As President Obama prepares to leave office many observers are weighing in on his accomplishments, as I have already done myself, see here and here.
Today let’s evaluate his major achievements:
- Reviving the economy after the Great Recession. This was done but the recovery has been unnecessarily slow with annual growth averaging just 2% of GDP ever since June 2009. In fact, stagnant middle-class and especially blue-collar incomes are the reason Donald Trump eked out a victory over Hillary Clinton.
- A giant step towards national healthcare. Even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, its replacement will be much more universal than before. Unfortunately, however, the ACA increases access but does nothing to control the cost of healthcare (now 18% of GDP) which continues its steady rise. This is what has to change.
- A global pact to combat climate change. Global warming is real but our response should be more circumspect. China has only pledged to reduce carbon emissions after 2030. India has 300 million people off the electric grid. It also has an abundant supply of coal. Heroic efforts by the developed world alone will have little effect on worldwide C02 levels.
- A rash of new financial and environmental regulations. Both Dodd-Frank and new EPA regulations have contributed significantly to the economic slowdown which is why they are likely to be modified by the Trump Administration and Congress.
- The Iran nuclear deal. The problem here is what will happen when the 10 – 15 year deal expires. Iran then will have a green light to develop nuclear weapons unless China and Russia agree to new sanctions which is unlikely.
- American retreat from superpower status. Obama deposed a dictator in Libya but walked away from the aftermath. His premature decision to leave Iraq allowed ISIS to spring up. He let the civil war in Syria run out of control. A “reset” with Russia did nothing to prevent Putin from invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea.
Conclusion. As the first African-American President, Barack Obama is certainly a historical figure. But “a presidency of great promise is now ending in rancor and disappointment.”
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