by Domenic DeMasi / Social Media manager
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was certainly historical and invigorating. He was the nation’s first black president and took office at a time when the nation was suffering from its worst economic recession since the Great Depression. And the country was simultaneously engulfed in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which only exacerbated the suffering.
Many Americans clung to his promises of “hope” and “change,” expecting that he would live up to his two biggest platforms: ending the wars and fixing the economy. Eight years later, it is clear that he did neither.
Throughout his presidency, Obama was routinely attacked by conservatives and unabashedly praised by liberals. Quite frankly, he is deserving of neither side’s sentiment. Both liberals and conservatives have used biased reporting, inflammatory and uncritical rhetoric, and half-truths to shape their perceptions of Barack Obama’s Presidency. Now it is time to look at Obama’s record for what it really was: a barely noticeable improvement.
To be fair, although they are few and far between, Obama has made some notable accomplishments during his time in office. Perhaps most memorable are his diplomatic achievements. Nobody can deny the significance of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba in 2015, after more than 50 years of hostilities.
Obama’s other significant accomplishment in diplomacy was the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. According to CNN, the landmark deal requires from Iran “heightened inspections, including tracking uranium mining and monitoring the production and storage of centrifuges” in exchange for “relief from sanctions while being allowed to continue its atomic program for peaceful purposes.” The deal helps make the world a bit safer by severely limiting Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, while at the same time bringing Iran back into the international community after more than 30 years of isolation.
Domestically, Obamacare has been his biggest triumph. Passed by Congress in 2010, it brought “health coverage to close to some 20 million Americans who previously had been left out of secured access to health services through employer-sponsored insurance” CounterPunch reported.
Obama however, did not live up to the major promises he campaigned on and has proven to be an advocate of foreign intervention abroad and a proponent of neoliberal free trade agreements, just like Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him.
Not only did Obama fail to live up to his promises on ending the War On Terror, he even reshaped and expanded it.
To his credit, he did indeed end the Iraq War, with the final withdrawal of U.S. troops occurring in 2011. Then again, with the rise of ISIS, which destabilized Iraq into a full-scale civil war in 2014, Obama was quick to start a new war there again, authorizing the first U.S. airstrikes there that August, then quickly expanding the war into Syria, just a month later.
But Obama’s penchant for bombing doesn’t stop there. In 2011, in a move that had consequences eerily similar to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Obama joined NATO in supporting the Islamist rebels in Libya that were trying to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi. NATO’s bombing campaign in Libya quickly led to the fall of Gaddafi’s regime. Ever since, Libya has still been embroiled in a brutal civil war of Islamists fighting Jihadists for control of the country. Obama and NATO completely ravaged a once stable and peaceful country and turned it into a terrorist paradise, with ISIS even having established a stronghold of its own in Sirte, according to CNN.
Ever since Gaddafi’s ouster, more than 435,000 Libyans have been displaced and “an estimated 2.5 million Libyans needed access to health services, according to the U.N., and around 400,000 required food aid,” PBS reported.
Obama has made few efforts to finally end the War in Afghanistan, now the longest war in American history, which will soon see its third presidency as it enters its 16th year. Obama has also considerably expanded the drone program, using armed drones to bomb insurgents in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, CNN reported. Taken together, Obama has bombed a total of seven countries throughout his presidency. Did I mention he is also a Nobel Peace Prize winner?
Regarding the economy, Obama has also been a disappointment. Like Presidents Bush and Clinton before him, Obama has been an avid promoter of neoliberal free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Although it hasn’t yet been passed, the TPP, like previous free trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, would allow corporations to outsource thousands of jobs to countries with few worker protections, effectively promoting the continuation of sweatshop labor.
Not only that, these free trade agreements, including the TPP, give corporations the power to bypass environmental and public health laws and regulations. If a member country’s government doesn’t comply with these provisions and enforces such laws, corporations are permitted, under these agreements, to sue that country in an international tribunal for lost profits and the taxpayer has to compensate them.
Obama has made no serious efforts to reduce or even halt growing wealth disparities. According to CounterPunch, during the administrations of the last three presidents, “the super rich have raked in the most, while profiting the most from various tax loopholes, which have lowered their average tax rate from 27 percent in 1992 to less than 17 percent in 2012.” What’s more, from 1999-2014, the median incomes of lower-income and middle-income families decreased by 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
Obama served the interests of big business and war hawks, doing very little to improve the lives of working people. He may have been an improvement from his predecessor, but that obviously didn’t require too much effort. The economic insecurities that have plagued working Americans for decades and the interventionist policies that continue to destroy countries and millions of lives abroad will continue under the next president.
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