Are we better off today? We can parse the numbers and shift the start dates, but no amount of fiddling will change this: the nation is angry and divided, and our people are pessimistic. President Obama has depressed our nation, in part because we had hope. We hoped that an inexperienced young African American man could heal the country and bring us together. He promised to do so, and we believed him – even many of us who hadn’t voted for him. Honestly, what were we thinking?
We were thinking that this is the greatest nation on earth, and our problems are solvable. We were thinking that Barack Obama was the man to solve them. He would partner with Republicans, as had his predecessor Bill Clinton, and together our political leaders would leap into action. That’s what we expected, because that is what he promised. We did not take into consideration that this president had no real life experience of the sort that might matter- no management background, no business expertise. Really, these things are important when you are expected to lead a country though a financial crisis.
Today, there are innumerable signs of the country’s disappointment. For instance, we are having fewer babies – surely one of the most personal votes for the future. Our birthrate is estimated to hit a 25-year low this year, as the economic slide engendered the most profound kind of pessimism.
How about the mood among small business owners, which after rallying in the early years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, has been sliding for months and is well below the historical average? According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, “during the economic recovery, now three-years-old, the Index has averaged 90, making this the worst recovery period from a recession in the NFIB survey history (which began in 1973).” That can’t be good.
We are also less confident in our institutions – even those that have nothing to do with the economy. Confidence in religion, for instance, is at an all-time low. Only 44% of Americans believe in the church or organized religion, according to Gallup, down from 52% in 2009. Confidence in our public schools also hit a new record low this year. Only 29% of Americans are positive about our schools -- compared to 33% four years ago.
In fact, we as a nation are pretty down on our police, big business, organized labor, newspapers, the Supreme Court, Congress and banks; confidence in each is way below historical averages.
How about this one? Only 37% of Americans express confidence in the presidency – as an institution – compared with 45% in the past. Faith in big government? At 30%- a new low, and down from 41% in 2008.
These are terrible signs. A country that has little faith in its governing institutions will not rally behind those institutions. Such lack of confidence saps our willingness to abide by our laws and could eventually lead to increased corruption.
Is President Obama to blame for this slide? No, but he surely hasn’t done anything to reverse it.
The tales of monies being funneled to Obama donors in the green energy space, the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the nonsensical hand-outs discovered in the stimulus, the explosion in food stamp spending, the willingness of the president to circumvent the law through executive orders, the questionable use of drones to kill persons unknown, the political cowardice that has blocked the Senate from enacting a budget – the list goes on and on.
Principally, however, the nation is discouraged by our inability to get back on track. We are not creating jobs sufficient to put our people back to work; our president has not made that his top priority. Instead, he chased after a legacy – universal health care. Over that picked-over carcass of rotten ideas swirled the vultures of division. The dishonest presentation of the bill, the cheating on the numbers, the bribes paid for votes – nothing could have more quickly soured the nation’s enthusiasm for this president. It roiled the country when we should have been joining forces to move forward – to invest and spend. Instead, the nation hunkered down, fearful of a future clouded by trillion-dollar deficits.
This is President Obama’s legacy.
Many lament the chasm that has widened between Democrats and Republicans, but few have blamed President Obama. And yet, it was the health care battle that galvanized the nascent Tea Party and pushed Republicans further to the right.
It was Obama’s push to widen the burgeoning safety net that alarmed the public and dropped budget discussions into the middle of our political discourse.
It was his disparagement of the business community that created more factions. It was his continued suggestion that the rich are not paying their fair share that bred envy in the land.
Are we worse off? Yes, we are a discouraged nation. Some 63% of the country thinks we are on the wrong track. Who can blame them?