By K. K. Wilson
Is President Obama really America’s worst president? This would seem like the definitive conclusion of the American people based on recent events. A poll came out a few months ago that rated Obama at the bottom of all modern US presidents. President Bush, whose approval rating stood at 22 percent when he left office, was declared a better president than Obama according to that poll. Another poll concluded that the American people believed Mitt Romney would have made a better president. The Press even created the scurrilous title of “Liar of the Year” purposely to confer upon Obama. This onslaught against Obama culminated in a historic defeat of the Democratic Party in the midterm elections where republicans increased their majority in the House of Representatives and toppled the Democrat-led Senate to become the new Senate majority.
The republican oppositions in the recent midterm election cycle simply had to utter the name of the imaginary boogeyman — “Obama” — without even delineating their political agenda and they would instantly lead their Democratic opponents in the polls. That is how toxic and reviled the American people considered Obama. Even members of the president’s own party went to great length to alienate him in their efforts to inoculate themselves against the antipathy the American people hold against this president. But is there a rational basis for the low esteem with which the American people hold America’s first black president? To answer this question, it is important to look at some of the key measures — economic policy, domestic policy, foreign policy — by which the American people judge a president’s performance.
Contrary to the baffling conclusions of the American people, Obama is categorically one of America’s most accomplished presidents. None of Obama’s modern-day counterparts inherited anything closed to the economic debacle that he did. To give this some perspective, the former republican Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, recently declared in court documents that, “Sept and Oct of 2008 was the worst financial crises in global history, including the Great Depression.” Bernanke should know. In addition to being the Fed chairman who presided over the Bush Great Recession, he is America’s preeminent authority on the topic of the Great Depression. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject. This squarely places the Bush Great Recession on par with the Great Depression of the 1930s, the hallmark of America’s worst economy.
Taking a snapshot of the economy Obama inherited, the entire American economy was in cardiac arrest at the inception of the Obama presidency. This was brought about by the complete meltdown of the housing market which was instigated by greedy, exploitive schemes concocted by Wall St. The Republican president’s declared policy of zero-regulation of Wall St. left unscrupulous bankers guided by their predatory impulses. The near-collapse of the American housing market and the a complete economic meltdown were the outcomes of this folly.
The economy was shedding 800,000 jobs per month. The unemployment rate shot up to 10% within months of Obama’s presidency. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 6000 and in a free fall. The US dollar fell to historic lows. Venerable American corporations were on their deathbeds. The banking and auto industries were imploding. The federal deficit stood at record highs. The entire world economy was in a recession.
America was embroiled in two wars simultaneously, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraq war alone was costing the American taxpayers $2 billion a week. Upwards of 400,000 people perished from that war. The great American military had been floundering against a bunch of rag tag insurgents in Iraq for nearly eight years. Progress on the Afghanistan front was nonexistent. Al Qaeda was at the height of its fame, perplexing the Great United States. Osama bin Laden was making weekly videos taunting America as a paper tiger.
This was the perilous state of affairs of the America that Obama inherited from his predecessor, George Bush. At no time in recent American history had the economy been this disastrous. No other modern-day American president had ever inherited a situation so dire. Then to add insult to injury, before President Obama even set foot in the Oval Office, the republican leaders gathered and concluded in that meeting that their strategy in dealing with this president would be to block absolutely everything he tried to accomplish. Even before he gave them any reason at all to oppose him. And this was in the throes of America’s worst economy when Americans were losing their jobs at the rate of 800,000 a month, a predicament which was brought on by the leadership of a republican president. So not only was Obama faced with America’s worst economy, he was also confronted with a republican party that intended to ensure that America did not make any economic progress under his presidency.
Republicans accumulated the highest number of filibusters in the history of the American Senate (400+) in their efforts to block any progress that President Obama tried to accomplish on behalf of the American people and to make him a failed president. This is more filibusters than accrued under all other US presidents combined. In the throes of the worst economy in modern American history, they declared that making this president fail was their number-one goal. In the House of Representatives where republicans assumed leadership in 2010, they literally shut down the government for the last four years to ensure that President Obama did not achieve any success.
Republicans were willing to endure the dubious distinction of America’s least productive House of Representatives in history if it meant they could successfully undermine the Obama presidency. They rebuffed every policy he tried to implement, warning the American people that if Obama’s policies were implemented, America would become like Greece. They blocked every form of economic progress including the perennial bipartisan effort of repairing America’s roads and bridges. They blocked their own bills from becoming law because it would mean Obama would sign a successful bill into law. They orchestrated plans that saw one million civil service jobs cut from the economy. Who deliberately cuts jobs from the economy during the worst recession in history? This hostility toward this president was simply unprecedented, especially when America was facing its worst economic period in recent memory.
By any barometer, Obama inherited the worst economy of any modern American president. It is difficult to encapsulate the extent of the disaster that Obama inherited from President Bush. To say it was a catastrophe of biblical proportion would be an understatement. Under no other recent president did the fate of the American economy hang directly on the policies that would be instituted by the president. Businesses could not invest in the economy because they were collapsing by the droves. Consumers could not spend in the economy. They had no jobs. The entire fate of the economy hung on the policies that this president would put into place. It is important at this juncture to examine the results of the policies Obama implemented to restore the then ailing American economy.
Of all countries in the global recession, America was the second fastest to recover with Germany being the first. Greece still hasn’t recovered. So much for republicans’ assertions that America would become Greece.
The economy went from losing 800,000 jobs per month under Bush to having created 10.3 million jobs under Obama.
All private sector jobs lost during the Bush recession have been recovered under Obama. Had republicans not orchestrated the cut of one million civil service jobs, all jobs lost during the recession would have been restored at this point.
The unemployment rate that peaked to 10% within months of Obama taking office is now down to 5.8%.
The GDP has gone from -9% under Bush to +4.6% under Obama, a +13.6% turnaround — one of the highest under any president. And maybe the highest that was not spurred by war spending.
There has been 64 successive months of economic expansion under Obama.
The Dow Jones, the flagship indicator of the financial market, has gone from as lows as 6000 and a free-fall under Bush to 17000+ under Obama.
The US dollar has gone from more than a 50-year low under Bush to a 6-year high under Obama.
Corporations that were on their deathbeds during Bush are now making record profits under Obama.
The American auto and banking industries that were facing total collapse under Bush are now vibrant industries under Obama.
The imploding housing market during Bush that was the source of the economic meltdown is now profitable again under Obama.
Today, 700,000 genuine manufacturing jobs have been created under Obama after millions of jobs were outsourced under Bush, who then suggested to Congress that fast food jobs should be counted as manufacturing jobs.
The federal deficit that stood at record high under Bush has now been reduced by more than half under Obama.
Gas prices are at record lows. America is less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last 30 years. Domestic productions are at record highs.
While the economy has not fully recovered from the depths of the Bush Great Recession, these are no doubt monumental achievements. Given the abysmal lows to which the economy had sunk, it will take the efforts of several presidents to restore America to its full economic glory. But unequivocally, Obama has made his contribution and then some.
One of the foremost complaints against Obama is that the wages of Americans are not rising. But in this current predatory configuration of American Capitalism (95% of all wealth created in America have gone to the richest 5% for the past several decades) how will wages for the American people rise? Even in the world’s most exploitive dictatorships, such a lopsided distribution of wealth could not be replicated. And this is supported by policies protected by Republicans in Congress. They have rebuffed the president’s proposal to ensure that Americans receive a livable wage of at least $10 per hour. The current federal minimum wage in America is $7.25 per hour with the effective rates even lower in some states. The minimum wage in neighboring Canada is nearly $12 per hour in comparison. Paradoxically, the American people blame Obama for their stagnant wages but elected the party whose policies keep them at paltry wages.
The president’s healthcare policy, Obamacare, has been the most contentious domestic issue of his presidency. He embarked on addressing healthcare because more than 40 million Americans went without adequate healthcare coverage. Of those that had insurance, they could lose their insurance at the whims of an insurance company executive who decided that they were costing the insurance company too much money. Presidents for 100 years have tried unsuccessfully to ensure that all Americans had affordable healthcare. Due to the exorbitant and ever-rising cost of healthcare, Americans were threatened with the prospect of bankruptcy in the event of any serious illness. Obama finally succeeded in this endeavor that was a pipe dream for many presidents before him.
Republicans continue their vigorous fight to derail Obama healthcare policy with over fifty votes taken in the House to repeal his healthcare law. They shut down the government in the Senate costing billions of dollars to the economy because the president would not let them kill his signature achievement. Their major contention is that the cost of the president’s plan is fiscally prohibitive.
Republicans recent estimate of Obamacare concludes it will cost taxpayers $130 billion over the next decade. This must be taken with a huge grain of salt because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare will cost $100 billion over the same period. But even if republicans’ estimate were given credence, they were squandering $2 billion a week on an ongoing war in Iraq. The cost of one year of war in Iraq could nearly defray the cost of ten years of healthcare for Americans. With this perspective, can any sane person call Obamacare a bad investment? But the more crucial question is: how has Obamacare performed so far in its one-year of existence?
Obamacare has reduced the ranks of the uninsured in America by 25%, a historic low.
Obamacare has slowed down the ever-rising healthcare cost. The cost of healthcare is now rising at the slowest pace in 50 years.
Obamacare has extended the life of Medicare and Medicaid by about 20 years as opposed to the 5 years that was previously forecast.
Because of Obamacare, hospitals will saved $5.7 billion this year as opposed to losing $8.7 billion annually from treating the uninsured.
Obamacare ensures that Americans can no longer be kicked off their insurance when they get sick as was the case under the previous system.
Obamacare ensures that Americans can no longer be denied health insurance due to preexisting illnesses.
An Obamacare provision stipulates that 80% of all premiums collected by insurance companies must go toward caring for consumers. Any amount not spent on consumer care must be returned to them. Because of this provision, in the short period of its existence, Obamacare has already returned over $14 billion from insurance companies to consumers. This is money that would have otherwise gone to the pockets of overpaid insurance companies’ CEOs.
The Ebola virus was another area for which Obama was widely criticized by republicans. Not a single American died from Ebola on Obama’s watch. 10,000 died in Africa. From republican Ebola fear-mongering and the abject panic of the American people, you would think that 10,000 died in America.
On the issue of foreign policy, republicans have spared no expense in criticizing Obama on absolutely everything he tried to do. They accused him of not having a John Wayne approach to foreign policy. — the swaggering, bellicose approach that saw America embroiled in a 13-year quandary against rag tag insurgents in Iraq.
Keeping in mind the state of America’s foreign policy when Obama became president — two failing wars, a rudderless eight-year effort to locate Osama bin Laden, Putin’s invasion of Georgia with impunity, America was at its lowest approval rating among countries of the world, etc. — lets examine the results of Obama’s cerebral leadership approach in this area.
Obama ended two futile, unfunded republican wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saving America trillions of dollars in the process. The Bush Iraq war alone was costing America $2 billion a week. This is debt that republicans were gladly allocating to the credit card of America’s grandchildren. Obama stopped that bleeding.
Contrary to the Bush go-it-alone strategy that saw scores of Americans dying in Iraq and trillions of dollars depleted from America’s treasury, Obama assembled the largest coalition of countries, including many Arab countries, to combat ISIS. True to form, Republicans were again clamoring their criticism of his strategy. Three months after its implementation, it has been reported that this strategy has successfully decimated the core leadership of ISIS, leaving its foremost leader, Abu al Baghdadi, critically wounded.
Obama killed Osama bin Laden in two years when Bush could not even find him in eight years.
Obama beat back Putin from Ukraine without firing a single shot by galvanizing Europe in sanctions against Russia. Russia’s economy is currently in shambles because of these sanctions. Note, under Bush, Putin invaded Georgia with impunity.
Obama destroyed 100% of Syria’s chemical stockpiles when Assad was a chemical threat to the world under Bush.
Obama instituted crippling sanctions against Iran, forcing that intransigent nation to accede to nuclear negotiations. Possible breakthrough on Iran curtailing its nuclear ambitions is now being reported.
Obama demanded that the polarizing autocrat, Al Malaki, that Bush installed in Iraq be replaced as a precondition for his supporting Iraq in their fight against ISIS. He was replaced him with a more unifying prime minister thereby giving Iraq a chance for a more inclusive country.
Obama has convinced the Chinese government that had been intractable on the issue of climate pollution to collaborate with him on the reduction of greenhouse gasses.
These are by no means an exhaustive depiction of the Obama record, just a highlight of some of his important accomplishments. Yet by any measure, these are stellar achievements by this president. What did George Bush accomplish in eight years of his presidency. Frankly, one would be hard-pressed to name anything significant.
So what is responsible for Americans disparaging a president who has brought America from the depth of one of its most troubled periods to where they are highly optimistic about the economy again? According to several Gallup polls conducted just before the elections, the economy was the most important issue to voters. Several polls showed that optimism in the economy was at record highs. The economy had seen 64 straight months of economic expansion. Yet, Americans set out to punish the president who had led America back from arguably its worst economy in recent American history.
Was it racism? Was it ignorance? Was it both?
Blacks in America have always complained that no matter how hard they try, their efforts are constantly disparaged. And whites, whether out of racism or ignorance, are predisposed to believe the worst about blacks regardless of reality. Some recent illustrations of this was the murder of a young black teenager, Trayvon Martin, who was walking home from purchasing Skittles and ice tea at the store. Somehow America found him culpable in his own murder. In another incident, a white man opened fire into the car of a black youth, killing him, simply because he claimed their music was too loud. A young black girl whose car had broken down was gunned down because she stopped at the house of a white man to seek assistance. It will seem that America’s first black presidency has inspired such rage against blacks, every week there is a reported incident of some innocent black kid being gunned down at the hand of a white person. At times at the hands of police who are supposed to be protecting them.
When we look at the Obama presidency, we see a macrocosm of this plight of blacks in America. No other modern American president has ever inherited such disaster of a country from his predecessor. By this measure and by the results produced, Obama is one of the best president to ever occupy the Oval Office. Yet the American people chose to repudiate him with historic losses in the midterm elections. They call him the worst president in American history while they call his predecessor who gave America its worst economy a better president. They call him “Liar of the Year” for reducing America’s uninsured by 25% and ascertaining that no American ever goes without health insurance again. They call the president who lied America into a 13-year war in Iraq that killed upwards of 400,000 people and brought America to bankruptcy a better president.
So why, you might ask, with such a vibrant Press in America, are the American people drawing such counterintuitive conclusions about this president? Volumes could be written about the failure of the American press, not the least of which was their supine posture while the Bush administration concocted lies to lead America in a 13-year war against a country that was not responsible for the 9/11 attack against America.
The business of the Press in America is primarily to make money and their customers are hungering for bad news about America first black president. They gravitate to it. It has become lucrative business. So the Press is obliging. It is not a coincidence that Fox News, where misinformation about Obama is manufactured, is the most watch cable network. Writing bad news about Obama has become a cottage industry. Fox News has taken this to art form. There is a race in the Press to replicate Fox’s strategy in this regard. They want their share of customers. So no matter what Obama does, the headlines are scripted to reflect the worst.
America tends to make up its own reality and the whole world suffers the consequences. When America attacks a country that never attacked it, hundreds of thousands of people died as a result. When America allowed predatory capitalism to flourish, the world endured a global recession which it hasn’t fully recovered from in six years. When America enacts laws to suppress blacks from voting, this has a far-reaching effect as tyrants of the world seek to replicate this form of the American Democracy against their own people. And when America, out of racism, tries to tell the world that its first black president, arguably its most effective modern-day president, is an abject failure, an entire race of people is stigmatized. Which, of course, is the ultimate objective of the Obama detractors — to ensure that his presidency is so unpalatable to the American people that they would not dare to elect another black person to the Oval Office again.
America is an exceptional country. It deserves its unique place in the annals of world history, but not at the expense of fabricating its own reality. America is better than that. The American Press have failed to correct the fallacies created about this president. Indeed, they have become ardent purveyors of the fantasy. No doubt, historians are standing in the wings waiting to perpetuate this alternate reality about the Obama presidency. The American people have, whether willingly or unwittingly, chosen to participate in this fabricated reality. The American government, namely the republican party, has been instrumental in creating this illusion. Over $400 million have been spent by the plutocrats to create a caricature of this president. It may be left to the world to challenge this blatant travesty. Because as long as America is left to its devices to create false realities, the whole world suffers. Just ask the 500,000 Iraqis who died in America’s Iraq war. Just ask all those countries who are still struggling six years later to dig themselves out of the the Bush Great Worldwide Recession.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin should be a cautionary tale for America. After Obama led America back from its worst economic period, the rejected him for the party that led America into its worst economy. They claim the economy was the most important issue in the election, but they elected David Perdue to the Senate, a republican who boasted his expertise in shipping American jobs overseas. They elected Mitch McConnell to Senate majority leader, the republican who is singlehandedly responsible for blocking all economic progress in America for the past six years. They reelected Sam Brownback, the republican governor who implemented all of the republican bedrock policies in Kansas that resulted in spectacular failures in that state. And they severely punished the president who turned America around from its economic doldrums. This begs the question: Is it really the economy that concerns the American people or is it the color of the skin of the man occupying the White House?
President Barack Obama Pic. www.theguardian.com