Ben Hale reflects on Obama’s Presidency.
Edited by Isabel Aruna.
The presidency of Barack Obama is the first presidency I have followed with great interest. My interest in politics began towards the end of George W Bush’s eight year reign. Obama took over the Presidency in January 2009, in the middle of the greatest economic collapse in the US since the Great Depression in the 1930s; his success in turning around the US economy is nothing short of remarkable. If you consider the fact that after his first two years of presidency, he has to contend with the most obstructive Congress in US history, his achievements have been brilliant. He has passed legislation that has had a monumental impact on the US, from The Affordable Care Act to the Economic Stimulus Package. Obama will and should go down as one of the most important presidents in US history.
As briefly stated, once Obama assumed office in January 2009 he was greeted with dire economic news, the US banking sector has thrown the world into a deep economic crash. The US unemployment rate was sky high and key parts of the US economy where in real danger. Obama and his cabinet decided that the US economy needed a massive injection of capital in the form of a stimulus package. Billions of dollars was spent on infrastructure and other projects to stimulate growth in the US economy. At this time Obama didn’t have to deal with the same hostile Congress that has emerged later on in his reign; his party the Democrats had a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Therefore, his stimulus package could become law without needing a single vote from the Republicans, which is exactly the outcome that occurred. This along with the auto-car bailout, provided a much needed injection of capital into the US economy; the money saved the auto-car industry from collapse thus saving thousands of jobs. It was the largest package of its type in US history surpassing even the New Deal. It passed in February 2009 during the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency, passing the test set up by Franklin D. Roosevelt about making a significant difference in a short space of time.
Obama’s presidency like many others has not all been good, he has not managed to pass some key things promised in his campaign. Perhaps his most significant is his failure to shut Guantanamo Bay which was promised throughout his presidency campaign. Obama has been against what he sees as the unlawful detention of terrorist suspects held with no trial. He has suggested that those suspects be moved to the mainland and held in super-max prisons until they are tried in a US court. However, in trying to close this Obama ran into significant objections from obviously the Republicans and even his own party. Members of Congress in both parties where concerned about the potential escape of the prisoners which would be placed in their state, despite the fact that escapes from super-max prisons have only happened once under Obama’s reign. All Obama has been able to do is make speeches in favour of Guantanamo Bay and sign executive orders requesting Congress to close the base.
However, the passage of the Affordable Care Act or ‘Obamacare’ which it is commonly known as, represents a significant change in the nature of medical care in the US. It may not be as far reaching as the NHS in the UK, but it was still a staggering achievement especially considering its’ opposition in Congress. For decades the Democrats have tried to pass some form of universal healthcare in the US. They have never got much further than the Medic-aid system they created decades before Obama. The last Democratic, President Bill Clinton failed to get any significant legislation passed throughout his eight years of presidency. Around the time of this ‘Obamacare’ in 2010, Obama still had the majority in both House of Congress and faced significant resistance from within his power party. Those on the right of the Democrats feared that the act paved the way for a Government take over off Healthcare. Not only did Obama have to convince the American people that it was the right thing to do, but also members of his own party too. This bill has been imperative. It has provided millions of Americans with health insurance which has saved millions of Americans lives, all due to an act Obama pushed through Congress which was something that many of his advisors thought was impossible.
Presidents are often compared to the number of lives they save, Obama must be considered a very successful President. Going into what is known as the “lame duck” period of his leadership, it is unlikely that given the time left of his presidency, he will be able to really effect any more massive change within the Us. However, Obama has been a transformative President and his legislative achievements are incredible when considering how divided US politics has become.