Skip to comments.President Obama's (Tentative) Economic Legacy
Posted on 01/17/2017 4:35:42 AM PST by expat_panama
It is far too early to render final judgment on the Obama presidency. All the chatter about his "legacy" overlooks two obvious realities. The significance of Obama will depend heavily on events that have not yet happened (for starters, the fate of the Iranian nuclear deal) and comparisons, for better or worse, with his successor. Still, it's possible to make some tentative observations.
As I've written before, the administration's greatest achievement was, in its first year, stabilizing a collapsing economy and arguably avoiding a second Great Depression. Even now, only eight years after the event, many people forget the crash's horrific nature. Unemployment was increasing roughly 700,000 to 800,000 a month. No one knew when the downward spiral would stop.
In this turbulence, Obama was a model of calm and confidence. The policies he embraced various economic stimulus packages, support for the Federal Reserve, the rescue of the auto industry, the shoring up of the banking system were what the economy needed, though they were not perfect in every detail. Although the subsequent recovery was disappointing, it's not clear that anyone else would have accomplished more.
If Obama had done nothing else, rescuing the economy would ensure a successful presidency. But he did do other things, and we shouldn't forget the historic significance of having an African-American as the nation's leader.
Still, his broader record is mixed. I think he will get credit for ObamaCare, regardless of how Donald Trump and the Republicans modify it. The argument will be made, accurately I think, that the expansion of insurance coverage to roughly 20 million Americans would never have occurred if Obama hadn't put it at the top of his agenda.
This does not mean that promoting ObamaCare was uniformly wise. It did not solve the problem of high health costs, and it aggravated political polarization. It also seems a product of personal ambition, reflecting Obama's desire to be remembered as the liberal president who finally achieved universal coverage. In reality, even after the 20 million, there were an estimated 28 million uncovered Americans in 2016, says the National Center for Health Statistics.
Some of Obama's biggest setbacks were widely shared. One was coming to grips with an aging society. As I've repeatedly written, the growing population of older people is distorting government priorities, because Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which covers nursing home care) increasingly dominate the federal budget, squeezing other programs and enlarging budget deficits.
Obama never dealt aggressively with this problem, because doing so would have offended his liberal political base. His failure made it impossible to secure major concessions from Republicans on raising taxes. Similar failures plagued immigration policy and climate change. Facing political paralysis, Obama resorted to executive orders and regulations. Many will probably be revoked in a Trump administration.
What Obama lacked was the ability to inspire fear as well as respect, and this also helps explain why his foreign policy often fell short Syria being the best but not the only example. Few presidents have worshipped their words more than Obama. To take one example: His farewell speech last week ran 50 minutes; the average for seven other post-World War II presidents was 18 minutes, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Not only did he worship his words, but he assigned them more power than they possessed. At times, he seemed to treat the White House as a graduate-school seminar, where he was the smartest guy in the room and, therefore, deserved to prevail. At news conferences, he gave long, convoluted responses full of subtleties that may have impressed political and media elites but didn't do much to shift public opinion.
Our government has turned into a quasi-parliamentary system. Controversial proposals are supported and opposed mainly, or exclusively, by one party or the other. This is a bad development. It strengthens fringes in both parties, who hold veto power. This discourages compromise and encourages stalemate. The legislation it produces is often acceptable to partisans but less so to the wider middle class, undermining public faith in government.
The question historians need to ask is whether Obama contributed to this dysfunctional system or was victimized by it. He was unable to construct a working relationship with congressional Republicans. Was this because, as the White House has contended, Republicans had been unmovable from partisan positions? Or was Obama complicit, because his own partisan constraints left little maneuvering room? Maybe both.
In this era of snap judgments, a true verdict on Obama is years away.
What a study in equivocation this article is. A justification of the mess Obama made but this writer doesn’t want to admit to. Baloney.
Our first Affirmative Action president.
The crash always seemed intentional to me.
Happy Tuesday after our (for investing at least) a 3-day weekend!
So last Friday left us w/ stock indexes at or near all time highs but now I'm worried. The reason is that the uptick had been in falling volume and this morning stock index futures smell bad: -0.39%. At least metal future are ok at +0.50% w/ gold and silver now powering up to $1,216.96 and $17.10!
The only econ stat coming out today is Empire Manufacturing an hour before opening bell.
How about all these neat FreeRepublic econ threads!!
Threatening them with the fist of the government also had something to do with it....and using Medicaid as a slush fund.
The crash always seemed intentional to me.
An article headline correction is due:
Resident Hussein’s Wreckonomic Legacy
Obama’s buddies, with their liberal policies, caused the banking crash of ‘08. The economy recovered in spite of Obama. This clown did nothing but harm the country by causing division from within and confusion from without.
Obama’s accomplishment: He was black.
We could have elected a bowling ball that would have done that, and the ball would have inflicted far less damage on America.
And........when they go off..........those ISLAMIC NUKES will all be Trump’s fault.
“In this era of snap judgments, a true verdict on Obama is years away.”
While it has been true in the past that previous legacies of Presidents have always been determined long after that President has left the office due to the lasting effects the policies have had on various aspects of domestic and foreign policies. Even then, the legacy of a President can be somewhat determined, to a near 85 percent accuracy, the moment the individual leaves office by looking at various indicators while he was in office. The increase in technology in DSS systems for businesses where businesses can make real-time decisions can be directly transferred to this aspect to give a preliminary indication on the legacy of a President.
The problem then stems not the basis of scientific fact but on how revisionists will re-write the history of what occurred while in office. This is the core of what the author is implicitly alluding to in his final statement. Democrats have tried to re-write Reagan’s legacy time and time again to water down his achievements to boost up Clinton’s legacy in the economic domain given that Clinton had no economic policy to speak of during his entire tenure as President. While Obama’s legacy at this juncture does not bode well for a “Pen and Phone” president who sought to circumvent the Legislature branch of our government, in time it will be revealed how the left will spin Obama’s legacy into something it never was, but something people have forgotten or were not alive during his time in office.
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