Conservatives, whether they supported Trump or not, are glad to see President Obama leaving office. It has been eight disappointing years. Even if you’re an Obama fan, was “hope and change” truly all it was cracked up to be?
It’s time to evaluate the Obama Administration. Even though I’m a conservative, I’ll try to be fair. I won’t claim that Obama did everything wrong…just most things.
Conservatives predicted Obama would destroy the country’s economy. It didn’t happen and there were several reasons for this.
First of all, the Obama years were marked by one of the biggest efforts in history to prop up the economy. The Fed flooded the money supply and kept interest rates at historic lows. This avoided the consequences of the administration’s many fiscally irresponsible decisions.
Secondly, a Republican Congress was elected in 2010 and limited the damage that Obama could do. He was forced to rely on executive orders to enact his agenda. The lack of cooperation and dysfunction between the executive and legislative branches made agreeing on big new spending difficult leading to lower deficits.
Third, Obama wasn’t good at getting what he wanted even when he had a congressional majority. With the biggest popular vote win in two decades and a near-sixty seat majority in the Senate and a solid House Majority in 2009, Obama could have had a big one hundred day agenda…except he didn’t. He passed an $800 billion stimulus and then was told by Congressional Democrats that he could have health care reform, cap and trade, or immigration reform, but not all three.
Obama chose health care reform. Republicans took to calling it Obamacare because they hoped it would sink his presidency and his legacy. He took to calling it Obamacare because he thought it would make him look good, but Obama’s health care ideas had little to do with it. Obamacare was a patchwork plan carved out by Congressional Democrats based upon Romneycare and mixed with the Individual Mandate that Obama campaigned against in the primaries.
Obama was not respected by Congressional leaders in his own party.Obamacare probably should have been called Reidcare or Pelosicare because this was a Congressional plan.\
The ineffectiveness continued when Republicans took over. Despite Obama campaigning against the Bush tax cuts, they mostly stayed in place. Obama identified people earning over $250,000 a year as wealthy people who deserved a tax increase, but the tax cuts remained for people earning up to $450,000 a year.
Ultimately, the economy hasn’t been worse because Obama hasn’t been good at turning his ideas into legislation. That’s not to say that Obama’s presidency hasn’t hurt the economy.
While Obama will be able to tout parts of Obamacare that aren’t going away, like getting people with pre-existing conditions coverage and ensuring that children up to age 26 can be covered on their parent’s insurance policy, it’s created a mass of problems including skyrocketing rates for private insurance, people losing coverage, and losing doctors. Many businesses avoid having workers work more than 25 hours a week to avoid having to provide them benefits like health insurance. That leads to workers having to get two part-time jobs to pay their bills and going without health insurance.
In addition, the falling workplace participation rate under Obama is a huge concern. Many able-bodied people who would like to work have given up on finding a job. While Obama hasn’t created a job-rich economy, he has worked to make poverty and joblessness more comfortable with expanded entitlements and millions more on the food stamps rolls. This is socially destructive as people need meaningful work, but it’s also destructive to the economy. This raises the deficit now and the less people who are working, the more quickly the collapse of our entitlement system will be upon us.
At the same time, Obama has shackled the economy by adding countless pages of new regulations to the Federal Register at an alarming rate. The Obama Administration has given more and more power to an unelected and unaccountable federal administrative state and they’ve aggressively used that power.
All of this has led to an anemic recovery that, to many, feels like a recession. Again, the economy isn’t in ruins, but Obama’s new normal of lower growth and lower workplace participation isn’t a legacy of which to be proud.
Economy Grade: D
Obama didn’t run on social policy and in effect ran in 2008 with a pitch to centrist and left-leaning Christians about bringing the country together. However, Obama’s administration has been defined by hard left stances on all social and domestic policy issues.
On gun control, Obama has been pushing hard ever since the Sandy Hook shootings in late 2012. He pushed for more gun control throughout his second term and the result was nothing. In fact, it was less than nothing, if you think restrictive gun laws are important. The President’s constant drumbeat for new gun laws emboldened Second Amendment activists in the States which saw loosened gun laws, more open carry, and permitless concealed carry among others.
If anything, Obama’s constant gun control advocacy may have helped to create a wedge between Democrats and rural voters that led to Trump’s election. Obama had no chance of getting a bill through a Republican House and if he thought Republicans voting against gun control might help Democrats win the House, he showed an incredible misunderstanding of the politics of this issue. He might have had a shot had he pushed for gun control during his first two years when Democrats held Congress. Former President Bill Clinton, after all, got the Brady Bill and an assault weapons ban passed in his first two years. Obama lacked the influence over Congress that Clinton had, despite the fact Obama won a clear majority while Clinton only won 43% of the vote.
Obamacare became a playground for social engineering as well because Democrats couldn’t help it. The HHS mandate for insurance to pay for contraception led to numerous lawsuits, some from organizations that didn’t believe in birth control at all, and others simply didn’t want to pay for abortion-causing drugs. The crowning spectacle came when celibate nuns sued the Obama Administration because they wanted to make them get healthcare coverage that pays for birth control.
This had nothing to do with the stated purpose of the law. It was nothing less than an attempt to use the power of federal law to compel ideological and theological opponents to bend to the left’s will. And yet the Obama administration continued to fight despite the fact even before the law was passed the most common forms of birth control were generic drugs easily available with a doctor’s prescription. Even as nearly every plan had agreed to pay for birth control, the Obama administration kept flushing millions of dollars in taxpayer money down in the drain in cases they kept losing as they attempted to force religious organizations and other conscientious objectors to comply.
Obama also remained a crusader on homosexual and transgender issues. Obama got Congress to pass a law to allow open homosexuals in the military rather than acting on mere executive fiat as he tried to do most other things. In the second term, Obama remained focused on these issues like a laser beam. I think Obama focused so hard on these issues because he believes his cause is on the right side of history and he wants to do things that will look enlightened when future people look at the record.
Yet, Obama’s actions, as in so many other areas, proved to be counterproductive. Turning the White House rainbow colored to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling creating a right to same sex marriage out of nothing failed to bring the country together to accept the decision and move on. In addition, during the 2016 campaign, Obama attempted to dictate to every school in the country how to deal with the issue of transgender students using their restrooms and locker rooms. This presidential edict not only barred schools from using biological sex to determine who could use what bathroom, it forbid single-user facilities, a compromise that many school districts might find acceptable.
His other attempts at top-down education policy was received just as poorly. Common Core became a divisive laughing stock. The efforts to push standards from the top down on healthy school lunches led to many schools serving meals that were inedible and despised by students.
The president pleased potheads in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado by refusing to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized it. As a conservative, I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, this sort of thing should be a state issue. On the other hand, we shouldn’t have the President deciding which unconstitutional laws he’s going to enforce. If Marijuana should be left to the states, then Congress should pass a law making this clear, but working with Congress isn’t Obama’s style.
Obama’s declaration that, though Congress wouldn’t work with him, he would get things done because he had “a pen and a phone,” showed a profound disrespect for the Constitution. The key assumption Obama made is that the President was obliged to work with Congress, unless Congress wouldn’t do what he wanted and then he was free to go it alone.
His are the actions of a leader who overpromised and under-delivered. He failed to display the basic skills to negotiate and failed to find enough common ground for both parties to stand on. Now most of Obama’s accomplishments could be gone with a stroke of the next president’s pen.
If you’re conservative, there’s nothing to like in Obama’s clumsy, big government agenda except perhaps the stand for marijuana federalism. If you’re a liberal, there’s some things you can like about what he was aiming for, but so much of it backfired. In addition, Obama has set a precedent for the lawless use of executive power. The fear of a Trump despotism is nothing more than the fear of Trump having and using the executive power Obama unleashed.
In the next article I’ll examine the President’s foreign policy and the way he’s conducted the President during the past eight years.
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