Guest post by Alan Anderson
(cross-posted at the mnpACT web site.)
Obama’s first year is complete. He gives his State of the Union address tomorrow night. And so it’s time to consider how well he has done, especially given that he inherited world-wide mistrust of the United States, the worst economy since the Great Depression and two wars that are killing us in both financial and human costs.
What happened in President Bush’s first year? Not much. He lowered taxes on the rich by an astronomical amount (which has helped to increase our deficit). He failed to prevent the 9/11 attack, even though he had many warnings about Osama Bin Laden’s plans. He took a month’s vacation on the heels of warnings about potential air strikes. The stock market plummeted 3,000 points and we fell into a few years of recession. Bush’s policies set in the first two years are largely responsible for the economic crash of this nation in 2008, with much of the $5.9 trillion dollars he added to the national debt initiated in the first year of his presidency. All in all, a pretty awful first year for the American people.
For President Obama, things seem better.
Having inherited a terrible economic situation, he enacted policies that prevented the U.S. economy from collapsing. The stock market rose 3,300 points, restoring retirement money lost by millions of people. He stabilized the banking industry. He followed through on Bush’s bailout by adding more economic stimulus money to help salvage many businesses, banks, and assist most states in reducing their deficits. The stimulus helped many keep their jobs and created new opportunity for others. He signed a long awaited Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights, helping millions to avoid usurious credit card rates.
He provided a stimulus to the auto industry through the Cash for Clunkers program. Nearly a million cars were sold and the auto industry bounced back from the edge of disaster. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, helping to ensure that women are paid a fair wage. He also lifted President Bush’s ban on federal funding for stem cell research, providing hope for millions with diseases that potentially will benefit from the research.
President Obama has restored a balance between security and liberty in his handling of terrorists and alleged terrorists. He ended the abusive treatment of detainees by reversing the Bush/Cheney policy on torture. He sent a clear message to other nations that the United States is committed to its values and its self-defense, and he's gone a long way toward backing up both with his actions. He has helped to keep us safe with beefed-up security and acted to reduce troops in Iraq and begin the withdrawal process. Read on.
As of this week, the Marines are no longer positioned in Iraq. He defied many in his own party to reach out to Republicans who wanted stronger policies in Afghanistan while setting clear timetables for their engagement and withdrawal.
He has taken on difficult domestic issues. He is trying to enact health care reform (emphasis on trying.) While taking a beating on the issue from Republicans and some in his own party, he has spoken out for policies that will make it harder for the insurance industry to bar pre-existing conditions and to offer opportunities for all Americans to purchase health care. He has taken positions to ensure more equality in America. He has provided outspoken support for veterans and enacted policies that are supportive of our returning men and women in uniform. He has worked to improve the VA.
President Obama has reversed the world’s contempt for America, spawned principally by the Bush administration through unnecessary invasions of Iraq and the killing of half a million Iraqis. The war has displaced millions more in Iraq, and the violence and arrogance have created a tremendous opportunity for terrorists to recruit new members. He has reached out to countries around the world and stressed that the U.S. is willing to talk to all who are willing to extend a hand of friendship. He has changed the tone in the international community around many issues. He has tried to be more balanced between Israel and Palestine, restarting the peace process in the Middle East. He received a Nobel Peace Prize – one of only two sitting presidents to do so.
President Obama attempted to include Republicans in his cabinet, met with Republican leaders in the early days of his presidency, and even met with business leaders and health care CEOs to craft an agreement to restrain the growth of health care costs.
Meanwhile, the Republican opposition, which accuses President Obama of failing to be bi-partisan, has done more to obstruct legislation in the House and Senate than at almost any other time in history. They have blocked the appointment of the TSA chief and put our nation at risk. They have scuttled health care efforts, having sworn to oppose anything the President and the Democrats do to expand health care coverage to include millions of uninsured individuals.
It’s important to underscore the fact that President Obama and his Party have accomplished all of this with no assistance and, in fact, chronic obstruction from the opposition. Their primary goal, as stated by Senate Republican leaders, is to make health care the President’s “Waterloo.” Thus the party demanding bi-partisanship has become an albatross for this nation and its president.
President Obama has accomplished a great deal in this first year, unrealistic expectations notwithstanding. Compare and contrast with the first year of the Bush administration. The sound and fury in the political arena is calculated to undermine this basic truth: Barack Obama promised change and he has delivered. He consistently stands his ground as a president who values bi-partisanship, even as his opposition turns its back and moves farther to the right. Perhaps in the next year, the Republican Party will consider engaging in governance, not obstructionism, thereby providing our country a better chance of making even more progress.