Published October 13, 2010
History books will celebrate Barack Obama as one of the greatest American presidents of all time. If we’re smart, we’ll start celebrating him more now.
President Obama created at least 800,000 jobs and as many as 2.4 million new jobs through emergency economic stimulus, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Perhaps more importantly, faced with an economic crisis of extraordinary proportions --- brought on by failed policies under Republican leadership --- President Obama put the breaks on recession and started the slow climb to recovery. According to a survey of 50 independent economists conducted by USA Today, without the actions taken by President Obama, the unemployment rate would be even higher than it is now and a dire situation would be much, much worse.
But that’s not all. In addition to stopping a bad short-term recession from becoming a full-blown depression, President Obama has paved the way to a better future for all of us in the long-term. Thanks to President Obama, 32 million previously-uninsured Americans now have health insurance and all of us can stop worrying about being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Widespread insurance industry abuses have been curbed and the rise of health care costs, while still significant in our nation, is being slowed thanks to the president’s initiative. Unlike President Bush, who pigeonholed the government into bailing out Wall Street, President Obama has extended unemployment benefits, passed mortgage relief for struggling homeowners and created new incentives for small business while reigning in Wall Street greed and corruption.
Under President Obama, new financial reform laws ensure that big banks can no longer pocket exorbitant profits while passing off the costs of risks to taxpayers. And thanks to the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, our government will rightly make sure that, just like stopping bad beef from poisoning our food supply, toxic financial products won’t trick consumers and poison our economy.
President Obama persuaded BP to put $20 billion into a fund to help Gulf Coast residents recover from the oil spill disaster. The president invested in one of the last bastions of U.S. manufacturing --- the American auto industry --- and rescued General Motors to the point where GM is now selling public stock and repaying the government. And the president ended the War in Iraq, a war that was not only distracting us from needs here at home but contributing to the destabilization and radicalization of the region. And those are just a few of his achievements.
In a slow economy where big businesses are sitting on capital but still refusing to spend and hire because of stagnant demand, the only way to get the economy going is with government spending that creates jobs and puts more money in the hands of working people. Unlike President Bush, who drove up the deficit on war spending which does not stimulate our economy in the long-term, President Obama’s spending has been wisely focused not only on short-term stimulus but also long-term economic growth, which will generate budget surplus in the future and pay down the gap.
At any rate, there was no such grousing about the deficit while President Bush was running it up. In a poll conducted in early 2009 about national priorities, the deficit came in sixth --- after regulating the financial industry, ending the war in Iraq and health care reform. I actually wish President Obama had done even more, just as I wish moderate Democrats in Congress had stronger spines and Republicans weren’t so addicted to obstructionism.
The fact is, in this recession we’ve seen what happens when Wall Street is allowed to write its own rules and run the economy. What worked well for the big banks (profits are still up!) didn’t work well for ordinary Americans. What we’ve needed is a strong leader who understands the role of government in making our nation and our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top --- who can unite us across our differences and inspire us, together, not just to restore the American dream but make it better than ever. Thankfully, no matter how much the Tea Party pretends otherwise, that leader is Barack Obama.
If your family was doing well until recently, you have Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Johnson to thank -- for Social Security, Medicare, workplace safety and collective bargaining laws, home ownership incentives, improvements in public education and access to college and more.
If your children do well a few decades from now, they’ll thank President Obama -- for rescuing our economy, investing in 21st century jobs and infrastructure, reigning in Wall Street abuse, making health care affordable, strengthening education and making sure that if you work hard to make America succeed, you will share a piece of that success.
History will thank President Obama. Approaching the second anniversary of his election, we should all be thanking him now.
Sally Kohn is the Founder and Chief Education Officer of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots popular education organization.