Saturday, January 30, 2010

President Obama's "Report Card"

As President Obama closes out his first year in office, perhaps it's time for an assessment of his progress — a "report card" if you will.

The Obama presidency is very much a work in progress, and to be fair, his record pales in comparison to the extraordinary expectations of the people who swept him into office. His performance must also be accurately assessed against the huge challenges he inherited — two wars, record deficits, and the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.

But Obama alone is responsible for his choice of priorities, which in my view should have been summed up in three words — jobs, jobs, and jobs. Reviving the economy should be Job One — not squandering time, energy and political capital on a national health care plan the majority of Americans don’t want, or trust the government can run cost-efficiently. That time and energy would have been much better spent on helping small business create jobs, and helping U.S. employers compete internationally. Tuning the economic engine that keeps America working must be his first priority. Good public policy — including health-care coverage for all Americans — is rooted in a strong economy, and the economy is never stronger than when America is at full employment.

Sure, Obama called for creating jobs in his State of The Union speech, but let's see if he walks his talk and puts the drive for socialized medicine on hold to actually focus on jobs and economic recovery.

Obama gave us an economic-stimulus package his administration claims saved 1.5 million jobs. Unemployment however, has obstinately hovered at 10 percent, with the numbers soaring among younger workers and minorities.

Given our own state’s self-created financial difficulties, I’d be interested in seeing an accounting of how the stimulus funds we received were spent. How many new jobs were actually created? It doesn't appear that stimulus money has been applied to new job-creation in Washington — other than those the Governor created for additional state employees — instead funding existing jobs in a shell game designed to close last year’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit.

Jobs should have been Obama's focus his first year — not cap-and-trade, job-killing taxes, handing over a major multi-national corporation (GM) to its union while wiping out millions of stockholders, creating massive new regulations, unrestrained earmark spending, and the attempted take-over of one sixth of our economy with a trillion-dollar healthcare plan our grandchildren will pay for long after its been proven a failure. Meanwhile, unemployment has increased every month Obama has been in office, adding to the burden shouldered by the already broke states — with no end in sight.

To make matters worse, the President has chosen to leave the details of rescuing the economy and achieving the Democratic Party’s holy grail of socialized medicine, to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi — two people who have routinely abused the public trust, and are especially clueless about how the economy actually works. Their answer was the so-called “stimulus” bill, which looted the treasury for the benefit of Democratic Party constituencies, while employees in the private sector were laid off or relegated to part-time status. A shining example of their blatant partisanship was setting aside two billion “stimulus” dollars for “community-stabilization” organizations — meaning the criminal conspiracy called ACORN.

Pelosi and Reid have also used their political power to heap revenge on the Republicans for eight years under Bush. Ironically, it would have been easy to secure support from the hapless Republicans because many saw what they believed was the future, and wanted to climb on board the Obama Express. But Pelosi and Reid blatantly denied them the opportunity, virtually guaranteeing those inclined to articulate principled critique of the health care and stimulus bills, a nationwide constituency.

The Democrats never anticipated the Tea-Party Rebellion — but should have. It caught the Republicans, who were slow to grasp its relevance, flat-footed as well, and they have yet to fully capitalize on such a political bonanza.

Backroom deals using taxpayer dollars to enrich one’s supporters are sadly, an age-old Congressional tradition. However, it’s quite another thing to do them on such a massive scale, and in such a blatantly transparent manner, when so many are facing exceedingly hard economic times. The American people can be fooled — but not by Chicago-style skullduggery as obvious as that practiced by Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the Obama administration.

Everything that’s happened regarding healthcare has reinforced the suspicions about Obama. Polling data makes it exceedingly clear the American people don’t want healthcare rationing; don’t want Medicare gutted; don’t want a middle-class tax increase under any circumstance; and they find Pelosi and Reid’s special backroom deals such as the Cornhusker Kickback, reprehensible.

And, if as reported, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have agreed to exempt union members and other Democratic Party friends from the 40 percent excise tax on health insurance, while imposing it on traditional opponents, and if at the insistence of the unions, provisions were inserted in the bill designed to drive non-unionized construction firms out of business, the proverbial excrement will come into direct contact with the oscillating rotor this November.

On the plus side, the president strongly believes in education, earmarking $4 billion to encourage innovation and creativity in teaching and school management. He’s an unabashed supporter of charter schools and access to higher education. He has called attention to, and generated public outrage over unearned and undeserved executive bonuses and pay.

The president gave himself a B+ in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. Ralph Nader gives him an F. Open-government advocates rate him at C+. Twelve months into his administration, I give the president a D+.

I cannot think of another moment in American history when a President and political party squandered opportunities as promising as those afforded Barack Obama. They’ve handed the Republicans a golden opportunity to convince voters that Pelosi, Reid, and the Democrats are conspiring to take almost complete control over every facet of their lives — property, money, labor, and healthcare — literally, bureaucratic power over life and death.

Had Obama chosen a more moderate course, governing as a centrist, keeping his promises regarding bipartisanship while reining in the radicals controlling the House and the Senate, insisted on transparency instead of tacitly approving the corrupt Chicago-style backroom deals that have become the hallmark of his administration, and focused on the economy and jobs, he would have proven himself a leader people want to trust. He also may have been able to accomplish much of his agenda, and done so with overwhelming support from the American people, instead of the divisive distrust we have come to embrace.

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