Wednesday, 25 January 2017

How Successful Was the Obama Presidency?

by Mark Docherty

With all the headlines revolving around how Donald Trump will fare in the White House and how successful or, more commonly, unsuccessful he will be, there has been surprisingly little coverage and reflection on Trump’s predecessor.  Obama is widely respected as a man around the world due to his likeable personality and calm and classy demeanor when addressing the country.  However, there are some who feel that Obama’s policy has been ineffective and that he has failed to live up to what was expected of him when he was elected in 2008.

One of the most surprising failures of Obama’s campaign was that, according to 58% of the Americans asked, race relations have worsened since the last Presidential election.  Racial tolerance was expected to be one of the strong points of Obama’s America but it seems that, since electing the country’s first black President, things have taken a turn for the worse on that front.  The deterioration of racial relations is seen as being one of the main reasons Donald Trump has been elected as the next President, with his anti-Islamic and Mexican stance reflecting the state of the country.  Certainly this is a step back for America and has seen protests against the treatment of African-Americans by policemen and the need for pressure groups such as Black Lives Matter to try and improve the situation.

Another of the main criticisms of Obama is that he will have no real legacy to be remembered for.  One might have expected his greatest and longest lasting achievement to be ‘ObamaCare’, his reforms on health insurance to make it more widely available.  However, this is set to be repealed by Donald Trump because of the impact ObamaCare has on businesses.  It has been argued that Obamacare is bad for businesses because they have to provide health insurance for employees and some Republicans claim it has resulted in the loss of jobs.  This is presumably why Trump is so keen to repeal it, as his interests lie in the business sector.  With the repeal of ObamaCare, the ex-President will lose his greatest achievement while in office, although his legacy could live on in aspects of what Trump passes as ObamaCare’s replacement.

However, there have also been areas in which Obama has undoubtedly been successful during his time in office such as his economic policy.  When he was first elected the US economy was in a terrible state and looked on the brink of collapse, but Obama managed to rescue the situation.  In 2008 the American auto industry was in danger of collapsing and General Motors and Chrysler were both heading towards bankruptcy, but Obama led a $80 billion bailout to keep the industry on its feet.  Obama’s optimism has steadied the economy on the whole, giving hope to people and businesses to continue investment and keep the economy on the road to recovery.  His economic policy has been an unqualified success and he has led the recovery from the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

The other front on which Obama excelled was in creating jobs.  When he took over in the Oval Office job losses averaged 772,000 every month, but since then there have been 75 consecutive months of job gains under Obama.  Furthermore, there have been 11.3 million jobs created over Obama’s tenure, with the unemployment rate dropping from 10% to just under 5%.  This can only be described as a success for the President and he can be very proud of what he has achieved in this area.  A big part of the rise in employment has been ObamaCare, with jobs in the health sector rising by 9%, despite claims that ObamaCare is having a detrimental impact on jobs in the US.

It is difficult to come down on one side or the other in terms of whether or not Obama’s presidency has been a success.  There have been some very positive aspects such as the dramatic improvements in the economic and employment statistics but there have also been some negative points such as the breakdown in race relations and the lack of a lasting legacy.  However, one thing that can be agreed upon is that Obama is a very genuine man who is a far cry from what can be expected from his successor.  The 44th President may not have been as successful as he wanted to be when he took office, but he has performed admirably in some areas and I feel that the country has moved forward under his leadership.  He remains a popular figure with a 60% approval rating at the end of his time in the White House, and it will be interesting to see whether Americans start to miss Obama’s eloquent charisma after Trump has been in power for a few months.

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