Publius Speaks

Publius Speaks
Become A Follower

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year of Action Despite Detractors

Once again, it is time to look back at the year past.   For President Obama, it was a year full of confrontation and accomplishment.  Republicans made sure that much confronted him negatively.  Here are just a few examples:


1)      Top Washington Republicans hammered President Obama for his handling of North Korea’s cyberattacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment, saying he is slow to respond and has underplayed the impact of the hacking by calling it “cybervandalism.”  Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told “Fox News Sunday” that Obama should already be responding to the attacks instead of just vowing to respond.  On Friday, after Sony halted the distribution of its film “The Interview,” Obama acknowledged the attacks were damaging but said only that “we will respond.”  Rogers, R-Mich., said that Obama’s response before “saying aloha” and embarking on his annual winter break in Hawaii was not the answer. “I don’t think that’s enough,” he said. “Unfortunately, he’s laid out (very) little of the playbook.” (FoxNews.com)

2)      Remember that attack on the President and First Lady when an aide to a congressional rep. from Tennessee called attention to his daughters’ “demeanor” at the turkey pardoning?  Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN.) — you might recall Fincher, he was endorsed by family values Queen Sarah Palin in 2010 – attacked Sasha and Malia Obama on Facebook… “because unlike… pristine role models… conservatives do not put up with teenagers rolling their eyes.”  (politicususa.com)  Lauten said specifically:  “At least respect the part you play.  Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the role model department."

3)      GOP lawmakers plan an early attack against an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. While putting legislation on the floor to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be the Senate's first order of business, incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that limiting or stopping that rule is one of his top legislative priorities.  "I couldn't be angrier about it, and whatever we can think of to try to stop it, we're going to do," the Kentucky Republican told the Associated Press earlier this month, adding, "I know it won't be easy with Barack Obama in the White House." (WashingtonExaminer.com)  The attack began with the Omnibus budget bill in which the EPA came under some cuts that will blunt its reach and authority.

4)      Back in the summer, the Republican-led House Rules Committee debated a draft resolution to file a lawsuit against President Obama, wasting taxpayer dollars in what was plainly a political stunt.  “Their complaint was that President Obama did not implement the employer mandate in Obamacare quickly enough -- that same employer mandate Republicans have berated Obama for, the one in the health care reform law they've voted 54 (failed) times to try to repeal or delay or stall -- the law, incidentally, that's working -- House Republicans are now using taxpayer money to sue President Obama for not implementing it quickly enough.” (Sally Kohn on CNN.com)

5)      The President’s Executive Order to cease certain deportations caught Republican ire rather quickly.  Secretary Jeh Johnson faced a firestorm of questions about the president’s action, which will shield more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and grant them work permits if they meet certain conditions.  Johnson told members of the House Homeland Security Committee that the executive order wasn't illegal and wasn't an amnesty but would require those affected to come forward and register.  "The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not, and have not been for years, prioritized for removal," he said. "It is time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable. This is simple common sense.”  Republicans on the panel said the president was destroying the trust of Congress and the American people by taking unilateral action to allow the parents of American citizen children to stay in the country and to get work permits.  Johnson, however, blamed House Republicans for not passing an immigration reform bill, as the Senate did in 2013.  “I would like to work with Congress on passing a bill," he said. "The president has said that would be his preference. The problem is we have no partner in Congress.” (VOAnews.com)

6)      Of course, the greatest attack against the President came in the general elections of 2014 where in many races this election season, the favorite Republican talking point against Democratic incumbents was how often they voted with President Barack Obama.  The Republican Party of Virginia said Sen. Mark Warner voted with Obama 97 percent of the time, and PolitiFact rated that True. Republican Scott Brown said New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen voted with Obama 99 percent of the time: Mostly True. In Arkansas, Rep. Tom Cotton said Sen. Mark Pryor voted with Obama 93 percent of the time: also Mostly True.  Here's more evidence of just how popular it is: conservative political action committee ‘Americans for Prosperity’ released 14 videos attacking 14 Democratic candidates for the House and Senate — all of them identical, adjusted for the candidate's name and specific presidential support voting record.  Of the 16 Senate races with a Democrat incumbent running for another term, we found that at least 10 Republican challengers have wielded the claim against their opponent.  "That someone votes with Obama — that's all someone needs to hear," said Leonard Steinhorn, an expert in political communication at American University and a former speechwriter. "That association between Obama and the candidate is enough to rally the base." (TampaBay.com)

That is just a taste of the negatives that this President has had to endure from hypocritical, lying, immigrant-hating, bigoted and plutocratic radical Republicans who have essentially admitted or demonstrated every one of those carefully chosen epithets.  The “Big Lie” has been their stock-in-trade, using it whenever they can to ‘tar and feather’ this President and his accomplishments.  They have tried to make scandals of incidents that ended up being reported as ‘scandal-less’ by Congressional reports (Ben Ghazi and IRS).  They have stretched the truth (IRS “scandal”) in an attempt to connect the President to incidents that in essence had no connection to his administration.  In fact, in more than one incident, the fault for “failures” or “scandals” can be traced back to Congressional budget-cutting or inaction, or to the previous administration.  But mainly they have excoriated this President for his ability to have written into law a healthcare reform that has already improved healthcare accessibility for over 10 million formerly uninsured or under-insured citizens. 
In the meantime, the President has labored on, in spite of a dysfunctional and belligerent Congress, to accomplish what he can, when he can.  In fact, his accomplishments are in many respects spectacular, for example: the fact that he had a higher success rate legislatively in his first year than did Lyndon Johnson in 1965, who happens to be known for an ability to wield much influence to get legislation passed.  The score is 96.7% to 93%. 

Just since the mid-term elections of 2014, the President has taken several bold actions that cannot be ignored and for which he receives little credit in the media, but none of it has escaped censure from Republicans. 

1)   On November 10th, six days after the midterms, President Obama announced his support for net neutrality, calling on federal regulators to toughen their proposed net-neutrality laws for the Internet which includes the very controversial step of subjecting broadband providers to stricter utility-like regulation.

2)   On November 11th, he reached a monumental, historic climate deal with China aimed at the reduction of greenhouse gases. The Republicans threw a hissy fit, claiming it’s an imposition on our sovereignty.

3)   On November 20th, he issued an historic executive order which protected millions of undocumented workers from the threat of deportation, and protected families from being torn apart. Once again, it was met with hostility from the Right.

4)   On November 26th, he reached a deal and signed off on regulations with the EPA on limiting ozone emissions.

5)   On December 15th, he oversaw Western sanctions imposed on the regime of Vladimir Putin, bringing the Russian economy to its knees.

6)   On December 16th, the Democrats of the lame-duck Senate confirmed almost all of his pending nominees, including Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy.  In total, over 90 Obama nominees were confirmed in the Senate over the last 3 days.

7)   And finally, on December 17th, with the help of Canada and Pope Francis, President Obama normalized relations with Cuba, effectively bringing a Marxist-Authoritarian government into the capitalist light. Once again, Republicans were outraged. An embargo that has lasted for 50 years will soon be coming to an end.

8)   Not to mention gas is becoming $2 a gallon, unemployment is falling, and the stock market is steady. President Obama has done a miraculous job of holding the country together, even when he faces a Republican Congress in less than a month (addictinginfo.org)

Republicans have criticized everything that this President has said or done with hardly any exceptions.  That one fact ought to make people a bit weary as well as wary.  Could the all-out negativity possibly mean that Republicans actually believe that what the President is doing or has done might be so appealing to the majority of citizens that they must counter it in any way they can?  Or might it just mean they are racially motivated by fear that this first Black President will amass a record that stands out from the run-of-the-mill Republican presidents?  Or, is this their way of “lynching” an innocent black man who outshines their intellect, their abilities at problem-solving, and their exceedingly poor record of legislative accomplishments? 
Finally, let us trace some of his other accomplishments in the year 2014, beyond those already listed as bold steps taken in recent days.  As he promised in his State of the Union speech in January of 2014, this has been a “year of action” with more than 80 new executive actions to help grow the economy, create jobs, address the threat of climate change, and strengthen the middle class.  The President has rallied leaders from business, nonprofits, education, and the community which has resulted in billions of dollars in pledges to expand opportunity for more Americans across the board.

1)   In January 2014, he announced the creation of a high-tech manufacturing institute aimed at creating well-paying jobs.  Speaking to 2,000 students at North Carolina State University, which is leading a group of universities and companies that established the institute, Mr. Obama said it was the kind of innovation that would reinvigorate the nation’s manufacturing economy.

2)   55 consecutive months of job growth, totaling more than 10 million jobs, which is roughly 10,000,000 more jobs than Bush created in eight years.   http://1.usa.gov/1vBDeyC  This is also the longest stretch of private-sector job growth in US history. http://wapo.st/1w3J8Zy

“If you go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site and plug in the data, you will indeed see 54 straight months of job gains in the private sector, after the dizzying drops in the Great Recession.” (WashingtonPost.com)

3)   Ordered all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, leading the way to a national increase. http://wapo.st/1iaU5kd.  The Department of Labor issued a final rule in October, raising the minimum wage for workers on new Federal contracts issued after January 1, 2015 to $10.10 an hour, and indexing it to inflation beginning in 2016.

4)   February 19, 2014 – “President Obama is making another move to flex his policy muscle outside of the gridlock of Congress, this time signing an executive order to streamline the processes required for small and medium-sized businesses to export American goods and services to other countries.  On Air Force One this morning, Obama signed an executive order to complete the International Trade Data System, a digital trade record book, by 2016. What that means is that instead of having to wait days on end for paperwork to be processed by countless government agencies, businesses will be able to file all of the paperwork digitally in one electronic location.” (Entrepeneur.com)

5)   Also in February, President Obama directed the Administration to set new standards to cut fuel use and carbon pollution from medium and heavy-duty vehicles. The standards will be proposed by March 2015 and completed by March 2016.

6)   Led the country to 64 consecutive months of economic expansion, eclipsing Reagan’s record, by far.  http://onforb.es/1sxJ2by. 

7)   Oversaw a reduction in the dollar amount of the federal budget deficit by two-thirds since taking office. http://bit.ly/1xKMmjY.

8)   Reduced the federal budget deficit from 9.8% of GDP in Fiscal Year 2009 under Bush, to 2.9% of GDP in FY 2014.  http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45653

9)   Although established in 2009, a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities still exists in 2014 and continues to be full of community and national service news and opportunities.  http://www.serve.gov

10) In June, the Administration proposed the Clean Power Plan, which will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. Power plants are the largest single source of carbon pollution, accounting for about one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Power Plan will set standards for carbon pollution from power plants, just as we have set limits on power plant emissions of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and soot.

11) In September, the White House announced new private sector commitments and executive actions to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon globally through 2025, which is like taking 15 million cars from the road for 10 years.  HFCs are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration and are one of the most harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

12) In June, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum allowing all borrowers with direct student loans to cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of their income, and in September,  the Department of Education began the process to change its regulations with a goal of making the “Pay As You Earn” plan available by next December, allowing nearly 5 million additional federal student loan borrowers the opportunity to benefit.

13) In October, the Administration announced the final “gainful employment” rules. These rules will protect hundreds of thousands of students by ensuring that federal money isn’t used to pay for training that leads to unaffordable debts and poor employment prospects.

14) In June 2013, the President launched ConnectED, setting a vision for transforming K-12 teaching and learning by infusing classrooms with technology—starting with an ambitious goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to high-speed broadband and wireless in the classroom within five years.

• In 2014, twelve companies have made major commitments to ConnectED totaling over $2 billion—with hardware, software, content, and wireless commitments already in use by teachers and students in all fifty states.
• In February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it would be investing $2 billion toward Wi-Fi connectivity over two years, benefitting 20 million students in schools and libraries.
• In November, more than 1,200 superintendents signed a pledge committing their schools to the ConnectED vision of digital learning, reaching 10 million students in 16,000 schools.
• In December, the FCC voted to devote the full measure of resources needed to fund ConnectED’s vision for school connectivity for all, putting the nation on track to meet the President’s goal of connecting 99 percent of students’ classrooms by 2018.
Also in December, the President convened state and local policymakers, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, and advocates for the White House Summit on Early Education.

15)   The President has made significant progress toward his proposal for a national network
of innovative manufacturing institutes. Each of these institutes serves as a regional hub,
bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together
companies, universities, and others to co-invest in technology areas that lead to new,
advanced manufacturing capabilities. Today, the President’s network—more than halfway to his original goal of 15 institutes—is already producing results and was recently authorized into law by bipartisan legislation.

• The President met his State of the Union commitment to launch four new manufacturing hubs this year.   Eight institutes are now underway—representing more than $1 billion of public-private investment—bringing us more than halfway to the President’s original goal of 15.
• Building on the President’s proposal, in December, a bipartisan coalition of legislators passed the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI) to formally authorize the network of national hubs into law.
 
So many more accomplishments to list, and so little space to do so!  Instead, I offer this link to a Calendar of Executive Actions undertaken in 2014 each listed by the specific date they were acted upon. It’s worth a look at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/yoadec2014.pdf.  Some of what I have listed above is based on material from this site.
For an even further look, and somewhat of an adventure, I refer you to the PCTC Blog (Please Cut the Crap Blog) on which I based some of the material presented above: http://www.pleasecutthecrap.com This Blog’s author takes offense to the suggestion that President Obama has not performed well or that he is not “progressive” enough.  He has therefore undertaken a project that not only lists 276 accomplishments by the President, but a citation or link for each one of them!  It’s an amazing list, and once again shows the deviousness of conservative Republicans who are constantly trying to paint our President as a failure, as lazy, or as incompetent. 

This is a president with an amazing record of accomplishment in the face of a dysfunctional Congress led by men and women who no longer represent the constituencies who elected them, but instead choose to represent a constituency of wealthy supporters who are trying to gain control through those representatives of everything that government does and of everything that it does not do, so they can control the economic wealth of this country to their own ends and for their own aggrandizement. 

The one thing that voters must understand is that this is not a game.  This is a war; a war being waged against the forces of progressive and democratic ideals in order to ensure an unfair advantage to the 1% who are already in control of most of our policies, regulations and procedures.  If you happen to be one of the “Bamboozled,” I refer you to Lawrence Lessig’s book titled “Republic, Lost” for an in-depth look at this thesis.  Lessig writes: “It is critical to everything in this book: changes in government policy…account for the radical change in the distribution of American wealth.  This isn’t the rich getting richer because they’re smarter or working harder.  It is the connected getting richer because their lobbyists are working harder. It is clear that the government bends in the direction that the funders prefer, and against – often, but not always – the people.”
President Obama has tried valiantly to correct some of these Right-wing excesses and abuses of our system.  Unfortunately, not enough potential voters or actual voters have understood the threat that exists, or the in-depth measures he has taken to protect our citizens and our democratic values and principles.  It is far past time to recognize and to praise his many accomplishments.