about the scale of the challenges we faced, set realistic expectations for America’s recovery, promised nothing less than his best effort, and set forth with a remembrance of how far America had come. He reminded us in his inaugural address where we had been, asked more of us as citizens, and painted a brighter future than the turbulent times in which he spoke.

Eight years later, on the eve of another presidential election of great consequence, I would say that his words on the evening of the 2008 New Hampshire primary in which he lost have been affirmed, that, “In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.” The route between then and now has not always been linear. America has taken its lumps, progressed and regressed in fits and starts, but we are, by most measures, much better off than we were eight years ago.

By no means am I suggesting that things are better for everyone, we know that they are not. Everyone knows someone who is worse off today and can point to that one person or few people and say, you know what, things really have not gotten better. While that may be one person’s experience or the experience of someone that is close to them, their contention is anecdotal.

Much in the same way I cannot sit here and contend that everyone is better off now than in 2008 just because I am. I am one person in a country of over 300 million individuals, each with their own experiences and perspectives. One person, or even a small sampling of people, is not necessarily indicative of the health of an entire country. We cannot judge the success of someone responsible for the well-being of hundreds of millions of people on the stories of a few. Our country, and the outcomes of individual Americans, cannot be painted with a monolithic brush. However, that does not mean that we cannot gauge the performance of President Obama empirically.

So how can we properly judge the state of our nation and determine if we are better off now than we were eight years ago? What can we look at to say that, yes we are better off, or no, we’re not better off now than in 2008? I would say that the only true way is to look at the data in black and white. The following posts will lay out how much better off the country is as a whole today than in 2008  and the last post will explain why your vote matters so much on November 8, 2016.

On Tuesday, maybe more than ever in our lives, we have the starkest of choices between our two presidential candidates. There is no question that the fault between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is about as large of a span you can get between two candidates. Even in 2008 the gap between the divergent policies and paths that John McCain and Barack Obama presented to the American people was much closer together than those being presented in 2016.

I will take an entire post at the end of these to lay out as clearly as possible the choice we have to make on Tuesday, but as for right now, let’s take a look at the things we can quantify to know that the last eight years have been a success without question. If you ever questioned whether your vote matters, whether who we elect makes a difference in our lives, I hope these numbers make you realize that it does matter, that it all matters. That the reason we waited, patient and with hope, is that there is no such thing as false hope in the America we live.

Energy like never before…

When President Obama became president he promised a green energy revolution that would cut our dependence on foreign oil and make the production of our goods healthier for the environment. In his inaugural address he stated, “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Over the past 8 years American has done just that and there are a number of figures that affirm he met his promise on this account.

Since President Obama took office in 2009, U.S. coal production has fallen by 36%. With the drop in coal production has come a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of 12%. Foreign petroleum imports have decreased by 58% and continue to fall further each year. Gas prices have fallen from their peaks of over $4/gallon in the summer of 2008 to an average of $2.25/gallon last month. That drop has meant real savings for the average American at the pump.

For the average driver who drives 12,000 miles a year and gets an average of 31 mpg, they will have spent about $700 less per year this year compared to what they spent in 2008. However, that figure is actually higher because the average fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles has improved from 31 mpg in 2008 to over 36 mpg in 2016, an increase of over 20%.

In the past eight years our energy revolution has moved into other fields beyond mines and gas pumps as well. Wind and solar power production has increased by 342% between 2008 and 2016. As a whole, renewable energy production has more than double during President Obama’s years in office. This remarkable increase has helped to make the United States the second largest producer of renewable energy in the world.

The past 8 years can truly be referred to as an energy revolution in the United States. This revolution has strengthened our energy position in the world. In doing so, we have weakened our dependence on foreign oil and improved our leverage over our adversaries whom we used to be dependent on. It means that the air we breath is cleaner, the lights we use to illuminate our homes more efficient, and the cars we drive go further on less fuel. Of possibly even more importance, our energy revolution has allowed us to take a leadership role on slowing the very serious threat that climate change poses to the world in the coming years.

Healthcare hit home this year…

When I think back to the debate that surrounded healthcare reform in 2011 it’s hard to believe that it ever got passed. There was so much misinformation and flat out lies being peddled by its opponents that even for someone who was paying close attention to the debate, like myself, it was hard to determine what was legitimate and what was not in the discussion.

Five years later, and with plenty of data to analyze, it is pretty clear that the majority of the fear mongering claims never came to fruition. It is also clear that the ACA has had a huge impact on the lives of those it has covered and that our country is better off because of President Obama’s tireless and dogged worth ethic in getting it passed.

The final vote came the year before an election and yet President Obama and a majority of members in Congress took the political risk needed to advance and pass an essential piece of legislation that immediately improved the quality of life for millions of Americans. Due to the vitriolic debate that surrounded the law, its passing was highly unpopular with the American populace and would ultimately cause many brave members of Congress who voted for the bill to be voted out of office just a year later.

Yet the reasons why the bill was unpopular, and why those members lost their seats in Congress, have almost universally not played out in the years since it passed. Opponents said it would: kill jobs (wrong); force employers to cut wages and decrease the number of full time workers they employed (wrong); make healthcare costs skyrocket (wrong); enact federal death panels enacted to decide who lived and didn’t (ridiculous and wrong). Here’s what has actually happened…

Though the negative impressions of the bill persist today, the benefits have been overwhelmingly positive. In 2011 when President Obama signed into law the for Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare), his signature piece of healthcare reform legislation, the percentage of Americans who lacked health insurance was 17.4%. This number has been more than halved, reaching a low of 8.6% in the first quarter of 2016. That number marks the lowest percentage of uninsured Americans in more than 50 years. In real numbers, as of January 2016, 16.5 million more people had health insurance than when President Obama took office.

In the five years before Obamacare went into effect, the average cost of healthcare increased by 3.6% per year. In the five years since Obamacare went into effect, the average cost of healthcare has increased at only 2.9% per year. This means that since the law went into effect, the average increase per year has actually decreased by .7%.

This fact stands in stark contrast to the picture that opponents of the law and Donald Trump present to the American public. Even with the larger premium increases expected next year, the average cost of a healthcare plan will be lower than it was forecast to be when Obamacare went into law. Not to mention, a large amount of those increases for those covered by Obamacare plans will be offset by corresponding subsidies that will keep the actual effect of the increases muted for most American families.

That’s not to say that Obamacare is without issues. Namely a lack of enough healthy individuals buying plans to help offset the costs of the higher risk insured has caused those who are paying to carry a larger, more expensive share than what analysts had figured. There’s also the issue of a profit-motivated insurance industry that has chased number crunching insurers to leave the markets in fears of decreased profits and too high of costs.

Though these are real and legitimate issues, there are a number of ways that the ACA can and will be improved in the months and years to come should Hillary Clinton be elected. Solutions may be up for debate, but no one can question the substantial impact it has had on the number of people insured. What can also not be questioned is the improved quality of the lives of the people it has covered.

Having the ability to seek out and receive healthcare should be a fundamental right in a country as prosperous as our own. Obamacare has moved us a lot closer to having universal healthcare coverage for our citizens than ever before. So for someone to say it has been an abject failure, or that it should be repealed without having some sort of legitimate and working solution to replace it, is unreasonable. No one should even so much as suggest that any of those 16.5 million newly insured could be at risk of losing their health insurance because of some politicians playing politics.

I am sure that all of the 16.5 million people who are now covered by the expansions in health insurance afforded by Obamacare have a story to tell about what life was like before they had insurance. However, I would like to end this section on a very personal note and discuss just one of those 16.5 million newly insured, that person being my mother.

The debate over Obamacare was always of much interest to me, and I was always for the passing of the law, but I never knew how close to home its impact would hit until earlier this year when my own mother fell ill. In fact, my mother might not be alive if it were not for the passing of the Affordable Care Act.

Dating back to late last year my mother had not been feeling too well in general. Feeling weak and out of breath on a number of occasions she had no idea what was going on. However, at the time she did not have health insurance and therefore resisted going to the doctor in fear that the cost would be crippling and that she would not be able to afford it. Eventually the struggles with her health got bad enough that she finally went and was told that she had pneumonia.

A couple weeks went by and she wasn’t feeling better, so she went back. After further testing it was found that she was suffering from congestive heart failure. Doctors said that her heart was only functioning at 19% of its capacity and declining. They told her that without open-heart surgery to repair her aortic valve and stem she would either live a much diminished life or die in a short amount of time. The damage to her aortic valve was actually caused by rheumatic fever that afflicted her as a child and over time had caused her valve to weaken and deteriorate. It was nothing she had done in her own life that caused the life and death situation she was now in.

If this had happened just five years earlier before the ACA was passed she may very well have died due to a lack of health insurance. I don’t say that to be dramatic at all. Prior to the passing of the Affordable Care Act she would have in all likelihood been denied healthcare coverage on account of her illness being caused by a pre-existing condition (rheumatic fever). Thankfully one of the provisions of the ACA denied insurers the ability to deny people healthcare coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

The law also expanded Medicaid to cover millions who were previously uninsured, which included my mother. Between the full month she spent in the hospital and the open heart surgery, her medical bills would have measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If it were not for the insurance she received through the expansions in Medicaid there is absolutely no way she could have ever afforded those bills and she very well may not be here today.

I’m glad to say that today my mother survived the surgery and is well along the path to recovery and I cannot help but be thankful to President Obama and all of those members of Congress who risked their seats for the greater good. While the votes they cast may not have been popular at the time, I am certain someday they will be looked on by the general public as a step in the right direction. Progress is not always easy, it is not always fast, but it does yield change that lasts and a better way forward than the past. Every vote matters, and none more to me than those that passed the Affordable Care Act in 2011.

Putting America back to work…

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump and his surrogates have painted a bleak picture of the state of America’s economy. They’ve claimed that the recovery has been too slow, incomplete, and unstable. They’ve suggested that we’re heading straight into another recession, or worse, and claimed that only Donald could fix it. We’ve heard that illegal immigrants are stealing our jobs, trade deals are shuttering our factories, and that high taxes are inhibiting the ability for small business owners to grow and be successful.

Yet the reality of the situation is much different than what you hear from Republicans on the campaign trail. In fact, America’s recovery has been more robust, widespread, and durable than the recoveries of most of our allies, and has shown itself to be longer lasting and more prosperous as well. So while many nations of Europe and Asia are slipping backwards and struggling to find solutions for the economic woes plaguing them, the United States remains on a more prosperous road. The following figures suggests that, contrary to what Donald Trump would like you to believe, the U.S. economy is vastly improved from the one President Obama inherited in 2009.

As of November 4th, the unemployment rate across the entire US. stood at 4.9%, which is close to what economists would refer to as full employment for the United States economy. If we go back to the depths of the recession the unemployment rate was more than twice that, reaching a high of 10% in October 2009. To put that into real world numbers, the economy has added 14,571,000 jobs since September 2010, which is the last month the U.S. economy had a net job loss. That marks 73 consecutive months of private sector jobs growth, which makes it the longest period of sustained jobs growth in the history of the United States.

Some critics suggest the unemployment numbers are not accurate because they only include those seeking jobs and not those who have given up on finding work. However, the “real unemployment rate”, which includes those marginally attached to the workforce and the majority of those excluded by the actual employment rate, has also experienced a precipitous drop since the highs it reached in 2009. Since 2009, when the real unemployment rate reached over 16%, it has since fallen closer to 9%. Which means that those who suggest the real unemployment rate is what should be looked at have even less ground to stand on. The real unemployment rate has experienced a 2% larger drop than the actual unemployment rate. This means that people who were out of the labor force have actually rejoined it and found jobs during President Obama’s time in office.

Even more impressive is the recovery that has occurred in Michigan. In June 2009, the unemployment rate reached an astounding 14.9%, one of the highest levels of unemployment across the entire country. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 4.6%, meaning that the unemployment rate has literally been cut by two-thirds.

It would be negligent to not mention that had President Obama not decided to bailout the auto industry the unemployment rate in 2009 would have likely been much higher in Michigan than it peaked and that today it would still be elevated from where it currently stands. Not only did the bailout not end up costing United States taxpayers a dime after the loans were repaid, it has helped usher in a new and recording breaking era of American made car sales. In 2015, U.S. car sales set a record with 17.47 million cars sold.

Yet even with all of this evidence to the contrary you’ll hear Donald Trump talking about the economy being terrible and on the verge of collapse, that we’re shipping our jobs overseas, and forgetting about our jobs here in United States. However, the numbers prove this claim to be fundamentally false. Even in the manufacturing sector, which by the way includes the auto industry, where Donald Trump claims we have been hurt the most by trade policies that favor other countries over our own, there has been a recovery in jobs.

In fact, since 2010, close to a million jobs have been added in the manufacturing sector alone, which accounts for the fastest growth in that sector since the 1990s. While it is true that the recovery in the manufacturing sector has been slower than in other sectors, it has recovered, which is in stark contrast to the picture that Trump paints on the campaign trail. He also fails to take into account the significant impact of large scale advances that have taken place in automation over the past 10 years, which has allowed manufacturers to produce more goods with less hands. Some of those jobs are simply never coming back because of technological advances.

In addition to actual job gains in the market, there has also been a recovery in household income levels as well. In fact, last year households within the United States experienced an average income increase of 5.2%, which marked the largest year over year income increase since at least 1967, when statistics started being kept on household incomes. This means that a household making $60,000 in 2014, had an extra $3,120 in their pockets in 2015, which is no small amount when we’re talking about feeding and caring for our families.

Lastly, it should be noted that small businesses have not suffered nor been hindered by the policies of President Obama. In fact, they have been the very engine that has driven the economic recovery over the past eight years. Of the over 14 millions jobs created since 2009, 74% of those jobs have been created by small businesses employing less than 500 people. So while Republicans and Donald Trump like to claim that President Obama’s policies have failed small businesses, they have actually done the exact opposite. The policies and incentives offered over the past 8 years to small businesses have helped to power the longest lasting stretch of job creation, and more specifically, small business job creation, in the history of the United States.

Therefore it should be pretty clear that the rhetoric does not meet reality. The American economy is not a disaster, or on the verge of collapse, nor is it in need of a dramatic shift in direction. While it can be argued that until last year wage growth moved too slow, it has at least moved in the right direction. Are there things that can be improved and adjustments that can be made to help continue and accelerate the job growth and economic recovery that President Obama has presided over? Yes, absolutely, but we’re talking about adjustments under Hillary Clinton, not blowing up the entire system under Trump and returning to the failed economic policies of years past.

The fact is, the policies and initiatives President Obama enacted worked. Targeted tax breaks helped put money in the pockets of the average American who could then help generate economic activity and growth through their own increased purchasing power. Tax breaks afforded small businesses the ability to recover, hire new employees, and grow at a faster rate than the previous eight years. The auto bailout helped save the auto industry, forced companies to cut waste, streamline production, and produce better products to compete and win the market back over. Tax increases on the wealthy forced them to pay a fairer share on their fortunes, yielding increased tax revenues that were reinvested in the economy in the form of public works projects, grants and job creating loans. The policies worked, and with Hillary Clinton promising to continue and improve upon them, you better believe that I’m with her.