The trouble with grading a politician is the grade is pretty much
dependent on how we feel about the person being graded. Many Democrats
would have given George W. Bush an F regardless of what he did. And many
Republicans would similarly grade Barack Obama regardless of what he does.
Obama finds himself in the unenviable position of being forced to piss off
both the right and the left and move toward the middle in order to govern.
Its a lesson quickly learned by every president but, for some reason,
never learned by either opponents or supporters.
The right, particularly the new breed of newly-elected philosophical
fire-breathers, is appalled that Obama did anything and are adamantly
opposed to all of it. They believe hes a socialist at best, probably a
Marxist and a Muslim and maybe not even an American citizen. They abhor
the healthcare reform legislation, believe the Troubled Asset Relief
Program (TARP) and auto industry bailouts were socialistic government
takeovers, and think the stimulus programs are nothing more than an
unnecessary waste of tax dollars.
The left, or whats left of the left, is appalled that Obama didnt do
enough on healthcare reform, waited too long to get rid of Dont Ask-Dont
Tell, hasnt ended the wars, has not solved the illegal immigration
problem, and has caved in to the corporate-military industrial complex.
They fault him for not already fulfilling every campaign promise and for
not doing what they thought he should do, whether he promised it or not.
The right apparently wasnt listening during the campaign of 08 and they
havent started since. Obama has done much of what he said he would none
of this was exactly a secret and inherited both the economic mess and
bailout/stimulus programs from the Bush Administration.
The equally delusional left apparently believes Obama is a benevolent
dictator capable of magically waving his hand to make things happen,
regardless of what that pesky Congress wants.
No president has ever been able to do everything he claimed he was going
to do, and certainly not in his first two years. Nevertheless, there are
always those ready to condemn the actions taken and another group
condemning the lack of action.
The one thing on which there seems to be a consensus is that, good or bad,
some serious legislation became law during Obamas first two years.
First was healthcare reform. After a centurys worth of presidents trying
to enact some sort of national healthcare program, the Obama
administration actually got something passed. Republicans demonized it as
socialized medicine and Democrats decried it as too little too late. But
the fact is the reform became law and the Republicans will have difficulty
getting rid of it, especially now. In 2011, two critical and popular
elements of the reform package become active a 50% reduction in the cost
of prescription drugs for seniors who fall into the Medicare “donut hole,“
and preventive care and check-ups without co-pays, deductibles or other
The Obama list is, of course, much longer than just healthcare reform. He
continued the Bush bail-outs and stimulus programs, bailed out General
Motors and Chrysler, prevented the collapse of then toughened regulations
for Wall Street, announced the end of our combat role in Iraq, ended Dont
Ask-Dont Tell for the military, extended the Bush tax cuts for another
two years, reduced payroll taxes, successfully pushed the first
legislation to improve food safety since the 1930s, and signed a new
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the Russians.
The test is the impact of all this activity. What kind of measurement can
be objectively used?
If taxes are your foundational issue, then Barack Obama is your man.
Federal taxes have decreased for almost all of us during his term, theyll
stay at the lower rates and there will be an additional payroll tax
deduction starting this year. The oft-predicted tax bill associated with
healthcare reform has yet to rear its ugly head. Maybe its right on the
horizon or maybe not. The fact is our federal taxes are lower.
If Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is your measuring stick, were seeing some
progress on that front, too. After precipitous drops in the third and
fourth quarters of 2008, and another in the first quarter of 2009, our GDP
has actually increased since. We made gains in the third and fourth
quarters of 2009 and in the first three quarters in 2010 (fourth quarter
results are not yet in). There are arguments aplenty as to why the
turnaround but the GDP growth is a fact.
If your barometer for success is employment, then we have to again look at
the facts. Since so many believe government employees somehow dont count
well examine private sector employment only. We lost jobs in every month
in 2008, including nearly 700,000 jobs in both December of 08 and January
of 09. The first nine months of Obamas tenure saw more job losses but
the trend began slowing. The tide turned in January of 2010 and weve
gained private sector jobs every month since. Thats a fact.
Statistical job growth is, of course, completely meaningless to those
still searching desperately for work. But its a fact that, nationally,
the number of unemployed has stopped growing.
In November, the public seemed to reject the notion that Obama deserves
credit for any economic recovery and they absolutely rejected the
Democrats. We now start anew with a Republican-dominated Congress that
wants to reverse most of what Obama has done. Well see how that debate
What cannot be debated is that since Barack Obama took office our federal
taxes are lower, our GDP is up and we are gaining private sector jobs.
Those are the facts. The President deserves at least a passing grade.