Every Presidential election cycle, Muslims consider the candidates, and their parties, and try to decide whom they should support. But this election cycle will most likely create an interesting migration of Muslim voters from President Barack Obama to Mitt Romney, and one that is unprecedented in my over 20 years of experience aiding Republican candidates reach out to Muslim voters. The real issue lies in the interesting dilemma President Obama poses when it comes to “Muslim” issues and it will be difficult to define these issues and frame them in a way that separates the two candidates. In sum, Obama has already abandoned Muslim voters and has gone out of his way to distance himself from us. What Romney brings is a strong leadership and a formidable presence to the White House, something that has been sorely lacking. And many Muslim voters are discovering that Romney’s policies are more in line with what Muslim voters value, and he will not disappoint us.
But first, Muslims need to decide what their “issues” are. For most Muslim voters, foreign policy always seems to be the No. 1 issue. Regardless of how often I advise Muslim-Americans to focus on a multitude of domestic issues, they always seem to drift back toward foreign policy as their main issue.
For Muslim-Americans who are concerned about foreign policy, President Obama has demonstrated that he is unwilling to make decisions and display leadership. Whether, it has been the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Arab Spring, human rights abuses, standing up to a dictator slaughtering civilians in Syria, Obama has demonstrated complete incompetence and hesitation. He is unwilling to take a position until an obvious winner is declared, even when the rest of the world is begging us to lead. That isn’t leadership.
Foreign policy is heavily influenced by think-tanks, the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), other world leaders, very influential and wealthy geopolitical players, ambassadors, the military industrial complex, and other high level government officials who do not change frequently and usually outlast the president by many years.
While our foreign policy may not change very much, the way each president presents it can differ drastically. President George W. Bush favored a “we are going to smoke them out of their holes” approach, while Obama has favored a “leadership from behind” presentation. Our policy wasn’t going to change, but how the president presented it to the masses was slightly different.
Despite Obama touting Arab and European leadership, it was the United States that flew over 90 percent of the sorties that bombed Libya. We actually lead from “in front” and not from behind. But Obama and the White House wanted to float the perception that we didn’t really do anything.
If you consider the debacle in Syria today, President Obama is anti-intervention, while Senator John McCain is heavily pro-intervention. McCain ran against Obama in 2008 and lost. Would McCain have intervened in Syria had he been elected? It is unclear, but McCain and Romney have been very critical of Obama’s handling of Syria and favor a far more aggressive approach.
However, Muslims are better off focusing on domestic policy because with domestic issues, you will find a clear distinction between the two candidates and the two parties. Generally, Republicans favor smaller government, less taxation, free trade, fiscal responsibility, and more privacy. They value individual and state rights more than the federal government’s. Democrats have favored bigger government and a bigger role for government in people’s lives. They generally believe that the government should play a larger role in solving our country’s social and economic problems, rather than leaving it up to individuals or the private sector. They generally believe in higher tax rates and redistributing wealth from higher income individuals to lower income individuals with government programs. They prefer having a lot of people dependent on the government for their sustenance than people being self-sufficient. It is a completely different vision of the government’s role.
The most important domestic issue for Muslims should be fiscal policy. Generally, Democratic candidates have believed in redistribution of wealth by levying higher taxes on the rich. Republican candidates believe that lowering taxes and offering incentives to increase spending by wealthy individuals and corporations creates more jobs for the middle class and poor, and thereby expands economic growth.
Regardless of what the highest tax rate is, tax revenue never exceeds 19 percent of gross domestic product. In the 1940s, when the top marginal tax rate reached nearly 95 percent, total tax revenue was still 19 percent of GDP. Facing very high taxes, the rich will move their money out of the United States and invest elsewhere. They are even willing to leave the United States entirely. Extremely high tax rates are counterproductive and discourage growth and investment.
In today’s global economy, companies can be headquartered anywhere. Why does General Electric have its healthcare imaging units headquarters in Wisconsin when it can build CT scanners and MRI machines anywhere in the world. What’s the advantage to being in Wisconsin? If the state of Wisconsin wants jobs and wants economic growth, it needs to give GE incentives to build factories, headquarters and other facilities in Wisconsin. Otherwise, GE could just move to Greenland or Germany. It would still sell the CT scanners to American hospitals, but the management and manufacturing plants would be in another country. And we would lose good high-paying jobs.
Raising corporate and personal income taxes to a level that is unbearable will force individuals and corporations to leave the United States. Why stay? It wouldn’t make any financial sense. On the other hand, lowering corporate taxes and individual taxes gives them incentives to stay and spend in the United States. The millionaire next door has hired a chef, a cleaning company, a website designer, a tailor, and six others to help take care of his horses and Porsches. That is all money being spent in the United States and jobs that are going to U.S. citizens. If you raise income taxes, he would move to the Caribbean and spend his money there. Why not? The weather is certainly nicer.
I believe that Muslims need to be concerned about wealth generation and protection. Muslims may be among the wealthiest domestic groups and wealth protection is very important. Muslims may love donating money to their schools, mosques, soup kitchens, senior homes and other institutions. We are big on charitable giving and there are a lot of incentives built into the tax code that encourage it.
Muslims know how to spend their hard-earned income better than the government does. We would rather donate to the local mosque or soup kitchen than have the government use our tax dollars to pay for government programs that we do not agree with or waste the money entirely.
Government spending is out of control. Despite budget deficits and economic regression, the government continues to spend more and more money every year. There are a lot of wasteful government programs and countless examples of “pork-barrel” spending. Pork-barrel spending is when a politician gets his pet project paid for in exchange for signing some other larger bill, or as a part of a larger bill.
As an example of waste, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ended up spending $2 million last year on setting up an internship program, hiring a single intern. Another example of excessive spending is the new health care bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the United States will end up spending $1 trillion more over 10 years. Sure, we needed health care reform, but at this cost? Aren’t there better ways to fix health care costs, and still cover everyone? Last year the Department of Veterans Affairs paid $26,000 for a short 2-minute video to be produced, a short funny skit that it aired at a conference. In August 2012, President Obama authorized over $170 million of meat purchases from farmers to freeze and store, then later be distributed to food banks.
If you want examples of wasteful government programs and pork-barrel spending take a look at: http://endingspending.com/blog/.
Muslims would rather that they decide for themselves where their hard-earned income goes, and not let the bloated federal government decide where to spend their money. When you vote for Mitt Romney, you will get to keep more of your income, so that it doesn’t go to wasteful government programs.
Another problem with high taxes is that it encourages people to work less. If you make $60,000 a year, you are taxed at a rate of 10 percent on the first $8,700, then 15 percent on the next $26,000, then you are taxed 25 percent on the last $25,000 you make. If you worked harder or were offered a promotion that put you over $85,000, then you would be placed in the 28 percent bracket. You may consider not working harder or not taking the promotion to avoid the higher tax bracket. Why should I work harder, if they are going to take more away? Higher taxes discourage hard work.
Generally, tax rates are higher under Democrats than under Republicans. Under Bill Clinton, the highest tax rate was 39.6 percent. With state, county and local taxes, many people were paying over 55 percent of their income in taxes. Why work harder if over half of your income is going to be taken away? Why not fire all of your employees and make less to avoid paying the higher rates? This stunts growth and destroys jobs.
When George W. Bush was elected, he reduced the highest tax bracket to 33 percent. In a remarkably intelligent and visionary move, President Obama continued the Bush tax rates to sustain economic growth and keep the economy from regressing further. That has stabilized our economy.
Obama is now threatening to raise taxes on the richest 1 percent. The top 1 percent of income earners already pay the biggest share of the total tax burden. The New York Times reported that in 2007, the top 1 percent of earners paid 40 percent of total federal income taxes, more than the combined taxes of the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers.
While it is exciting and emotional to blame the top 1 percent, it is also very wrong and incites class warfare.
If you want lower taxes and want to keep more of your income so you can support your local institutions, Muslim or non-Muslim, you should vote Republican. If you are a small-business owner, a dual income household or a salaried employee, you should vote Republican. Historically, Americans always vote with their pocketbook. If Obama continues to discuss raising taxes, he will lose the election. Middle America and Wall Street will never elect a president who says he will raise taxes, even if he tries to sell it as raising taxes on just the ultra-rich.
I’ve spent 20 years campaigning with politicians in local, state and federal elections. Nothing resonates with Muslim voters more than small-business issues and taxation. When strategizing for our campaign platform and speeches, we always thought we should touch on foreign policy, or throw in a few jokes about hummus or biryani, but nothing got as much traction and attention as tax cuts for small businesses and fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, federal spending has spiraled out of control, and Democrats believe that the only way to fix the problem is to raise taxes.
The other issue in this year’s debate is going to be the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law that was passed. While Republicans and Democrats wrote the bill together, it took Obama to get it through Congress and get it passed. I am a physician, and it was a much-needed law, but many parts of it were contradictory and unusable. There have been over 1,600 amendments and revisions to the law and it should function correctly going forward. As Americans, we are pretty good at fixing things and tweaking them, and we will get this law right, but it is going to be a hot-button campaign issue this year, unfortunately.
In 1965, the Medicare Act was passed to help cover the elderly and those unable to work because of disabilities. Everyone who was employed had medical coverage. Over the years, a new category of “uninsured” has arisen. These are young people who do not want insurance, or have fallen off their parents’ insurance plans, or those who do not qualify for federal assistance but do not earn enough to afford private insurance. This has caused a dilemma and the Affordable Care Act aims to fix those problems.
But the biggest problem is that medical spending has not been curtailed. What the government is trying to do is cut reimbursement to hospitals, physicians, therapists, nurses and others to save money. What they should focus on is cutting spending on medical testing and other wasteful disbursements.
One of the biggest problems in medicine is ordering too many useless tests. By most accounts, we order between $210 billion and $250 billion of unnecessary tests every year.3 Many estimate that the number is much higher. Some physicians estimate that over $750 billion of worthless testing is done every year. An economist from Harvard estimates that over one-third of the $2.7 trillion we spend on health care is unnecessary and wasteful.4
The Affordable Care Act is designed to help curb some of that wasteful spending, but one issue that has not been addressed is medical malpractice reform, or “tort reform.” Many physicians order extra tests just to practice “defensive medicine,” for fear of being sued for missing something.
Every single patient who comes into the emergency room complaining of a headache will get a head CT scan. Why? So you do not miss that rare bleed inside the head. Instead, you could do serial neurological exams (keep checking in on the patient every 15 minutes and make sure they are still talking and acting the same). But why spend the extra time when your job is to clear out an overcrowded emergency department waiting room? This is a separate issue altogether.
Physicians do not want to be sued for missing something, so they order every test at their disposal. “I don’t want to be the guy who misses a heart attack.” Our legal system, which awards exorbitant amounts of money for negligence and harm, encourages more defensive medicine and higher insurance premiums. It is sad, but this system doesn’t encourage efficient and good medicine, it encourages cookbook, algorithm-based medicine. The algorithms are designed to not miss anything and to avoid lawsuits. Many emergency medicine groups around the country require their physicians to order a specified number of tests for every complaint, to lower the cost of litigation and malpractice. Now multiply this by every specialty — neurology, cardiology, family, orthopedics, surgery, infectious diseases, and the amount of defensive medicine dollars grows exponentially.
In order to shave a significant amount of money off the $2.7 trillion we spend every year on health care, a serious amount of reform needs to happen on the medical malpractice side. Then we will have to re-train an entire generation of physicians to actually practice real medicine and not defensive medicine. It will take an entire generation (if not two) to change practice and prescribing habits. It is not easy. And it may be too late. We may have to just legislate that anyone walking into an emergency department complaining of a headache will receive serial neurological exams and, unless they deteriorate or worsen, will not get a CT scan and it will not be paid for.
Mitt Romney has advocated aggressively for tort reform. If he is elected president, he will reform the tort laws and physicians will no longer fear being sued. Romney has campaigned for tort reform and constantly cites the fact that last year, corporations spent more money on filing torts than on research and development.8
There is also the supposed wage disparity between men and women. President Obama continues to falsely claim that women only make 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes. This is not true. That’s illegal and always has been. Per U.S. employment law, everyone gets paid the same for the same job. A man working at McDonald’s makes the same hourly rate as a woman. Discrimination is not allowed. The 77 cent figure comes from an aggregate disparity. Women go in and out of the work force more often. They get pregnant, have children, take more time off, and take more part-time jobs. Men usually do not take as much time off and do not leave the work force. The 77 cent figure describes an aggregate disparity that exists. It is being wrongfully touted by the Obama campaign as a hot-button topic to scare women voters. Men and woman earn the same if they are working the same job for the same number of hours. But they do not. Fear and demagoguery should not be used to scare women and the elderly into voting for your party.
Then, there is the handling of the Arab Spring. When President Obama was elected president, he travelled to Cairo and delivered a speech to all Muslims and Arabs telling them that he wanted to reset the relationship between the United States and the Middle East. He said all the right words, but there was a huge disconnect between his words and his actions. Muslims took him seriously and decided that they wanted freedom and began demonstrating for freedom and democracy, hoping that President Obama and the U.S. would support them. Oops!
President Obama has displayed a tremendous lack of leadership regarding the Arab Spring and events leading up to it. He never supported the Arab Spring in any country until an obvious winner was declared. He didn’t ask Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to step down until there were millions of protesters in the streets and the army turned against Mubarak. He didn’t act against Col. Muammar Gadhafi in Libya until the rest of the world was going to act without the United States (to protect Europe’s oil supply). He hasn’t acted against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, because a true winner hasn’t been declared. His “leadership” from behind strategy has been more palatable and polite than President Bush’s in-your-face strategy, but it is certainly not an adequate policy. The role of the United States should be to lead and demonstrate leadership. Not wait for everyone else to jump in, then finally side with the winner. That isn’t leadership. That’s horribleship.
Senator John McCain is advocating a more active role in Syria. He has been pushing for a U.S.-led intervention that would include safety zones, a no-fly zone, giving the freedom-loving people of Syria better weapons, and humanitarian aid. Most analysts believe that if McCain had been elected, he would have been far more aggressive in deposing Assad and supporting the people of Syria. Mitt Romney has issued countless statements arguing for more meaningful and aggressive action on Syria. Romney is saying all the right things about the Arab Spring, Syria, democracy, and leadership, which has been inspirational and innovative, and he has displayed tremendous leadership on this issue that Obama has been avoiding vehemently. Romney has stated that he would have intervened in Syria over a year ago, and asserts that, if elected, he would intervene in Syria on “Day 1” in the White House. The situation in Syria is excessively dire and over 35,000 people have died at the hands of a ruthless regime. You can read Romney’s Middle East policy on his website.7
The people of Syria marched in the streets chanting for freedom and democracy and were met with gunfire, missiles, tanks, rockets, helicopters and fighter jets. His army is destroying the country, village by village and city by city. U.S. leadership and action could have saved thousands of lives, but President Obama stands idly by and watches massacre after massacre of women and children and allows Russia and China to dictate our foreign policy. Outsourcing our foreign policy to chronic human rights abusers like Russia and China is never a good idea.
A recent study released by the Arab Institute polled the “Arab Street” in a multitude of countries in the Middle East. President Obama’s approval rating is worse now than President Bush’s approval rating was in his last year of office (which was the lowest ever). In fact, many of the people who were polled stated that they preferred Bush’s in-your-face policy to Obama’s non-policy policy.
In November, Muslim voters are going to be faced with two completely different candidates with two completely different visions and two completely different brands of leadership and diplomacy. On one side, you have a president who has been a do-nothing president and whose only accomplishment has been to pass the health care reform (which was going to happen anyways). On the other side, you have visionary, strong leadership and someone who knows how to create jobs, encourage growth and lower taxes.
While in the Senate, Barack Obama voted “present” more than anyone else and let others manage and lead. He didn’t even exist in the Senate. In the White House, he continues this pattern of “hands off game manager” and “let’s just see how this plays out.” He hasn’t displayed leadership or vision and largely just exists as a reluctant manager in the White House. His foreign policy, or lack thereof, has been outsourced to China and Russia. He hasn’t led from the front or from behind. He simply doesn’t lead. He observes, then sides with the winning side. This is not what we expected. This is not America.
Mitt Romney offers competent business experience, great leadership, and a vision for America that doesn’t include scaring women, the poor, and the elderly into voting for you. He looks to inspire young people, and has been very active in reaching out to the Muslim community. Mitt Romney is taking the Syria issue very seriously and even scheduled a briefing on Syria at the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. We need a new direction in America. Class warfare and raising taxes is only going to set us back another 10 years and put us further into recession.
In November, choose Mitt Romney. Choose leadership. Choose change. Choose improvement.
Dr. Mohammed Alo is the author of the Alo Diet and is a practicing cardiologist. He has a B.A. in Economics and has been involved in politics at every level for over 20 years. Dr. Alo has served as a campaign manager, political speechwriter, and is the editor in chief of MuslimRepublicans.net.