Friday, July 11, 2014

Obama's Actual Scorecard

Andrew Sullivan contrasts criticisms of the Obama administration's record with actual figures on The Daily Dish.

The news narrative of the summer is the floundering of the president in any number of ginned-up stories: he “lost” the Middle East (as if that’s a bad thing); he’s created a crisis in illegal immigration (even though the bulk of the blame goes to a Bush-era law); he’s responsible for total gridlock (as if Ted Cruz did not exist); he’s been snookered by Putin; he’s been humiliated by Netanyahu; he’s the “worst president since World War II”, and on and on.

But let’s revisit last fall when Obama was in his first second term swoon. At that point, with the implosion of, the very survival of the ACA, his signature domestic achievement, was in serious doubt. In the wake of Obama’s sudden bait-and-switch in Syria, when he threatened a strike and then accepted a Putin-brokered deal with Assad on WMDs, his foreign policy skills were about to get systematically downgraded by the American public. The economy was still sluggish, with no guarantee of a robust revival.

Less than a year after the ACA was regarded as near-dead, the implementation has exceeded most expectations...And the rate of increase in per capita healthcare costs has moderated substantially since the Bush administration. Perspective is everything, of course, and politically, the ACA is still (on balance) a loser, especially among the older, whiter Medicare recipients who are over-represented in mid-term elections. But still: isn’t this by the measure of last fall a pretty stunning comeback? And the purist “repeal!” chorus has dimmed to a faint version of replace or fix.

(On Syria) Well: a couple weeks back, the last shipment of WMDs was removed from the country, with very limited use in the intervening period, and is now undergoing destruction. I don’t know of any similar achievement in non-proliferation since Libya’s renunciation of WMDs under Bush. No, we didn’t resolve the sectarian civil war in Syria/Iraq, but we did remove by far the biggest threat to the West and to the world in the middle of it. Why is that not regarded as an epic triumph of American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force?

Now look at the economy where Obama has been stymied by the GOP for a very long time – both federally and in the states where local government austerity put an unprecedented drag on the recovery. Well: again, we have an unemployment rate back to where it was before the Great Recession hit. If the momentum continues, we could have an unemployment rate below 6 percent before too long. It’s taken for ever – but the hit was deep and the debt overhang large.

And speaking of debt, we also have this data to chew on: No, there hasn’t been any progress in reducing our long-term debt or our unfunded liabilities in entitlements. But when the GOP refuses to countenance any new revenues, I can’t blame the president. And to have reduced a budget deficit from 10 percent of GDP to just over 2 percent in the wake of a massive recession is something a Republican president would be bragging incessantly about.

I’m applying the criteria that Obama has applied to himself. Is his long game bearing fruit? So far, it seems to me, the question answers itself.

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