It’s been a quarter of a year now, a little more, since the end of the Obama Presidency. The contrast, and the events that occupy most of our time relating to politics that give us that enormous contrast, lead us to believe that our future may be quite bleak.
So let’s assign a couple of credits right out of the barrel to President Obama. In fact, let’s give him three.
1. He saved America from a giant depression.
First of all, he came to school prepared. When he was persuaded that his election was likely, in late 2008, it is pretty clear that he and his staff focused on what was going to be necessary to save the country from disaster. Later on we can talk about what he did internationally and domestically, but his first job was to save the country. And he did.
Over 700,000 people a month were losing their jobs when he walked through the doors of the White House in January of 2009. By October, job losses had been matched by job gains and the country was beginning to turn around. Unemployment had risen to over 10% and the budget was in deficit, not just for 2009, but as far ahead as the country could see, by over a trillion dollars a year.
It would be four years before he could bring those Bush-Cheney deficits down under a trillion dollars. And in the meantime, the national debt, once balanced under President Clinton, had gone from $5.6 trillion to over $12 trillion. And because of the Great Bush-Cheney Stock Market Collapse and Recession, trillion-dollar deficits would go on for the next four years and add another $4 trillion to the national debt.
It should be noted that President Obama asked for about a trillion dollars in fiscal support from Congress to jump-start the economy but only received about $800 billion of which $300 billion was another worthless Republican tax cut, as useless as the tiny stimuli that George W Bush had enacted during his tenure. Bush and Cheney had cut taxes twice, resulting in huge deficits between 2001 and 2008.
2. He had a vision for the future of health care.
Number two, he saw an enormous problem with health care delivery in this country, causing people to go to emergency rooms for what were doctors visits for others. Bankruptcies from medical bills…unheard of in the rest of the world….reached an astonishing 500,000 per year! Health insurance premiums, despite the fact that corporations were subsidizing half or more of premiums and government was subsidizing corporations were going up at 10-15% per year, every single year.
President Obama saw a future in which with everyone in the health care system, prices would be reduced services would be expanded and health for all Americans would be improved. He decided to create a new, more comprehensive system of health care, setting health care delivery on a path to universal coverage over time and reducing the numbers of those uncovered in the short term to fewer than 15 million out of 312 million people. The same economic forces that crushed the Clinton attempt at health care reform came out in force, from the Galen Institute and Newt Gingrich to America’s Health Care Plans, the health insurance lobby struck out against health care reform. In 2009 alone, it was estimated that Republicans plus the one or two turncoat Democrats received over half a billion dollars in campaign contributions to persuade them to vote against universal health care for all Americans. And it almost worked.
But with only one vote to spare, the House passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate passed it barely and the President signed it into law. Even then, after a year of discussion, debate, obstruction and over 400 proposed amendments, after a televised discussion with key Republicans asking for their specific input, at which none, not one single suggestion other than total repeal was forthcoming, it barely passed, with only one Republican vote.
Beginning in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 various aspects of Obamacare, as it came to be known, were phased in. Each new element in the system introduced greater security, lower cost and expanded opportunity for American citizens. In this uniquely American compromise between existing private health care plans and a totally public system, like the many national health care systems around the world, there were many faults.
Not the least among these was the fact that elected government officials, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, could…and he did…find ways to defund the early government guarantees to health insurance companies that they would not be penalized for making wrong assumptions about the costs of health care on the newe system. This wasn’t new. Government supports all manner of things to move legislation forward, in agriculture, in environmental cleanup, in veterans health and many areas. But suddenly Senator Rubio was worried about a couple of billion dollars being used to protect premiums for the health insurance companies that were helping Americans find more affordable health care.
The result of Rubio’s amendment to an appropriations bill was that, without subsidies, health insurance companies could raise rates through the roof with the justification that they could not afford to provide health insurance at the rates that they previously had calculated. Other companies, promised these “corridor” payments to help them form companies to address the lack of insurance coverage were soon run out of business, leaving huge geographic gaps in coverage all over the country, and increased premiums in many of the areas where there was coverage.
People didn’t blame the lying little weasel, the insurance-industry pandering Rubio. They blamed Obamacare, and rather than appealing to Congress not to support Rubio’s amendment, and not forcing the media to answer the question…what is suddenly causing prices to go out of control…they blamed the best health care ever offered in this country. They elected a lying, disreputable cheat as President, a Neo-Fascist, Right Wing religious nut as Vice President and an appointed group of cabinet members more corrupt than any since the turn of the 20th Century.
Obamacare, the great experiment to see whether Americans could, in fact, govern themselves in -the best interest of society, or instead give up government to the rich and powerful, had failed. Obamacare, the People’s health care program, was dormant, and the Republicans in the House passed an anti-health healthcare plan that finally paid off the health insurance industry and all the health care lobbyists by reducing coverage for every single American.
3. He restored dignity and honor to the office of the President and Vice President.
Not only did President Obama enter office with the worst economic disaster underway since the Great Depression but he also was left with two wars to fight. The first war, a response to the disastrous attack on the U.S. by terrorists on September 11, 2001, was in Afghanistan, a place on the planet that is perhaps the least attractive and accessible in which to fight a war of any country anywhere. The second war was an unnecessary and totally aggressive war on Iraq that we now know was almost totally driven by the panic on some of our Neo-Fascist politicians, like Dick Cheney, to continue to control the oil supplies in the Middle East.
Cheney, the man who had been behind Bush’s Presidency from the start and who had been sent in by the oil industry chieftans, to get him elected and start a war for oil, had decided that if he could accomplish the election of someone as simple-minded as George W. Bush, it would mean that the American people could be manipulated to do whatever Cheney wanted to do internationally. With some difficulty created by concerned citizens and a handful of suspicious journalists and dedicated Americans at large, he was able to railroad through a series of false documents and accusations against Iraq, based largely on the hysteria surrounding the sneak attack on the U.S. in September of 2001.
The result was the ultimate destruction of Iraq, the loss of life and displacement of millions of Iraq citizens tens of thousands of Americans wounded, thousands dead and the creation of an entirely new form of anti-American enemy, the terrorist organization. When Obama became President, he wound down both wars to the point that mass destruction was ended, American troops, insofar as possible were removed from Iraq and Afghanistan, and people around the world began to believe, for a time, that the United States was not a large-scale aggressive nation at the events of the past 8 years had caused them to believe. President Obama began to tour the world to let people know that we would exit countries where we had been an aggressor yet maintain a military presence to help those countries that were by then beset by terrorist organizations.
Under President Obama, our military and international intelligence organizations tracked down and killed the ringleader of the attacks on our mainland, Osama Bin Laden. He removed troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and supported those in Syria who were being murdered by the dictator of that country, retaining only as many troops in the Middle East as were necessary to train those who would fight terrorists and dictators. At home, he restored a feeling of justice and good will and by acting as a lighting rod for racists began to teach us that our racism is far from over but is, in fact, alive and growing here in many areas of the United States.
After a meeting of Republican Senators and Congressmen on President Obama’s first inauguration day, whose publicly stated purpose was to deny the President and Democrats any measure of success at all in governing, Senator McConnell and Congressman John Boehner set out to deny the American People any legislation on jobs or improved economic conditions or any progressive, populist actions that would improve American lives. They denied social services an unemployment insurance and assistance in the form of any foreclosure assistance to the millions of Americans ruined by Bush-Cheney policies.
By 2012, without any Republican help at all, President Obama had begun to restore the American economy. The stock market had climbed dramatically. Homes and mortgages were again available. Jobs were available and unemployment reduced to under 6 percent. The United States was respected around the world and the American Presidency had again beacon of light for fairness and justice and true compassion. So much more could have been done had the Republicans been willing to cooperate. But, with the huge support of global corporate interests and Right Wing billionaires determined to eliminate the Middle Class, the Citizens United ruling by a corporate Supreme Court ruined any chance the people may have had to eliminate the propaganda that appealed to the huge numbers of uneducated, highly fanatic populations showing their strength across the country. Once again, America succumbed to racism and nihilism and aggression and ignorance. President Obama will perhaps, depending upon who survives to write the histories, earn his proper place as one of the wisest and most courageous Presidents in our history. But only time will tell if the country itself, as a Democratic Republic, will survive.
So if we look back in anger at the obstruction by the Republicans we first see the now famous statement by the pompous, remarkably often-elected Senator from Kentucky, we see the restoration of the Humpty-Dumpty Bush-Cheney economic disaster, the restoration of our image around the world, until the inauguration of Trump, We can be proud of our President and his legacy, those parts that could not be destroyed by the global billionaires who live here at least part of the year. We can look back with a certain amount of pride at those things that could be accomplished by our first Black President, over the obstructions of a racist, Neo-Fascist, Republican Congress.