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Sunday, November 27, 2011

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT OBAMA‘S ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

Elsewhere on this Blog, I have criticized President Obama for not trumpeting certain of his accomplishments in health care, the economy, and foreign policy.  However, his reticence does not restrain the rest of us.  In light of the refusal of the Congress to deal forthrightly with deficit reduction, we have to begin to point out what the President’s administration has done for us, sometimes with congressional backing, sometimes without their participation because of Congressional gridlock.  The 112th Congress (and perhaps the 111th as well, depending how you look at it) has failed miserably, even in mundane matters, mainly because the Republican Party has become captive to the policies and philosophy of the Tea Party represented in Congress by a do-nothing minority who have simply scared the Republican leadership with their intransigent no-taxes, no-more-spending mantras. 

It is no secret that the primary objective for the Tea Party, thus the Republican Party, is to defeat President Obama in November 2012 (don’t forget, the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell announced this as their priority), which explains why the Republicans have consistently supported rich power-brokers with their tax breaks and loopholes, de-regulation, and protections for the rich 1% of society.  No matter how you slice it, Republicans are not working for reform or citizen support; for fairness or justice.  They care nothing for these principles.

Their platform is one of cow-towing to the privileged in order to keep themselves in their positions as shills for the rich.  A large part of this is diminishment or destruction of all social welfare or entitlement programs for the broad middle class and the poor.  After all, 47% of the current members of Congress are millionaires!  They have partial control; they want more (i.e. the Senate and the Presidency).  Give it to them, and you will be in for the most overt and covert attack upon the middle class ever seen in this country.  If you don’t believe that, just look around at certain states where, under Republican Governors, you find the slashing of teachers, police, firemen, government workers, and of benefit programs for the poor and the middle class. 

So the time has come to understand why this 2012 election is about where you will end up if you fail to give Barack Obama another term, and equally important, if you don’t turn out of office the millionaires, the Tea Party, the radical Republicans, while maintaining a democratic Congress.  It’s time to talk about Obama administration accomplishments about which you may not have a lot of information.   

Let’s start with one of the bigger pieces of legislation that has drawn Republican ire and criticism:  the “bailout” or economic “stimulus package” (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) which the Republicans characterize as a “failure.”  Have they ever told you exactly what part of ARRA is a failure?  Just exactly what failed?  Don’t be bamboozled by the right-wing; they are (in)famous for their distortions and big lies repeated endlessly.

Did you know that the bill actually was constructed for “making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009“?  More specifically, its purposes included:

(1) To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.
(2) To assist those most impacted by the recession.
(3) To provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health.
(4) To invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.
(5) To stabilize State and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases.

Division A of the Act made appropriations to a broad number of departments and agencies of government to aid in this stated effort.  For instance, the Labor Department received $3.65 billion to use for adult employment and job training, for youth employment, for dislocated workers and their training, for a program of competitive grants for worker training and placement in high growth and emerging industry sectors, preparing workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy and priority to projects that prepare workers for careers in the health care sector.  This careful targeting of money for particular areas of need is what characterizes this legislation throughout.

Did You Know that one-third of the $862 billion economic stimulus went for tax cuts? Biggest reduction: The Making Work Pay tax credit reduced income taxes $800 for married couples earning up to $150,000. (USA Today).

Did You Know that most of the stimulus money went to states to help with saving the jobs of teachers and police and other first responders?  And now we learn that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has revised the numbers of jobs saved, indicating that at least 5 million jobs were saved and that without the stimulus, the economy would have gotten much worse.  The non-political CBO has essentially vindicated the President’s stimulus program while Republicans continue their ill-informed and un-informed attacks on the stimulus as a “failure.”  It isn’t a failure; it is one of the many major accomplishments of the Obama administration!

In fact, according to the Liberal Examiner of Nov. 23, 2011:  “in the CBO report, ‘Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from July 2011 Through September 2011,’ a breakdown by year shows that the ARRA created or saved from 5 million to 25.4 million jobs from March 2009 through September 2011, as follows:

   2009:  a low estimate of .9 million jobs to a high estimate of 3.6 million jobs     2010:  a low estimate of 2.6 million jobs to a high estimate of 13.2 million jobs     2011:  a low estimate of 1.5 million jobs to a high estimate of 8.6 million jobs

“In addition, according to the CBO, the stimulus is expected to help create or save another .3 million to 2 million jobs in the fourth quarter of 2011, another .8 million to 4.6 million jobs in 2012.
“According to the CBO report, the ARRA contained programs designed to help the struggling economy on several levels by:
‘Providing funds to states and localities, for example, by raising federal matching rates under Medicaid, providing aid for education, and increasing financial support for some transportation projects;
Supporting people in need, such as by extending and expanding unemployment benefits and increasing benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp program);
Purchasing goods and services, for instance, by funding construction and other investment activities that could take several years to complete;
Providing temporary tax relief for individuals and businesses, such as by raising exemption amounts for the alternative minimum tax, adding a new Making Work Pay tax credit, and creating enhanced deductions for depreciation of business equipment.’

“Through these actions, the ARRA resulted in the creation of millions of public sector jobs as well as millions of private sector jobs.  The bill also significantly helped to grow the ailing Gross Domestic Product, which would have remained in negative territory for a greater and more substantial amount of time without such aid.”

So there you have it.  Now what do we see happening?  Consider this gem from the Examiner of Nov. 10th:

“Increasingly frustrated by CBO analyses showing that the 2009 economic stimulus worked as designed, that the Paul Ryan GOP Medicare rationing plan would massively shift costs to seniors, that income inequality is at record levels and, most damning of all, the Affordable Care Act reduces the national debt, Republican leaders have slandered the agency's work as ‘smoke and mirrors’ and ‘budget gimmicks, deceptive accounting, and implausible assumptions used to create the false impression of fiscal discipline.’  Now in the latest escalation of the GOP's attack, former House Speaker and resurrected 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, wants to abolish the CBO altogether.”

That’s exactly what we can expect from Republican ideologues: when facts go against them, they will lash out with lies, or distortions, or smears, or threats to abolish an offending agency or department.  No matter where you look -- from Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry to Mitt Romney to Eric Cantor to Mitch McConnell to Dick Armey to Grover Norquist to Rush Limbaugh -- you will find this same pattern.  The Republican radicals cannot stand criticism, facts, or Democrat success, especially when each refutes their cherished concepts and underlying assumptions.  More on Obama administration accomplishments next time.