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President Obama’s 244 accomplishments

Posted By Gloria Shur Bilchik On November 1, 2010 @ 4:00 am In Good government,Obama | 8 Comments

Some say that the Nov. 2 election is a referendum on President Obama’s first two years in office. If that’s so—voters have a lot to contemplate. The President himself—and all the President’s men and women—have done a lot of things well: 244 things, according to a report compiled recently [1] by Robert P. Watson, Ph. D., who is a presidential historian and Professor of American Studies at Lynn University.

Watson describes his motivation for creating the list this way:

“Like all presidents, Barack Obama has made mistakes. But, as a presidential historian, I have been struck by claims being put forward by Obama’s many critics and the news media that he has accomplished little when, in fact, his presidency is easily one of the most active in history.”

Watson’s  list has generated some controversy—from the right and from the left, too. It has been criticized for exaggerating and for listing some things as accomplishments that sound more like suggestions, intentions or even wishes. Other items on the list strain one’s credulity. [Does holding the first Passover Seder in the White House qualify as an accomplishment, as Watson lists it?] And some seem redundant, making the total of 244 seem slightly inflated. To his credit, though, Watson adds commentary—some critical—to some items on his list.

Of course, people who dislike President Obama because he’s a Democrat, or because he’s different, or because he’s not progressive enough, or because they’ve labeled him as a “socialist” simply reject the entire list as propaganda. And one can argue, naturally, that progress is an eye-of-the-beholder phenomenon: If you don’t accept the premise of the legislation or policy, you won’t call it an accomplishment at all. Watson lists “increasing the number of drone attacks in Afghanistan” as an accomplishment. It’s not, if you think the war in Afghanistan is a waste of time, money and lives.

One thing is indisputable: President Obama has been busy. Unfortunately, one of the things the President has not done well is to communicate about and convince voters of the goods that have been delivered. In the nasty, negative atmosphere of this year’s election cycle, for example, how many people know that under President Obama, 95 percent of Americans have received a tax cut?

Is the list an accurate reflection of an earnest, ambitious presidency, or is it the work of a true believer, shilling for the president he adores? Or is it both? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Here are some excerpts for your consideration.  For the full picture, please check the full list [1]as compiled by Watson.

Ethics

• Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration (2009)

• Companies and individuals who are delinquent on their taxes or owe back taxes are no longer allowed to bid for federal contracts (2009)

• Developed the “Don Not Pay List” with data on contractors and recipients of federal funds who are deemed to be ineligible because of fraud and abuse (2010)

Governance

• Ended the Bush-era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results (2009)

• Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000) (2009)

National security

• Announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (2009)

• Cut the expensive Reagan era missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010 (2009)

• Instituted a new Nuclear Posture Review, revising US nuclear deterrence policy to encourage more nations to join the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (2010)

Iraq & Afghanistan

• Began the phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (2009); continuing the withdrawal (2010)

• Tasked the Pentagon to reorganize US policy in Afghanistan; the new policy includes 30,000 additional troops deployed, priority training of Afghan forces, developing agriculture and infrastructure, limiting aerial bombing, etc. (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date (2009)

Military & veterans

• Ended the Bush-era “blackout” imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers (2009) *

• Ended the Bush-era “black out” policy on media coverage of war casualties (2009) * Note: Full information is now released for the first time in the War on Terror)

• Ended the Bush-era practice of awarding “no-bid” defense contracts (2009)

• Authorized construction of additional health centers to care for veterans (2009)

• Ordered a review of the existing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military (2010)

• Fulfilled campaign promise to have combat troops (90,000) out of Iraq by August 31, 2010 (2010)

Foreign policy

• Closed the Bush-era “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy allowing “enhanced interrogation” (torture); the US is again in compliance with Geneva Convention standards (2009) * Note: Obama has permitted some controversial interrogation techniques to continue

• Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols (2009) * Note: Bush withdrew from non-proliferation talks and dismantled the inspection infrastructure

• Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush

• Restored the US commitment to the UN population fund for family planning; overturned the ban on providing funds internationally for family planning (2009) * Note: The family planning efforts were suspended under Bush

• Sent envoys to the Middle East and other parts of the world, reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy (2009)

• Renewed loan guarantees for Israel (2009)

• Ordered the US to finally pay its dues to the United Nations (2009)

Economy

• Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) (2009)

• Authorized the US auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages (2009)

• Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees (2009)

• Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan (2009) * Note: 1/3 in tax cuts for working-class families; 1/3 to states for infrastructure projects; 1/3 to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers, etc. at risk of losing their jobs because of state budget shortfalls

• Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that stimulated auto sales and removed old, inefficient, polluting cars from the road (2009)

• Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses (2009)

• In November 2009, Obama extended unemployment benefits for one million workers

• Credit card companies are prohibited from raising rates without advance notification or arbitrarily if customers are paying bills on time (2010)

• Signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits set to expire (2010)

• Signed historic Wall Street reform bill (2010) * Note: Designed to reregulate and end abusive practices and promote consumer protections

• Signed the HIRE Act to stimulate the economic recovery (2010) * Note: The bill includes: tax cuts for small businesses who hire someone unemployed for at least two months; small businesses can write off their investments in equipment this year; etc.

Taxes

• Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks to permit the US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals (2009)

• Ended the Bush-era policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs (2009) * Note: The new policy promotes in-sourcing investments to brings jobs back to the US

• Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provides small tax cuts for 95% of “working families” (2009)

• Ordered the closing of offshore tax safe havens (for individual and business tax evaders) (2009)

• Reduced taxes for some small businesses to stimulate the economic recovery (2009)

• Extended the Home Buyers Credit for first-time home buyers (2009)

• Called for the repeal of the capital gains tax for small businesses (2010)

• Proposed rolling back the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (2010)

Budgeting

• Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient (2009)

• Overturned the Bush-era practice of not listing certain federal programs in the federal budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did this (so did Reagan) in an effort to hide programs and make the budget look smaller; such “off budget” items are now included in the annual budget

• Full appropriations for war are now included in the budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did not list many of the appropriations for Iraq, Afghanistan, and War on Terror

• Funds for emergency appropriations are now included in the budget (2009) (2010)

• Proposed a three-year freeze on federal discretionary spending beginning in 2011 (2010)

• Established a bipartisan commission on the future of Social Security, tasked with submitting proposals to preserve and strengthen Social Security (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down

• Cut $20 billion from federal budget and has pledged to cut at least this much every year (2010)

• Freezing all discretionary spending for next three years, except on national security (2010)

Healthcare

• Removed Bush era restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research (2009)

• Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children (2009)

• Established an independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare (2009)

• Reversed some of the Bush-era restrictions that prevented Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical firms for cheaper drugs, allowing government to again competitively bid (2009)

• Authorized the FDA to finally begin regulating tobacco (2009)

• Historic healthcare reform bill signed – $940 billion over 10 years (2010) * Note: 32 million additional Americans will receive healthcare coverage and costs will be lowered for most Americans, but many of the goals are phased in over four years

Energy & environment

• Ended the Bush-era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions (2009)

• Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites (2009)

• Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s energy reform was killed by Senate Republicans

 

 

Rights

• Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Bill) (2009)

• Signed the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation that includes acts of violence against gays under the list of federal hate crimes (2009)

• Reversed the Bush-era practice of politicizing Justice Department investigations and prosecutions against political opponents (2009)

• Pushing for some of the 9/11 perpetrators to be tried in federal court (2009) * Note: The process has moved at a snail’s pace and, in the face of opposition, Obama has remained quiet

• Allowed the State Department of offer same-sex benefits for employees (2009)

• Proposed that the Pentagon repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; placed a “freeze” on current efforts to remove alleged homosexuals from the military (2009)

• After organizing studies on the topic in 2009, tasked the Pentagon to eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)

 

Education

• Increased funding for school construction (2009)

• Increased funding available for student loans (2009)

• Expanded the national youth service program (2009)

• Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years (2009)

• Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies (2009)

• The federal government will offer direct student loans, cutting out the cost of private banks (“middle man”) who increase the costs in order to make a profit (2010)

Disaster response

• FEMA once again reports directly to the president (2009) * Note: Bush removed FEMA (prior to the Hurricane Katrina disaster) from this status

• Ordered that funds be released and red tape be streamlined for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in the Gulf Coast (2009)

• Timely and massive relief effort in response to the January 2010 earthquake and ensuing humanitarian crisis (2010)

• After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a freeze was placed on new deep water projects (2010)

• After a slow start in responding to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the White House is promoting a long-term plan to reconstruct the damaged Gulf and negotiated with BP the establishment of a multi-billion dollar trust fund for victims of the spill (2010)

• Extended national flood insurance program for those in need during current economic crisis (2010)

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Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (471 Posts [2])

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.



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[1] 244 things, according to a report compiled recently: http://blacks4barack.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-244-accomplishments-of-president.html

[2] 471 Posts: http://www.occasionalplanet.org/author/gloria-shur-bilchik/

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[10] Obama’s accomplishments: Lifting the media blackout at Dover : http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2011/01/07/obama%e2%80%99s-accomplishments-lifting-the-media-blackout-at-dover/

[11] The Clintons and the Obamas: Being smart and learning humility : http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2012/05/14/the-clintons-and-the-obamas-being-smart-and-learning-humility/

[12] $42 billion war-spending cut? It’s a start. : http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2011/01/22/42-billion-war-spending-cut-it%e2%80%99s-a-start/

[13] LA Times, Colin Powell enthusiastically endorse President Obama : http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2012/10/28/la-times-colin-powell-enthusiastically-endorse-president-obama/

[14] Seattle Times endorses President Obama for re-election : http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2012/10/11/seattle-times-endorses-president-obama-for-re-election/

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