By Johnnie Grant
Yes, there’s a new president on the way. Whether you voted – or if you skipped out on your duty as a member of what is still ostensibly a democracy – one truth is indisputable: The man on the way out is one of the most intelligent and diplomatic of presidents we’ve ever had.
As the first African American to serve as President of the United States, Barack Obama has served this country with style and grace. And what he has done in his years as President of the United States has been nothing short of amazing.
When President Obama took the reins of power, the economy was in a fast and sure free-fall. Early moves by his administration clearly helped get us to where we are today. The takeover and turnaround of the auto industry was the biggest economic stimulus in history. Obama’s sweeping new regulations on Wall Street, and a tough new set of consumer protections law on the credit card industry, helped to stabilize everyone’s pocketbook.
Even when President Obama was bogged down with budget woes, he still managed to squeeze in domestic policy victories, including a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction deal and the most sweeping overhaul to American food safety laws in more than 70 years.
More impressively, on the foreign policy front, President Obama ended the war in Iraq; began the drawdown in Afghanistan, helped to oust Gaddafi in Libya, and ushered Mubarak out of Egypt. President Obama oversaw the demise of Osama Bin Laden, orchestrated new military and commercial alliances as a hedge against China, and tightened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programs.
President Obama successfully urged Congress to pass several tax cuts to stimulate the economy. And, as American taxpayers our income taxes are lower than they were at any point in the last 50 years. In fact, the only people whose income taxes have gone up during Obama’s presidency are those making $400,000 per year or more. That’s less than 2% of the population.
President Obama brokered vast expansions of national services to include net neutrality, and the greatest increase in U.S. wilderness protection in over fifteen years.
So, before anyone jumps to take credit for his many accomplishment we want to share some of them with you – just for the record.
Reversed Inhumane Torture Policies: Two days after taking office, President Obama nullified rulings that had allowed detainees in U.S. custody to undergo certain “enhanced” interrogation techniques considered inhumane under the Geneva Conventions. Also released the secret Bush legal rulings supporting the use of these techniques.
Provided Payment to Wronged Minority Farmers: In 2009, Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act, which provided $4.6 billion in funding for a legal settlement with black and Native American farmers whom the government had cheated out of loans and natural resource royalties in years past.
Expanded Stem Cell Research: In 2009, eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which shows promise in treating spinal injuries, among many other areas.
Passed the Stimulus: Signed $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to spur economic growth amid greatest recession since the Great Depression. Weeks after the stimulus went into effect, unemployment claims began to subside. The Stimulus for Small Business helped create jobs, increased lending from the SBA and community banks and reduced capital gains taxes for small business investors. Twelve months later, the private sector began producing more jobs than it was losing, and has continued to do so for 74 months in a row, creating a total of nearly 3.7 million new private-sector jobs.
Improved America’s Image Abroad: With new policies and diplomacy, Obama reversed a sharp decline in world opinion toward the United States, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project. International relationships with the U.S. saw an average “approval” increase of 26 percent.
Turned Around U. S. Auto Industry: In 2009, injected $62 billion in federal money for ailing GM and Chrysler in return for equity stakes balanced by agreements for massive organization restructuring. President Obama pushed through and implemented an auto industry rescue plan that saved as many as 1 million jobs and possibly the entire American auto industry. Since 2009, the industry has added more than 100,000 jobs. In 2011, all the “Big Three” automakers gained market share for the first time in 20 years. Through Obama’s investment in GM, this stimulus returned these companies to their place as the premiere car companies in the world, and both Chrysler and GM repaid the government more than 90% of the money the government invested.
Passed Credit Card Reforms: President Obama enacted the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (2009), which prohibits credit card companies from raising rates without advance notification, mandates a grace period on interest rate increases, and strictly limits overdraft and other fees.
Pushed Federal Agencies to Be Green Leaders: Issued executive order in 2009 requiring all federal agencies to make plans to soften their environmental impacts by 2020. Goals include 30% reduction in fleet gasoline use, 26% boost in water efficiency, and sustainability requirements for 95% of all federal contracts. Because federal government is the country’s single biggest purchaser of goods and services, this will have ripple effects throughout the economy for years to come.
Expanded Wilderness and Watershed Protection: Signed Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (2009), which designated more than 2 million acres as wilderness, created thousands of miles of recreational and historic trails, and protected more than 1,000 miles of rivers.
Invested Heavily in Renewable Technology: As part of the 2009 stimulus, the Obama Administration invested $90 billion, more than any previous administration, in research on smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels.
Passed Wall Street Reform: Signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010) to re-regulate the financial sector after its practices caused the Great Recession. The new law tightens capital requirements on large banks and other financial institutions, requires derivatives to be sold on clearinghouses and exchanges, mandates that large banks provide “living wills” to avoid chaotic bankruptcies, limits their ability to trade with customers’ money for their own profit, and creates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (now headed by Richard Cordray) to crack down on abusive lending products and companies.
Received Nobel Peace Prize: President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in March 2010. The Committee lauded “…his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Ended the War in Iraq: Ordered all U.S. military forces out of the country. Last troops left on December 18, 2011.
Cracked Down on For-Profit Colleges: In effort to fight predatory practices of some for-profit colleges, the Department of Education issued “gainful employment” regulations in 2011 cutting off schools from federal student aid funding if more than 35% of former students aren’t paying off their loans and/or if the average former student spends more than 12% of his or her total earnings servicing student loans.
Began Drawdown of War in Afghanistan: From a peak of 101,000 troops in June 2011, U.S. forces are now down to 8,400, which level will remain through 2017.
Eliminated Osama bin Laden: In 2011, ordered Special Forces raid of the secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which the terrorist leader was killed and a trove of al-Qaeda documents was discovered.
Signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act: Helped millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures and provided $2.2 billion to combat homelessness and stabilize the housing market.
Recapitalized Banks: He guided the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan and forced financial organizations to pay back virtually all bailout money. Got banks back on their feet at essentially zero cost to the government. Signed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system, and create a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown. Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.
Passed Health Care Reform: After five presidents over a century failed to create universal health insurance, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (2010). Begun in 2014 it has covered more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans, and mandates a suite of experimental measures to cut healthcare cost growth, the number one cause of America’s long-term fiscal problems.
Removed Banks from Federal Student Loan Program, Expanded Pell Grant Spending: Signed measure ending the wasteful decades-old practice of subsidizing banks to provide college loans. Starting in July 2010 all students began getting their federal student loans directly from the federal government. The U.S. Treasury will save $67 billion over ten years, of which $36 billion will go to expanding Pell Grants to lower-income students.
Increased Support for Veterans: With so many soldiers coming home from Iraq and Iran with serious physical and mental health problems, and facing long waits for services, President Obama increased the 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs budget by 16% and the 2011 budget by 10%. Also signed new GI bill offering $78 billion in tuition assistance over a decade, and provided multiple tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans.
Begin Closing Dirty Power Plants: New EPA restrictions on mercury and toxic pollution, issued in December 2011, led to the closing of between sixty-eight and 231 of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Estimated cost to utilities: at least $11 billion by 2016. Estimated health benefits: $59 billion to $140 billion.
Improved Food Safety System: In 2011, signed FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which boosts the Food and Drug Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion and expands its regulatory responsibilities to include increasing number of food inspections, issuing direct food recalls, and reviewing the current food safety practices of countries importing products into America.
Passed Fair Sentencing Act: Signed 2010 legislation that reduces sentencing disparity between crack v. powder cocaine.
Improved School Nutrition: In coordination with Michelle Obama, signed Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 mandating $4.5 billion spending boost and higher nutritional and health standards for school lunches. New rules based on the law double the amount of fruits and vegetables and require only whole grains in food served to students.
Expanded Hate Crimes Protections: Signed Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009), which expands existing hate crime protections to include crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, or disability, in addition to race, color, religion, or national origin.
Pushed for Broadband Coverage: Proposed and obtained in 2011 Federal Communications Commission approval for a shift of $8 billion in subsidies away from landlines and toward broadband Internet for lower-income rural families.
Expanded Health Coverage for Children: Signed 2009 Children’s Health Insurance Authorization Act, which allows the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover health care for 4 million more children, paid for by a tax increase on tobacco products.
President Barack Obama leaves behind a wonderful legacy that will benefit Americans for years to come.