OK, so it’s been 3.5 years since we voted B. Obama into office. Should we get off the couch and work to re-elect him on his own merits? Has progress been made? Seriously.
1. Passed Health Care Reform. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than has been accomplished since the New Deal. 32 million Americans covered that weren’t before. Pre-existing conditions? Gone. You can’t be denied health-care anymore. This is just huge.
2. Repaired the Economy from Worst Recession in History. It took balls to pass and sign the $787 billion Stimulus package. As soon as that dough go into the economy, unemployment went down. Now we’re creating more private sector jobs than are being lost (not public sector, because we’re reigning in that spending) for the last 23 months.
3. Passed Wall Street Reform: Implemented the Consumer Protection Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform. Compared to the 8 previous years, Wall Street is being reigned in rather than let loose. Limits banks ability to trade for profit using customer dough; tightened capital requirements; implemented Bank stress tests. Cracked down on abusive lending practices.
4. Ended the War in Iraq. Yeah. That’s pretty fucking big. Cleaned up that unbelievable mess. Ordered all U.S. military forces out of the country. Last troops left on December 18, 2011.
5. Is Ending the War in Afghanistan. From a peak of 101,000 troops in June 2011, U.S. forces are now down to 91,000, with 23,000 slated to leave by the end of summer 2012. According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the combat mission there will be over by next year.
6. Got Osama bin laden: Uh, yeah. In 2011, ordered special forces raid of secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which the terrorist leader was killed and a trove of al-Qaeda documents was discovered.
7. Saved the U.S. Auto Industry. In 2009, injected $62 billion in federal money (on top of $13.4 billion in loans from the Bush administration) into ailing GM and Chrysler in return for equity stakes and agreements for massive restructuring. Since bottoming out in 2009, the auto industry has added more than 100,000 jobs. In 2011, the Big Three automakers all gained market share for the first time in two decades. The government expects to lose $16 billion of its investment, less if the price of the GM stock it still owns increases.
8. Recapitalized Banks. In the midst of financial crisis, approved controversial Treasury Department plan to lure private capital into the country’s largest banks via “stress tests” of their balance sheets and a public-private fund to buy their “toxic” assets. Got banks back on their feet at essentially zero cost to the government.
9. Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Cleaned up this mess from Clinton. Gays are now welcome in the US Military.
10. Toppled Moammar Gaddafi: Uh, yeah. Even Reagan tried and couldn’t do this. No American lives were lost in all the combat mission that were flown and covert aid that was supplied to the rebels.
11. Told Mubarak to Go and Mubarak is Gone. On February 1, 2011, publicly called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to accept reform or step down, thus weakening the dictator’s position and putting America on the right side of the Arab Spring. Mubarak ended thirty-year rule when overthrown on February 11.
12. Reversed Bush Torture Policies. Two days after taking office, nullified Bush-era rulings that had allowed detainees in U.S. custody to be tortured. Doing the right thing.
13. Improved America’s Image Abroad: With new policies, diplomacy, and rhetoric, reversed a sharp decline in world opinion toward the U.S. (and the corresponding loss of “soft power”) during the Bush years. From 2008 to 2011, favorable opinion toward the United States rose in ten of fifteen countries surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, with an average increase of 26 percent.
14. Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program, Expanded Pell Grant Spending: Unbelievable - Bush had been subsidizing banks to provide college loans. Starting July 2010 all students began getting their federal student loans directly from the federal government. Treasury will save $67 billion over ten years, $36 billion of which will go to expanding Pell Grants to lower-income students.
15. Created Race to the Top: With funds from stimulus, started $4.35 billion program of competitive grants to encourage and reward states for education reform.
16. Boosted Fuel Efficiency Standards: Released new fuel efficiency standards in 2011 that will nearly double the fuel economy for cars and trucks by 2025.
17. Passed Mini Stimuli: To help families hurt by the recession and spur the economy as stimulus spending declined, signed series of measures (July 22, 2010; December 17, 2010; December 23, 2011) to extend unemployment insurance and cut payroll taxes.
18. Increased Support for Veterans: The Bush record on veterans was disgraceful. With so many soldiers coming home from Iraq and Iran with serious physical and mental health problems, yet facing long waits for services, increased 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs budget by 16 percent and 2011 budget by 10 percent. Also signed new GI bill offering $78 billion in tuition assistance over a decade, and provided multiple tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans.
19. Tightened Sanctions on Iran: In effort to deter Iran’s nuclear program, signed Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (2010) to punish firms and individuals who aid Iran’s petroleum sector. In late 2011 and early 2012, coordinated with other major Western powers to impose sanctions aimed at Iran’s banks and with Japan, South Korea, and China to shift their oil purchases away from Iran.
20. Created Conditions to Begin Closing Dirtiest Power Plants: New EPA restrictions on mercury and toxic pollution, issued in December 2011, likely to lead to the closing of between sixty-eight and 231 of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Estimated cost to utilities: at least $11 billion by 2016. Estimated health benefits: $59 billion to $140 billion. Will also significantly reduce carbon emissions and, with other regulations, comprises what’s been called Obama’s “stealth climate policy.”
21. Eliminated Catch-22 in Pay Equality Laws: Signed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, giving women who are paid less than men for the same work the right to sue their employers after they find out about the discrimination, even if that discrimination happened years ago. Under previous law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the statute of limitations on such suits ran out 180 days after the alleged discrimination occurred, even if the victims never knew about it.
22. Protected Two Liberal Seats on the U.S. Supreme Court: Nominated and obtained confirmation for Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and third woman to serve, in 2009; and Elena Kagan, the fourth woman to serve, in 2010. They replaced David Souter and John Paul Stevens, respectively.
23. Improved Food Safety System: In 2011, signed FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which boosts the Food and Drug Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion and expands its regulatory responsibilities to include increasing number of food inspections, issuing direct food recalls, and reviewing the current food safety practices of countries importing products into America.
24. Achieved New START Treaty: Signed with Russia (2010) and won ratification in Congress (2011) of treaty that limits each country to 1,550 strategic warheads (down from 2,200) and 700 launchers (down from more than 1,400), and reestablished and strengthened a monitoring and transparency program that had lapsed in 2009, through which each country can monitor the other.
25. Expanded National Service: Signed Serve America Act in 2009, which authorized a tripling of the size of AmeriCorps. Program grew 13 percent to 85,000 members across the country by 2012, when new House GOP majority refused to appropriate more funds for further expansion.
26. Expanded Wilderness and Watershed Protection: Signed Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (2009), which designated more than 2 million acres as wilderness, created thousands of miles of recreational and historic trails, and protected more than 1,000 miles of rivers.
27. Re-Oriented Defense Priorities: Cut the Reagan-era “Star Wars” missile defense budget, saving $1.4 billion in 2010, and canceled plans to station antiballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of sea-based defense plan focused on Iran and North Korea. Killed the F-22, which cost $384million each but have never flown a combat mission. Increased cyber-warfare and intelligence spending. Cut troops from 570k to 490k.
28. Let Space Shuttle Die and Killed Planned Moon Mission: Allowed the expensive ($1 billion per launch), badly designed, dangerous shuttle program to make its final launch on July 8, 2011. Cut off funding for even more bloated and problem-plagued Bush-era Constellation program to build moon base in favor of support for private-sector low-earth orbit ventures, research on new rocket technologies for long-distance manned flight missions, and unmanned space exploration, including the largest interplanetary rover ever launched, which will investigate Mars’s potential to support life.
29. Invested Heavily in Renewable Technology: As part of the 2009 stimulus, invested $90 billion, more than any previous administration, in research on smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels.
30. Avoided Scandal: As of November 2011, served longer than any president in decades without a scandal, as measured by the appearance of the word “scandal” (or lack thereof) on the front page of the Washington Post.
31. Created Recovery.gov: Created serious transparency for citizens on government spending. Create a Web site run by independent board of inspectors general looking for fraud and abuse in stimulus spending, provides public with detailed information on every contract funded by $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Thanks partly to this transparency, board has uncovered very little fraud, and Web site has become national model: “The stimulus has done more to promote transparency at almost all levels of government than any piece of legislation in recent memory,” reports Governing magazine.
32. Pushed Broadband Coverage: Proposed and obtained in 2011 Federal Communications Commission approval for a shift of $8 billion in subsidies away from landlines and toward broadband Internet for lower-income rural families.
33. Expanded Health Coverage for Children: Signed 2009 Children’s Health Insurance Authorization Act, which allows the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover health care for 4 million more children, paid for by a tax increase on tobacco products.
34. Expanded Stem Cell Research: In 2009, eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which shows promise in treating spinal injuries, among many other areas. This is a huge reverse from the Republicans who have worked tirelessly to stop stem cell research.