I write this today not because what I have to say is anything new or original but because what I have to say should be emphasized and noted- time and time again.
Last night, history was made. Again. Despite a country so profoundly divided and a sluggish (though recovering) economy, the United States of America re-elected President Barack Obama to remain for a second term. However this was not done by a landslide, not even close. Though Obama certainly gained the higher number of electoral votes (303-206), by the end of the night it still looked as though Mitt Romney was going to win the popular vote, that is until the polls closed on the west coast and the democratic states of California, Oregon and Washington helped Obama to eek out a win on the popular vote by just a couple million votes.
It’s true. People are not as excited as they were in 2008. The economic recovery from the financial crisis has just not been speedy or apparent enough, the unemployment rate is still too high, etc. I don’t disregard these issues as they are important and affect everyone in this country (and around the world) today. What is often over looked by naysayers is just how much Obama has accomplished in his first term and how we got to be in such an economic mess to begin with. Every now and then I’ll see an article here or there that commends President Obama for his accomplishments. So amid the dim, overwhelming news that our economic recovery is going nowhere and to honor his second term victory, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of what good has come of this presidency.
1. Obamacare- I don’t know about you but I don’t have health insurance. I’m a full time waitress but I do not have the option to purchase healthcare through my company. My father is a 63 year old business owner who also cannot pay for health insurance. This is the case for millions of Americans for whom, upon getting sick have no choice but to visit their local urgent care, emergency room or clinic and pay full price for medical care. We’re talking lots of $$$$$. And if you fall off a ladder and break your arm or all of a sudden have to go in for emergency gastroinstestinal surgery? Without health insurance, you might as well put off all dreams of ever buying a home or making any kind of investments, because a trip like that to the hospital could cost you upwards of $100,000. For those of you who live in countries with socialized healthcare- this is no joke.
2. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009- The single largest stimulus investment act since the Great Depression. This act pumped $787 billion into infrastructure, job growth, and the public and private sector to lower unemployment and boost the economy. Still don’t think this is working? Take a look at this chart:
3. He ended the war in Iraq.
4. He took out Osama bin Laden.
5. Saved the U.S. Auto industry.
6. Repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” making it okay for the LGBT community to serve openly in the military.
7. Passed the Student Loan Forgiveness Act allowing those serving in the public sector to have their student loans forgiven after 10 years of consecutive payments.
8. Improved fuel efficiency standards. #climatechangeanyone
9. Tightened sanctions on Iran.
10. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act legislating that women receive equal pay effectively abolishing gender pay discrimination.
11. Signed a nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia.
12. Improved school nutrition.
13. Invested in renewable technology.
14. Passed Wall Street reform to re-regulate financial practices to prevent the conditions that gave birth to the financial crisis.
The list goes on and on…
Given that some of Obama’s largest accomplishments have to do with economic recovery, I find it difficult to hear people complain about how he’s failed us on the issue of the economy. Economic recovery is not something we will see over night. This probably has to do with the fact that its demise was 8 years in the making (and more) long before Obama took office.
A report by the Washington Post published in January 2010 reveals data that shows how the Bush administration (2000-2008) acted with such fiscal irresponsibility, their time in office will go down as the slowest for economic growth in decades.
“[As of Nov. 2009], there has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.”
By the end of George W. Bush’s eight years, his administration took a $236 billion surplus and turned it into a $450 billion deficit. The same report shows that this was largely achieved as a result of “presidential mismanagement.” President Bush Jr. deregulated the banks further and waged two wars, one of which was highly unpopular, mounted international tensions and tarnished relations with the international community. Instead of raising taxes to pay for the War on Terror, he borrowed money plunging the deficit even further.
So why is Obama having such a hard time fixing the economy? Because it was in shambles before he took office. This does not mean to say, however, that he should not be held accountable. He was still elected to do a job and its up to us to ensure that he does it.
The way I look at it is this. When I woke up this morning on November 7th, my life could’ve been very different had Romney been elected. My ability to gain affordable health insurance would’ve been stripped away, my reproductive rights would’ve been diminished and we would live in a world where people of every minority are demonized and denied equal rights (LGBT, women, ethnic minorities, the 47%) by their government. That’s not a world I want to live in. I’ll take a struggling economy any day.