Progress We Can Believe In
One Year Ago
Think back to October 2008. If you remember correctly the world was ending. The American financial system was f.ailing and near total collapse. Half of the homes on your block were in foreclosure. Americans were losing their jobs left and right. Banks were failing and people were unable to pay credit card debt and mortgages. The United States was engaged in two wars with no strategy and no end in sight. The world viewed the United States with disdain and hatred. All the while, a President sat in the oval office oblivious to the world around him unable to stop the downward spiral caused by his eight years in office. We had lost a financial system. We lost credibility. We lost respect. We lost the City of New Orleans.
Then in November there was a brief glimmer of hope. Hope sprung by a man with a funny name. He was young and inexperienced, yet there was something about him that moved people young and old. Barack Obama promised hope and change. And after a year, we still have hope and there has been some change. Most important, there has been progress. And yes, it is progress we can all believe in.
Since taking office President Obama has taken steps unheard of before in American history. He bailed out the financial institutions with billions of taxpayer dollars because these institutions were too big to fail. He bailed out the auto industry. The pushed through Congress the biggest stimulus packages in history. Republicans cried about the deficit and the takeover of the country's largest institutions by the government and claimed this would lead to a socialist takeover of the country. Many liberals rejected the bailouts as corporate welfare and screamed about the stimulus packages because they didn't provide immediate relief to the working poor.
Yet what is lost in the screaming and crying is the fact that the financial system did not fail. It has changed dramatically due to the number of banks that went under in late December 2008, but it did not fail and in fact banks are showing profits again. And much of the money given to banks has been returned with interest. More of the money needs to be returned either through payback or tax, but progress has been made.
The Stock Market, which went lower than 8000 points during the end of the Bush years, now holds around 10,000. 401K and retirement plans are no longer in jeopardy. More imporantly, investing has become safer and is being rewarded again. More safeguards are needed but progress has been made.
The unemployment rate sits near 10%. But the job loss has been slowed during Obama's presidency instead of the freefall it was in under the last months of the Bush Administration. More importantly, Obama has made jobs a top priority and the market is improving. More needs to be done but progress has been made.
In one short year the free fall of the American economy, and the American lifestyle, has been stopped despite the gigantic inertia it gained during the Bush years. Yes the deficit is outrageous and more needs to be done, but progress has been made and it has only been one year.
Other Domestic Issues
For eight years under George Bush, domestic policy was an after thought. Yes, foreign affairs are important but so is maintaining the standard of living for everyday Americans. Barack Obama ran for President on a platform to bring real change to Health care and Education.
Despite the fact that the financial world was ending, Barack Obama managed to push the issue of Health care into the forefront and for the first time in decades the nation has seriously debated the issue. Republicans scream that Obama is trying to "nationalize" the system and liberals scream that his plan doesn't do enough to cover every American. But credit is due for making Health care a real issue that ordinary Americans debate in their homes, at their jobs and with their friends. This debate has forced Americans to decide what the very nature of Health care is: is it a right or a privilege. And today, a comprehensive health care plan nears passage.
By no means is the plan everything I would have wanted nor is it everything anyone would have wanted. But despite the numerous disagreements, this much is true. The end has come for pre-existing conditions. The end has come for dropping those with coverage simply because they use it. The end has come to the insurance monopoly over the system. They end has come for rising costs with nothing in return. We will have to pay for whatever the final system that is put into place, but if more and better care is given, then it will be worth it. Nothing good comes cheap. Progress has been made. Much more is needed.
As for the other domestic policies, most have not been given much coverage on the news. Healthcare has already been expanded to children. Education has been virtually ignored but there are signs that it is next. The President has begun pushing on energy independence and alternative energy. The First Lady has make healthy eating her main policy initiative.
In short, health care has demanded focus on the domestic side. But progress has been made. Amazingly, Republicans argue that Obama is trying to do too much too fast. After eight years of doing nothing, it is time that the politicians actually begin working hard again. It is a big country with a lot of problems, there isn't time to wait for Republicans to stop dragging their heels.
A year ago, the United States was engaged in two wars without an end in sight and without a coherent strategy or goal. The United States was no longer respected around the world and we lost our moral authority.
All that changed with the election of Barack Obama. People around the world celebrated on election night at the very thought that George Bush was no longer in office and that the United States had maybe grown up as a nation. President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, not for anything he had done, for the hope of what he would do and for the fact that he was so drastically different than the previous administration.
The wars that began and were misrun under the Bush Administration still go on. But they are in a much better position than they were a year ago. There is a coherent strategy and exit strategy in Afghanistan. While many disagree with the President's plans, there is a plan and the soldiers there know what the mission is and what they goals are. In Iraq, things have calmed down. Most importantly, Obama has kept his promise and given the soldiers the support they need. No longer do our troops go without armor and ammunition. Further, the wars are no longer ignored by an administration intent of keeping the events of the day secret.
As for the other international threats to the United States, they still exist and threats are everywhere. Yet, unlike George Bush and using the standard of success promoted by the likes of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, President Obama has kept us safe during his first year in office. This was something that George Bush could not achieve. Yet, the known threats are more under control than they were during the Bush Administration. President Obama has garnered support to pressure on Iran regarding their nuclear program. And Iran has responded and somewhat cooperated. Yes, Iran will balk and lie and cheat and steal, but President Obama has the international support to hold Iran's feet to the fire. As for North Korea, they still talk tough every now and then, but the parties are talking and the United States no longer ignores their enemies, but engages them and demands results. Progress has been made. Much more is needed.
More important than any actual accomplishments is that America has regained its rightful position of respect and prestige around the world. And America has regained its moral authority. America is respected again around the world.
Progress We Can Believe In
President Obama's approval ratings have fallen to less than fifty percent. Most pundits state that Democrats will lose control of Congress in 2010. Many despise the President's health care plan and his foreign policy goals. Many just don't like the President at all.
But some credit is due. When Obama took office the country was in a downward spiral that many believed could not be stopped. Not only did President Obama stop the downward spiral, but progress in all aspects have been made. This doesn't mean you have to agree with the President's policies, I know I don't agree with them all either, but some credit is due because real progress has been made in the last year and this is progress we can believe in. At the very least, most Americans believe again that our best days are ahead and generally feel better than they did one year ago.
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