I don’t know much about Washington Monthly, but this in-depth article/column caught my eye today.
Rest assured, I haven’t been one of the President’s biggest fans. Yes, count me among those progressives who expected more. Count me among those who feel like he has negotiated against himself, and attempted too much bipartisanship (Olympia Snowe’s complaints regarding health care reform act notwithstanding)
I can’t agree with everything the author credits Obama with, for instance I’m not convinced of the genius of Race to the Top, there’s not much in here about the environment outside of using the auto bailout to leverage increased fuel standards, and we’re still mired in Afghanistan. But the overall argument here is that Obama has done much more and accomplished much bigger tasks than anyone currently realizes, and only history will fully give him the credit he deserves.
On the economy:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus added anywhere from 500,000 to 3.3 million jobs and boosted GDP by between 1 and 4.5 percent. Indeed, within weeks of the stimulus going into effect, unemployment claims began to subside.
On the bank recovery:
In 2008, the International Monetary Fund studied past financial crises in forty-two countries and found that their governments spent, on average, 13.3 percent of GDP to resolve them. By that measure, it would have cost the U.S. government $1.9 trillion. The Obama plan got the banks back on their feet at essentially zero cost to the government, and in historically near-record time. Let that sink in.
Since bottoming out in 2009, the auto industry has added upward of 100,000 jobs. The Big Three are all profitable again, and last year they each gained market share, the first time that’s happened in two decades. Most of the $80 billion in bailout funds have been paid back; Washington is likely to lose only about $16 billion, less if the price of its GM stock rises. Even on its face, the policy has been one of the most successful short-term government economic interventions in decades.
…by kicking the banks out of the student loan program, Obama has effectively eliminated the biggest lobbying force standing in the way of an über-reform of student aid.
The author attacks the claim of an overly cautious presidency:
The view that Barack Obama is overly cautious must also take into account the many times in his presidency when he took extraordinary risks. He did so when he turned down Detroit’s first bailout request, demanding more concessions, including government ownership and the resignation of GM’s CEO, before saying yes. He did so when, after passing the stimulus, he made health care reform his number one legislative priority, against the advice of some of his top political advisers; and when, after Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, he chose to jam the health care bill through reconciliation despite cries of outrage from the GOP. And he did so, most famously, when he chose to send special forces into Pakistan to go after Osama bin Laden…
The author cites polls of presidential scholars who variously rate Obama somewhere in the top 8-15 of all US presidents. Then again, it’s not like we have such a wonderful list to pick from here — certainly not from the progressive perspective.
I post this less as a defense of Obama, because I’m still not entirely sure I agree, and more to gauge reaction. A lot of BMG posters are much more up on national politics than me. I know it’s not the first big defense of Obama. But this mostly resonated with me as a reasonable perspective that is lacking from our national dialog.