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Months before the presidential election in 2008, the world’s financial system ground to a standstill — thanks to a system so devoid of regulations and enforcement that banks and financiers no longer trusted each other.

That’s the mess Barack Obama stepped into when he took office in 2008. Obama engineered a turnaround. In the hands of a president less pragmatic, less cool under pressure, it might not have happened.

After his first four years, Obama is a proven leader. He wins the Journal Star’s endorsement for president.

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America needs a leader who will look out for the interests of the middle class.

In recent years, Americans have witnessed a largely successful attempt by the country’s uber-rich to take over the formation of public policy to benefit their own class. They’ve funded hand-picked candidates, bankrolled an echo-chamber of think tanks and created Super-PACS to attack their opponents.

Take it from the Oracle of Omaha, billionaire Warren Buffett: “There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Adjusted for inflation, family income rose in every decade between 1950 and 2000. That string came to an end in 2010. The middle class is shrinking. It’s now down to 51 percent of the American population, compared to 61 percent of the population 40 years ago.

It may be true that Obama will raise taxes, although he has promised not to raise them for people making less than $250,000 a year. If that’s what it takes to bring America’s finances into balance, so be it. As Buffett also said, “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Obama can be trusted to preserve the safety net that would be dismantled under some of the remedies proposed for America’s deficit problem. That safety net is vital in times of need, as all Nebraskans should acknowledge while federally subsidized crop insurance bails out farmers in the Drought of 2012.

Thanks to Obamacare, as the president has agreed to call the law often referred to as his signature achievement, thousands of Americans now have health insurance coverage they could not find previously. The law still is a work in progress. Perhaps if Republicans would work cooperatively to improve it, the reform effort could achieve its goals. After all, the plan is built on concepts Republicans once supported.

In the area of foreign affairs, Obama wisely has avoided new entanglements, while winding down the war in Afghanistan. And he always will be remembered as the president who got Osama bin Laden.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney at times makes us optimistic that he would do a creditable job as president. But he changes positions on issues so frequently we’re uncertain what he actually would do in office.

Obama has been tested and found equal to the task of being president. We think the country is in better shape than it was four years ago, and we think it will be in even better shape if he wins another term in office.

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