Obama’s First Year As President

by Ben Hoffman

Barack Obama took office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. He got off to a good start in February when he signed the $787 billion stimulus bill. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has created or saved 800,000 to 2.4 million jobs. This is probably his greatest accomplishment so far.

In March, he signed into law major changes to the credit card industry, but we’re still not back to where we were before deregulation by the Bush administration.

He eliminated some wasteful spending, such as the F-22 Raptor program. He signed some equal rights protection bills, expanded SCHIP, protected wilderness areas, and improved transparency in government. He also eased restrictions on federal money for embryonic stem cell research.

But he could have done a lot more. Where is the major reform of the banking industry? Where is the trust busting? Why is Geithner still head of the Treasury? Where are the tax increases on billionaires to bring down the deficit? And where are the prosecutions of the Bush crime family?

As Shakespeare wrote: “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”.

Obama had the opportunity for greatness, but instead he chose the path of least resistance. What that got him was venom from the right-wing and disillusionment from the left. Few people are happy with Obama, but it’s not too late for him to be the real progressive we voted for.

We’ll see what he has to say about it this evening in his State of the Union address.

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44 Comments to “Obama’s First Year As President”

  1. Ben,

    Where are you getting the “800,000 to 2.5 million” jobs figure from? I hope not the AP…

  2. The government is counting peoples’ jobs as “saved” even if they weren’t at risk of losing their job in the first place, so long as they’re receiving stimulus money. Evidence is here:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-08.pdf

    Much of this stimulus money, btw, was apparently doled out to regions NOT according to need (such as unemployment rate), but rather by political affiliation according to a Mercatus study.

  3. If Obama is truly attempting to “reconnect with the middle class” tonight as I’ve been reading, then I hope this isn’t more talk of social spending but instead some mention of how he’s specifically going to help small business and the entrepreneur create more jobs and start hiring again.

    EARNED tax breaks and pressure on the banks to open up credit would be a nice start.

    • Or how about loans directly from the government instead of relying on the banks?

      • Ben, you HAVE to be knowing in advance how I’m going to respond to that! Do you really think Government could handle loan administration better than the private sector?

        Instead, how about just letting the well-run businesses who had good credit ratings to begin with get their original credit and banking terms back to what they were before the crisis. I know many who had their credit lines automatically turned into loans because of the banks overexposing themselves, which punished the smart and the strong because of the actions of the stupid and the weak.

      • [Do you really think Government could handle loan administration better than the private sector?]

        They could do it at least as well, which isn’t saying much. The problem now is, banks are afraid to loan. Direct loans from the government would be a temporary fix.

      • Might sound nice but it is totally unfeasible. The banks are holding back because of their risk in the aggregate. Central banks make sweeping, general policies and withdraw certain lending powers from local branches, and individual companies get screwed.

        The government is too slow, and too blunt an instrument to assist these individual companies in this way. There would be too much time in setting something up, too much cost, too much fraud, and too much waste if they tried to do it directly.

        If they went through banks, they would simply be back in the loan-guarantee business again, and we all saw how that turned out. 😉

  4. Ben Hoffman said:Obama had the opportunity for greatness, but instead he chose the path of least resistance. What that got him was venom from the right-wing and disillusionment from the left.

    I hope he can turn things around. The pressure to maintain the status-quo must be near unbearable.

    The editor Roger Hodge from Harper’s Magazine summarizes brilliantly, this excerpt is from the ‘notebook’ section of the February issue of Harper’s… :

    “[…]Let us grant that Barack Obama is as intelligent as his admirers insist. What evidence do we possess that he is also a moral virtuoso? What evidence do we possess that he is a good, wise, or even a decent man? Yes, he can be eloquent, yet eloquence is no guarantee of wisdom or of virtue. Yes, he has a nice family, but that evinces a private morality. Public morality requires public action, and all available public evidence points to a man with the character of a common politician, whose singular ambition in life was to attain power; nothing in Barack Obama’s political career suggests that he would ever willingly commit to a course of action that would cost him an election.

    His preposterously two-faced approach to Afghanistan, wherein he simultaneously escalates the war while promising to begin “the transition to Afghan responsibility” just a year later, is a perfect illustration of his compulsion to split the difference on any given political question. (One could also point to the health-care boondoggle, or to his utter capitulation to Wall Street in economic matters.) He dilly-dallies, draws out both friends and opponents, dangles promises in front of everyone, gives a dramatic speech, and then pulls back to gauge the reaction.

    Since the policy itself is incoherent—and, as usual with Obama, salted with stipulations and provisos—he can always trim and readjust as necessary. Deadlines and definitions of “combat forces” are infinitely malleable. Since Obama is an intelligent man, surely he understands the meaning of the word mendacity.[…]”

    I’ve already probably quoted too much, but the theme entwines with Ben’s about what Obama will have to do to right his presidency begin to deliver on the promises that brought him to office.

    • Yep, he has nothing to gain by continuing the path he’s on. He’s had a year of on-the-job training now.

      I think he did the right thing in Afghanistan, though. The only chance for success there is with overwhelming force, so the escalation was necessary. It also would have been political suicide to weaken our effort there. We’re seeing an escalation of violence in Iraq now.

      • If we send a single additional solider to Afghanistan, it’s on its way to being Vietnam. There never is a ‘chance for success’ in such places, because it’s near impossible to define and agree on what ‘success’ is.

    • Thought I’d point out that this is probably one of the times where both the left and the right agree: none of us want a year like the last one? 🙂

  5. Mr. Hoffman, Arbourist,

    Do Obama’s words mean anything? I have more unfulfilled promises from ” the one ” that I want you two guys to defend.

    I am not talking about minor slips of the tongue either. These were big intentional promises.

    • Well, I’m not sure Mr.Scott, one good point is at least I can understand the current president of the US.

      I’m not sure I would be the best person to defend Obama, as I neither voted for him or am even a American citizen.

      My interest lies with the effects that percolate North. Obama has dialed the crazy meter down significantly, which concomitantly, has a chilling effect on our own frothy right wing and therefore his presidency, at least from a Canadian perspective, has been satisfactory.

      I suggest you read the entire selection from Harper’s magazine, it reflects in general my concerns with his presidency.

      • [My interests lie with the effects that percolate North]
        Having a cross-border company with both Canadian and US locations, business partners, family, and friends, I can say that it is great to see Canadians take such an interest in our politics and I wish more of us here would take interest in theirs – we’d be a far stronger and greater country because of it.

        We hear barely a mention on any news network that Canadian troops are fighting (and dying) alongside our troops in Afghanistan. I read in the Huffington Post the other day how Obama’s Q&A was something “straight out of the [British] House of Commons”, ignoring that Canada has its House of Commons and has been debating that way for decades. It’s embarrassing to go up there sometimes.

        Since our financial, social, and economic system is looking to become more like Canada’s (no, not like Communist Russia’s), I have asked my friends, family, and colleagues exactly what that could mean. Since we’re trying to be more “worldly” in our ways, we should also be less ignorant of our closest allies and most valuable resource and trading partners.

        As Arbourist states and as I know, interest from up there is far more than entertainment or admiration and I think we owe them the same courtesy with our economies being so closely linked. They certainly deserve far more mention, attention, and appreciation than the Brits do (no offense to Brits).

        My two cents.

      • Awfully good point Vern. Perhaps our Brit fixation means we’ve never really cut the apron strings. Emotionally, anyway.

  6. Barack Obama took office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

    It wasn’t the worst since even the 80’s.

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has created or saved 800,000 to 2.4 million jobs.

    Thousands of teenagers are thanking Obama for their 3 month long summer job. Countless other American’s can rest well tonight knowing that their job was “saved” by giving them a raise.

    Jobs saved–utter nonsense.

    He also eased restrictions on federal money for embryonic stem cell research.

    This I actually think was a good thing.

    but instead he chose the path of least resistance.

    What he chose was the path to the hard and severe left*. That’s why America is pissed. He was elected to get stuff done, his mandate was NOT to go off the flippin deep end when it comes to governing.

    *See Virginia, New Jersey and Massechoossetts.

    • America isn’t pissed because Obama went left. America is pissed because they don’t see anything getting done and they’re sick and tired of a congress that couldn’t pass a kidney stone.

  7. Arbourist,

    ” I suggest you read the entire selection from Harper’s magazine, it reflects in general my concerns with his presidency. ”

    Could you post the link, I must have missed it if you already did.

    ” Well, I’m not sure Mr.Scott, one good point is at least I can understand the current president of the US. ”

    Wow you Canadians must be natural code breakers. The longer my President speaks, the less I get his true meaning. He frequently puts out contradictory statements within the same speech.

    ” I’m not sure I would be the best person to defend Obama, as I neither voted for him or am even a American citizen. ”

    Don’t wimp out on me. You meddled in our internal American politics already. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

    My point, finally, 2 days before being elected President, Barak Obama said that creating 5 million new green jobs would be his number one priority. His number one priority. That means before bank bailouts, before ear marks, before the two wars, even before health care. I did not see that prioritized effort, did you ? And of course, where the hell are the 5 million new green jobs? Well he did say over 10 years. So where are the 500,000 new green jobs ?

    Now in his State of the Union speech, he said job creation is his top priority.

    I don’t believe a word the man says. Do you ?

    • The link to the entire article is here. This issue is still on the stands, so please forgive the poor formatting.

      Don’t wimp out on me. You meddled in our internal American politics already. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

      My hesitancy is born out of two things. I do not really agree with him or his politics very often. It is hard to be a staunch defender of something you don’t particularly agree with.

      I take Obama’s words with the same careful consideration that I take all political speech.

      A positive note, at least your leader has not shut down the democratic process as our lovable PM Steven Harper has. Proroguing parliament, in my opinion, has cost him his shot at a majority.

  8. Oh, by the way President Obama on 1/8/10 said that he was giving out $ 2.3 billion in tax credits to created 17,000 clean tech jobs. I guess these are the same as green collar jobs.

    Anyway that costs more than $135,000 per job.

  9. Ms Holland,

    Perhaps you could clear up my confusion on a matter. I hear that President Obama has proposed some tax cuts to small businesses and some capital gains tax relief to spur job growth. I am really really confused. I thought you progressives always say that tax cuts do nothing to cause job growth. I thought that Bush’s tax cuts for the rich caused the recession.

    Perhaps my information is wrong and your hero will continue the class warfare against the banks and wallstreet that has worked so well. I’m sure everybody who has lost their jobs since Obama was elected is happy that millions of other people have had their jobs saved.

    • I bow to you Alan – you are the king of the straw man argument.

      Class warfare against the banks??? So, to use your style of reasoning, it’s a good thing for banksters to give themselves 8-figure bonuses because they had a decent year thanks to the infusion of billions of taxpayer dollars? Just wow.

  10. Ms. Holland,

    You did not answer my tax cut question. Why is your guy Barak proposing tax cuts to boost job creation, when he and you always say that tax cuts do not create jobs ? Is he betraying his socialist philosophy ?

    Can you answer ?

    • Can’t recall ever in my life saying that tax cuts do not create jobs, although I think they’re often abused and used for the wrong reasons. Cutting taxes, like raising taxes, has situational causes and usually targeted effects. It depends for instance what DECADE you are in, what the economy is like, what economic sectors the government is encouraging to grow or shrink, who actually gets the tax cuts and in what form – credits? refunds? rate reductions?

      You said: [I hear that President Obama has proposed some tax cuts to small businesses and some capital gains tax relief to spur job growth.]

      Well maybe so. Why don’t you get us a link? What you say he’s proposed sure sounds target specific.

      • Barack Obama, Alan’s hero, is proposing more tax cuts at a time when the government is running record deficits. Well, at least they’re targeted tax cuts instead of the across the board tax cuts which made up 30% of the stimulus bill.

  11. I left a reply for Alan Scott, and it has not shown up. Did wordpress eat my post? If you have time, Mr. Hoffman could you check your end of things?

    Thanks.

  12. Ms. Holland,

    ” Well maybe so. Why don’t you get us a link? What you say he’s proposed sure sounds target specific.”

    At your service.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/obama-proposes-tax-cuts-for-small-businesses-2009-12-08-112410

    ” The centerpiece of Obama’s plan is a proposal for new tax cuts to encourage small businesses to invest and to hire more workers. The capital-gains tax on new investments would fall to zero for a year, and tax breaks for expensing investments would be extended. ”

    I applaud President Obama for this crumb to the private sector. It’s very little and very late.

    It is a very dangerous thing for a government to pick winners and losers in an economy. That is why I don’t care for targeted tax cuts to who Big Brother deems worthy.

    Mr. Hoffman,

    ” Barack Obama, Alan’s hero, is proposing more tax cuts at a time when the government is running record deficits ”

    I keep saying that you guys are blind. Barak, Harry, and Nancy are like three drunks on a bender with unlimited credit cards. Blaming tax cuts for the unpaid balance on these three stooges cards is insane. You got to go Dave Ramsey on em and totally shred their cards. There ain’t no other way.

    The more the public sector sucks resources out of the private sector, the less there is for everybody. Proof,,,, New York State and California.

    • [It is a very dangerous thing for a government to pick winners and losers in an economy. That is why I don’t care for targeted tax cuts to who Big Brother deems worthy.]

      Do you care about the deficit?

    • [It is a very dangerous thing for a government to pick winners and losers in an economy. That is why I don’t care for targeted tax cuts to who Big Brother deems worthy]

      All tax cuts at all times have been targeted one way or the other. There’s really no other way to do it.

  13. Mr. Hoffman,

    Sorry about the Anonymous posting. It was inadvertent. I used a different browser and did not realize how it would post. Anyway.

    “Do you care about the deficit?”

    UH, YEA. Do you ?

    It does come down to spending versus tax cuts. You guys were so upset at Bush’s deficit war spending yet not a word about earmarks, entitlements, etc.

    You guys are all Robin of Sherwood Forest. Take from the rich, give to the poor, and keep a healthy slice for administration. Eiuuu, I got a shudder picturing Barney Frank in green tights.

    By the way your hero’s proposed spending freezes are just as dishonest as everything else that comes out of his teleprompter. He jacked up the spending to a very high level and freezes it there, then acts likes he is being fiscally responsible. Hello, is there intelligent life on your side of the street ?

  14. Ms. Holland,

    ” Actually I think he’d look kind of cute. ”

    I’m sure he would be flattered.

  15. $12.104 Trillion: The current limit on national debt, which was raised from $11.315 trillion for the “stimulus” bill and which Democrats now say must be raised yet again soon.
    $24.498 Trillion: The total national debt in 2019 under the President’s budget, according to White House estimates.
    I’d call that a good first year…wouldn’t you? 🙂

  16. Forgive me for switching topics, but this does have to do with Obama, at least his second year. President Obama is now actively pushing nuke plants. What do you jolly green shoots think of this ? I thought wind and solar were the answer. Well at least it will cut down on green house gases, but when Obama shutsdown Yucca Mountain, where will all the nuke waste go ? Maybe Gitmo ?

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