Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Obama's Accomplishments

Like a lot of progressives, I've been disappointed in how little Obama has accomplished. Nathan Newman suggests otherwise, noting a tremendous list of accomplishments:

Quick Summary of 2009 Progressive Victories

  • Three major health bills (SCHIP, tobacco regulation, and stimulus funds for Medicaid, COBRA subsidies, health information technology and the National Institutes of Health) enacted even before comprehensive reform
  • Stimulus contained myriad other individual policy victories, not only preventing a far worse depression but also:
    • Delivered key new funds for education
    • Expanded state energy conservation programs and new transit programs
    • Added new smart grid investments
    • Funded high-speed Internet broadband programs
    • Extended unemployment insurance for up to 99 weeks for the unemployed and modernizing state UI programs to cover more of the unemployed
    • Made large new investments in the safety net, from food stamps (SNAP) to affordable housing to child care
  • Clean cars victory to take gas mileage requirements to 35mpg
  • Protection of 2 million acres of land against oil and gas drilling and other development
  • Executive orders protecting labor rights, from project labor agreements to protecting rights of contractor employees on federal jobs
  • Stopping pay discrimination through Lilly Ledbetter and Equal Pay laws
  • Making it easier for airline and railway workers to unionize, while appointing NLRB and other labor officials who will strengthen freedom to form unions
  • Reversing Bush ban on funding overseas family planning clinics
  • Passing hate crimes protections for gays and lesbians
  • Protecting stem cell research research
  • Strengthening state authority and restricting federal preemption to protect state consumer, environmental and labor laws
  • Financial reforms to protect homeowners and credit card holders
  • Bailing out the auto industry and protecting unionized retirees and workers
That is a lot. I wonder why the overwhelming view of Obama's accomplishments is negative. I suspect three major reasons. First, the 24 hour media cycle. Even before Democrats took power, the spin was that they can't govern. While that may or may not be true, especially in the Senate, the MSM and their Republican friends already had this narrative decided. Second, we expect too much too soon. With so many years of pent-up frustrations, we want Obama to tackle health care, the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, climate change, gay rights, immigration, and 10 other issues at the same time. And that's asking too much. That said, he could do more--overturning Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be a great first step. Third, teabaggery creates the illusion of a mass movement against Obama, but it's really just a small movement of loud people. But this then scares many Democrats and they begin running away from their president elected with a strong mandate of change. This then feeds into the manufactured narrative of an unpopular Obama and it spirals down from there.

So maybe I need to relax here and realize that Obama is doing almost as much as he can. Not sure about that, but Newman provides solid evidence in favor of this position.