This weekend, up to 800,000 people will converge on Washington, D.C., to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, down from the 1.5 million who braved bitter cold four years ago but more than the second-term crowds greeting his two predecessors.
There’s less palpable excitement this time around, for sure, but there’s still the sense of a new beginning, hope for cooperation and work that will address some of our nation’s challenges.
What, I wonder, will those 800,000 individuals hope for from Obama’s second term? Each person there, I imagine, has his or her own wish list for the president. Here’s part of mine.
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The President owes his reelection, in large part, to the overwhelming support he and his fellow Democrats received from Latino voters. The Republican Party realizes that their future is bleak without attracting some of this key bloc, so their leaders are ready to do something to get back in the game. The time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform. People of faith, including Catholics and other Christians, have an important part to play in this conversation. We must advocate for immigration policies that enhance human dignity, uphold the primacy of the family, and create opportunities for those already living and contributing to our communities. The President should use his cache with the Latino community and his mandate from voters to push for an immigration bill that finds a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people already here, fixes loopholes to keep families of all kinds together, and secures the safety of those living in border states.
- Strengthening Small Business and the Middle Class
Small business and the middle class remain the backbone of the American economy and yet both seem to be headed toward oblivion as the upper classes consolidate their wealth and squeeze out the remaining capital. Both the Democrats and the Republicans seem unable or unwilling to make the difficult decisions that will strengthen the middle class and provide relief for small businesses. President Obama managed to raise tax rates on the wealthiest and he should continue to fight for a fairer tax system. At the same time, he should seek solutions to messy regulations that prevent true small businesses from expanding, provide relief to those affected negatively from the much-needed health insurance reform law, and continue to devote resources that fuel economic growth for this sector of our economy.
- Support Policies that Strengthen Families
David Brooks’s The Social Animal and Charles Murray’s Coming Apart were two books I read last year that caused me to reconsider certain controversial policy topics, including policies dealing with families. “Strengthening families” is a phrase that turns off many people because it has been co-opted by the right and used as an attack against those families that don’t mirror a certain ideal. But the reality is, families and marriage are in crisis. Solutions aren’t easy, but the president has shown that he is willing to engage in a mature conversation about personal responsibility without abandoning all communal or government support for those in need. How can we help promote stable marriages? What role does the government have in encouraging positive home environments for children? Do mothers and fathers feel that they have the resources they need to raise children? When times are tough for families, is there a sufficient safety net for children?
- Raise the Federal Minimum Wage
Catholic bishops drafted a letter calling on Congress and the President to adjust the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at a staggering $5.15 per hour. That is, a full-time worker would earn just under $11,000, well below the poverty line for a family of four. The bishops note that an increased wage is needed not just to procure necessary goods and services, but to ensure that individuals can work and provide for themselves and their families and benefit from the subsequent dignity that comes with their labor.
These are just some of a litany of proposals that the president could tackle in his second term to leave the nation better off in four years. What would you add? What are some of the moral issues that could bring people of faith together to work toward common goals? What are some of the compromises the left and right should make to advance an agenda for peace and prosperity?