Thursday, October 11, 2012
When the 44th president took office in January 2009, the Bush era had left the country in nothing less than a complete mess. The country was embedded in a futile war in Iraq (started upon lies of the threat of WMDs), a war that has so far cost the taxpayers over $800 billion. We were also immersed in a war in Afghanistan that started in 2001 – at a cost of nearly $7 billion per month, or almost $500 billion total to date. Back home the U.S. economy was in a freefall with unemployment skyrocketing, housing prices in steep decline, mortgage-backed securities being exposed as a house of cards (thanks to deregulation of the banking and investment industries), and General Motors, Chrysler, Bear Stearns, AIG, Washington Mutual and other large auto, bank, insurance and investment firms on the brink of failure.
While it’s fair to criticize the Barack Obama administration’s emergency $700 billion bailout and the Troubled Asset Relief Program specifically, without question things could have been worse today – perhaps disastrous to almost every community – had nothing been done. While the shovel-ready TARP projects included the less-than-exciting repaving of Monterey Airport’s runway, on a bigger scale more than 10 percent of TARP money ($90 billion) was directed toward green jobs, including $29 billion for improving energy efficiency like home retrofits; $21 billion for renewable energy, such as solar and wind; $10 billion for modernizing the electric grid; $18 billion for high-speed rail and other trains, etc. And even though Bay Area solar plant Solyndra failed, and may cost taxpayers upwards of $500 million, there are failures and setbacks whenever there is innovation, and the federal government needs to stay the course here, to help us shift away from a petroleum-based economy, and reduce the threat of carbon-induced global warming. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has doubled its wind-power generation to 50 GW, and solar energy is up to over 5 GW nationwide. It’s also a plus that the Obama administration finally rebuffed the massive Keystone XL project, a proposed 17,000-mile oil pipeline that would bring crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast. Obama has successfully pushed for and obtained the highest fuel standards for the auto industry ever, a key victory – 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025, doubling the current efficiency.
On the international front, to Obama’s credit, he announced the end of U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq one month after being in office and is moving toward ending the war in Afghanistan. Since 2011 he has brought home 43,000 soldiers, leaving twice that number to fight that war. He courageously advocated for and supported the secret mission into Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden, a mission, which had it failed, would have surely made him unelectable next month. But the mission was successful, probably a fact that is hard for Dick Cheney to swallow.
Four years into the job, the economy is showing signs of improvement but continues to slog along, but the good news is it’s fairly stable. To be fair, the economy that Obama inherited may have more to do with a changing global economy, decreased reliance on domestic manufacturing, and a continued reliance on cheap foreign labor and products, as opposed to sound fiscal domestic policy. And the government’s response to the 2008 fiscal crisis may have been too little, even at a $700 billion price tag. But in this era of contentious partisan politics, the anti-government haters possessed by TARP rallied to form a rapid tea-party reaction to the Obama policies, and basically have set this country on a dangerous course where there is little room for compromise in the middle of our political debate. I don’t have a disdain for government or taxes; I want effective government and fair taxation, great public education, a strong infrastructure, a government that supports all its people, and recognizes that we are all in this together, and that means that the various political parties must find room to negotiate compromise.
Obama deserves four more years. And though I wish he’d be a stronger defender of his good work, including Obamacare and public health care, his low-key centrist style is more of who he his. Obama has shown his prowess in international affairs. He has demonstrated where his heart lies in domestic issues. He has even kept his cool as the right-wing zealots have compared him to Hitler, and questioned whether he’s even a U.S. citizen. That’s all a bunch of crap, as are the shortsighted policies set upon seizing the engine of government. Obama is a bright light. Now it’s time to prove it, and let the light shine, Mr. President.
BRADLEY ZEVE is the Weekly’s founder and CEO. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.