Recently, we have looked in some detail at two of the largest of President Obama’s accomplishments, at least from the point of view of how much derision of them has come from Republicans. The “failed stimulus” and “Obamacare” are GOP-manufactured epithets for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. In both cases, time has shined the light of truth on what both Acts have brought to pass, to the extent that the Congressional Budget Office has taken another look and has concluded that neither Act can be said to be a failure. They have said that the ARRA engendered actual stimulus of a nose-diving economy and the saving or creation of 5-35 million jobs. Likewise, they cautioned Congress that repeal of the PPACA would bring about some rather dire consequences, not only for individuals and families, but for the economy and businesses. Such positive support from the CBO has prompted certain Republicans in Congress to deride their methods, and for one particular GOP presidential candidate (Gingrich) to call for their demise.
This week, let us take a look at some more accomplishments of note that have come forth from this President’s efforts but that may have faded from your radar over time:
1) The Rescue of the U.S. auto industry. Against all the rants of those who said we should not save the auto industry but let the market decide, the President acted to put incentive money into the industry and to restructure the corporations before bailing them out. In January 2009, the government used $24.9 billion of the $700 billion bailout fund to bail out two of the Big 3.
The purpose of the loans was to provide operating cash for GM and Chrysler, and to keep making auto loans available for car buyers. Ford Credit planned to use funds from the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF),a government program for auto, student and other consumer loans. In return, the companies promised to fast-track development of energy-efficient vehicles, and consolidate operations. GM and Ford agreed to streamline the number of brands they produced. They also won agreements from the UAW union. The three CEO's agreed to work for $1 a year and sell their corporate jets. Ford made more money in the first six months of this year than in the previous five years combined. G.M. is profitable and preparing for one of the biggest public stock offerings in American history. Even Chrysler, the automaker thought least likely to survive the recession, is hiring new workers.
Let us not forget that he also propelled a “cash for clunkers” program into a successful program of car purchases and, at the same time, an environmental clean-up project, as the emphasis was on aged cars without up-dated emissions controls. Another double-win program was his provision of attractive tax write-offs for those who bought hybrid vehicles.
2) Made education a priority. Most importantly, through a program named Race to the Top, the President spurred reforms by providing states with monetary incentives to make positive changes to their education systems. Race to the Top prompted 48 states to adopt common standards for K-12. He also put emphasis and money behind new ideas like charter schools, funded early learning programs, funded new school construction, funded greater broadband access to K-12 schools, made college more accessible and affordable through significant increases in scholarships and funding, and even allowed eligible students to refinance their student loans.
3) Brought the War in Iraq to an end. Obama has reduced troops in Iraq from a high of 170,000 to about 7,000 (according to CBS News) with the goal of bringing the rest home for the holidays with any remaining troops focused on training Iraqi forces. Moreover, he has not only brought troops home, but done it responsibly giving Iraq a reasonable chance of becoming a stable democratic state in the Middle East. This overlooks the savings that will result from this bold action, except that no one knows exactly what that will be at this time. Ostensibly, billions being spent in Iraq each month will be available to some extent for domestic needs in the near future.
4) Financial Industry reform. Involved in passage of the most sweeping financial industry reform since the Great Depression (Dodd-Frank bill). Although some cite only its inadequacies, the legislation addresses industry issues that helped create the current recession; provides a system to allow the government to break apart large financial institutions that threaten the economy; creates a council of federal regulators to coordinate detection of risks to the financial system; subjects a wider range of financial companies to government oversight; creates a Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to protect citizens from unscrupulous practices; reins in banks’ ability to trade in risky financial instruments such as credit derivatives. Republicans can’t stand these reforms and threaten repeal. They are also holding up the approval of the President’s choice to run the BCFP.
5) Foreign Policy reform. The President visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any other president in his first six months in office; and has continued to repair badly damaged relationships with foreign powers across the globe. He has worked with other nations to fight Global Warming and Nuclear expansion. Closed “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Shifted focus from Iraq to Afghanistan and changed the military command in Afghanistan, putting emphasis on reducing terrorism, development of infrastructure, providing aid, diplomacy, and good government practices, as well as limiting aerial bombing. Ended previous policy on torture and emphasized compliance with Geneva Convention standards. Responded with compassion and leadership to the earthquake in Haiti and nuclear mishap in Japan. Instituted a new policy on visits to Cuba. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel. Sent envoys to the Middle East and other areas that had been neglected; re-engaged in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy; improved relations with Russia, signing an updated START Treaty with that country.
At the same time, he aggressively supported reform movements in several Mid-east countries, put together a coalition to assist with the ouster of Kaddafi in Libya; approved the mission by Navy Seals to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden, as well as other leaders of Al-Qaida, thus weakening the leadership and effectiveness of that terrorist group.
Before we conclude, let us briefly list several other accomplishments in very brief form:
- Made the environment a national priority and a primary source for job creation; ended previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions; energy plants must prepare to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources
- Appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court
- Authorized construction and opening of additional health centers to care for veterans
- Began process of reforming and restructuring the military, including new procurement policies, new technology, cyber units and operation, better body armor, ended policy of no-bid defense contracts
- Closed offshore tax havens
- Ended previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower drug prices; federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings
- Ended tax benefits for corporations who outsource American jobs; new policy supports in-sourcing: incentives to bring jobs back to America
- New consumer protections from credit card industry’s predatory practices
- Support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
- Established a National Performance Officer charged with making federal operations more efficient
- Provided the VA with more than 1.4 billion to improve services to veterans; improved housing for military personnel; brought about improvements to Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals; increased pay and benefits for military personnel
- Increased opportunities for national service through AmeriCorps and national youth service program
- Increased infrastructure spending for roads, bridges, power plants, etc.
- Provided tax credits to first time home buyers to help revitalize U.S. housing market
- Limited salaries of White House Aides and limited them from working as lobbyists after their White House tenure
- New federal funding for science and research labs
- Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful practices and spending
- Missile defense program cut by 1.4 billion in 2010
- Legislation to help homeowners refinance mortgages
- Passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to give equal pay for equal work
- Modernized the food safety system to better prevent food-born illness
- Increased housing for low-income seniors
- National Alzheimer’s Project Act established project within HHS along with an Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s research, care and services
- Provided tax cuts (payroll tax cuts) for 95% of America’s working individuals and families (Republicans are fighting against extension right now)
And the list goes on and on…. Check out http://3chicspolitico.com, www.bspen.com, www.slate.com if you want more. Each of these has been helpful in compiling my own listing. A suitable conclusion is provided by H/T of Newmericans on Politico:
“The list of his accomplishments (is) staggering for any U.S. president -- particularly when you compare him against our more recent US presidents. In less than 2 years, Obama has done what most had said was politically impossible and absolutely essential for us to maintain a competitive economy in the future (universal Health Care), tackled highly challenging and comprehensive economic reforms (Financial Industry reform), and stabilized a very troubling economy. Even if he did not achieve any more legislative accomplishments during the remainder of his tenure, Obama will have had one of the most productive terms of any president in the history of our country.”
“The Truth will set you free” -- to re-elect President Obama! He has a record of accomplishment and leadership that cannot be matched by any of the Republican candidates. To continue to address a broad perspective of needs, the President needs a cooperative Congress, meaning that returning a Republican Congress will surely undermine our recovery and the future of the middle class.