President Obama’s Dreadful Legacy: A Record of Calculated Partisanship and Missed Opportunities

ObamaBy: Kenneth Willette – December, 2013

As we reach the conclusion of President Obama’s fifth year in office, it is only fair at this critical juncture to assess the full extent of his domestic and foreign affairs record.

The Obama record is one of repeated examples of cold and deliberate partisanship and missed opportunities for transformational leadership. If anyone is an avid reader of historical books on the Reagan and Kennedy administrations, there is a valid argument that Obama has operated a second-tier or even a third-tier presidency. When we add the recent foreign affairs turmoil in Libya, Egypt, Iran and Syria to the equation, it is safe to say that Obama is heading directly into Carter territory. We could easily include the gamesmanship of Russian President Putin, the regional incursions of China and the blatant defiance of North Korea, as part and parcel of the Obama void of global leadership. Sadly, I will need to dedicate a future essay just to go over the house of horrors that is called the Affordable Care Act.

First of all, let us consider the transformational legacy of President Reagan, who won the Cold War, secured approval of large-scale tax cuts, worked with Congressional Democrats to save Social Security in 1983 and finalized the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which paved the way for tremendous economic growth in the mid-to-late 1980s. The Tax Reform Act garnered the support of conservative Republicans and left-leaning Democrats because it accomplished three major goals at the same time: lowering individual and corporate tax rates; eliminating special interest perks and corporate loopholes; and dramatically simplifying the entire tax code. In a bipartisan fashion, Reagan prolonged Social Security for at least forty years, lowered tax rates for millions of Americans and took an axe to corporate welfare.

The recent book JFK Conservative also gives serious credibility to the trailblazing importance of JFK on our times when he advocated for massive tax cuts, challenged the Soviets on the world stage, significantly built up and modernized the entire military, limited non-defense budget expenditures and promoted free trade to encourage economic growth in the free world.

Now you may ask why I am mentioning Reagan’s accomplishments and JFK’s achievements in a column focused on Obama. Because Obama had the same opportunity on the domestic front to lower tax rates, eliminate corporate perks, extend the life of entitlement programs beyond the next ten or twenty years, reduce discretionary spending and enact $4 trillion in deficit reduction measures through the passage of the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommendations. Obama failed miserably to advance and promote Simpson-Bowles or a viable alternative, with the end result being the endless series of government shutdowns and across-the-board reductions on both defense and non-defense programs alike, regardless of efficiency, national security merit or economic impact. And many leaders are indicating that we are no safer now than we were on 9/11, so the defense, intelligence and state department cuts are not optimal.

It does not surprise me that Obama would cast blame on the other party, because that has always been his modus operandi. In Robert Woodward’s book The Price of Politics, when asked about GOP recommendations to the stimulus package during Obama’s first few months in office, then Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel declared: “ We have the votes, (expletive) them.” This tone immediately poisoned the well and it has not improved ever since. Obama consistently uses the twin excuses of blaming Bush and blaming the GOP House for his own anemic economic record. Therefore, let us look at the facts.

Since Obama took office in 2009, over 3.5 million people (and counting) have joined the ranks of Social Security disability; a record 47.7 million Americans rely on food stamps; and the vast majority of the private sector jobs created in the Obama years have been low-wage jobs in retail and fast-food enterprises. Plus, 50% of college graduates will not obtain employment in the professions they studied for. Sadly, millions more are simply not counted in any official employment reports because they hold two or three part-time jobs or completely fell off the grid.

This is after a roughly $900 billion (interest included) stimulus package was passed. But even Bill Clinton was critical of the stimulus package, because a nation-wide smart grid to deal with blackouts, power surges and unforeseen cyber-terrorist attacks never was funded. We could add thousands of unsafe bridges and ancient school buildings that could have been renovated, but were never tackled under the wasteful stimulus umbrella. At best, the stimulus package was a stopgap measure that only delayed the eventual national pain; at worst, it only added to our existing Chinese debt load, with no discernible impact on employment.

There is a strong argument now that the recent resurgence of manufacturing jobs and energy-related jobs could be directly tied to the high-tech advances in fracking, which has enabled us to affordably extract shale gas and other previously untapped natural resources that will soon rival the reserves of Saudi Arabia and other powerhouses.

Therefore, can Obama really take any credit for North Dakota and Texas GDP expansion and population migration, or the impressive Midwest economic recovery underway in states led by Republican governors, who purposely lowered taxes, reduced government spending and balanced their budgets during the darkest days of the Great Recession? Instead of promoting an “All of the Above” energy efficiency and energy independence strategy by approving the Keystone pipeline, ensuring fracking safeguards and utilizing clean coal technology, he has been hijacked by the radical environmental elements of his own party that demonize fossil fuels, penalize drivers with high gas prices, block new pipelines, delay new drilling platforms, over-hype global warming and attack Cape Wind.

Regardless of what we do in our nation, it will pale in comparison to the economic engines of China and India, two countries going through their version of our Gilded Age, which is causing substantial environmental damage in their respective lands and will do so for many decades to come.

Obama’s policies are not fooling a majority of us, as his collapsing poll numbers reflect. It is time for us to begin anew and challenge his last years in office.