As President Barack Obama’s first year in office draws to a close, many have begun to wonder whether the president has taken steps to realize his campaign promises. If Obama’s falling approval ratings are any indication, the answer seems to be no.
People simply don’t think President Obama has accomplished anything, citing the complete lack of progress in his health insurance reform as a prime example. Many are disappointed and feel betrayed by the promises he made. However, contrary to this sentiment, there has been undeniable change, evident looking at the big-picture implications of Obama’s work over the last year.
Health care reform has been a hot-button issue since the start of Obama’s candidacy. One of the main arguments against his initiative for health care reform is that it should not be his focus when the U.S. economy has been so weak. But in an economy that has limited the number of people able to afford health care, it is actually intimately connected to the economy.
Today, it is estimated that more than 46.3 million people do not have health insurance. Health care reform has been needed for decades; if it does not happen now, when so many are in need, then when? There are more than 76 million baby boomers — about 28 percent of the U.S population — in the United States who will soon, if not already, be in need of serious health care . The fact is clear: Health care is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Yes, Obama promised health care reform in a timely manner. But Democrats have been trying to pass a national insurance plan for 60 years; how is Obama supposed to pass it in one?
While a bill has not yet been passed, Obama has accomplished much in the way of health care reform. In February of last year Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provided health insurance to 4 million children who did not previously have heath insurance.
President Obama also signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the ubiquitous “stimulus package” that made health coverage affordable with a 65 percent Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconcilation Act subsidy for 7 million Americans who lost their jobs. Most importantly, the president’s Recovery Act invested $19 billion in computerized medical records (reducing costs while enhancing quality), provided a billion dollars in research money to give doctors better tools to make more informed decisions for their patients and also gave millions to help train new medical personnel. All of this was done in a year — true, there is no bill yet, but these are, nonetheless, huge steps in the right direction.
Obama’s accomplishments don’t stop at health care; he has helped the economy as well. While critics have lamented that Obama has done nothing, that is far from the truth.
Many economists believed that the United States was headed toward a second Great Depression, based on various factors including the aggregate effect of war.
In response, Obama signed a highly criticized $787 billion stimulus bill and a $350 billion bailout of the banks in order to keep us out of a looming depression.
As a direct result of the stimulus, 2,500 highway projects have been approved — which are expected to create 260,000 jobs. Further, $115 billion dollars of the stimulus has been dedicated to modernizing schools and preserving jobs for teachers.
And with regard to the bank bailouts, Obama is not letting banks off the hook quite that easily, as he announced that he will implement stronger regulations on American banks’ proprietary trading and hedge fund operations. Now, one might say it is all talk, but it is important to realize what this talk is causing. It is believed that many politicians will follow Obama’s example of bank reform; Britain’s Conservative Party Treasury Rep. George Osbourne has said his party would take on similar bank reforms, striking fear in some European banks.
Obama’s accomplishments range from increasing federal grants and tax credits that help low-income students go to college to investing $50 billion in research for alternative forms of energy, to signing the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 that put thousands of acres of wilderness under federal protection (the largest in 15 years) and even to approving California Emissions standards that George W. Bush blocked for six years.
Obama has also revolutionized politics by bringing it up to speed with today’s technology. From the start of his campaign, Obama utilized the Internet — even Facebook. Communication with the Obama administration is simple with, for the first time ever, a White House blog and online question-and-answer sessions. Obama is entirely open with the people of the United States, which is a refreshing change.
But Obama’s biggest accomplishment is not tangible — it’s a change in people. I see more people who are informed and involved in politics and, I see more people with hope that there will be change. Most importantly, I see more people who actually feel that we, as a nation, are heading in the right direction. I am still astounded to see how packed the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism lobby gets each time Obama is about to give a speech.
President Obama has accomplished so much in only one year. Instead of focusing on the latest setbacks, let’s look at the big picture. Our president has been able to accomplish in one year what has taken other presidents four years, eight years or not at all. Problems that have been building for decades cannot be fixed in a single year, but, at the pace President Obama is going, America will reach its goals much faster.
Elizabeth Sandoval is a sophomore majoring in communication.
For a different view on Obama’s first year in office, read an article by Alex Shams.