Sunday, November 4, 2012

Obama: Still the Best President Ever

Back in December of 2009, before Obama had completed his first year in office, before he signed health care reform into law, I wrote a post proclaiming that Barack Obama the best President in my lifetime. I also predicted that he is likely to be a better President than any successor I will live to see.

Three tumultuous years later, I am pleased to see that President Obama has lived up to my expectations. I am proud to stand by my initial assessment. I will enthusiastically cast my vote for his re-election on November 6.

We have a tendency the mythologize our presidents. But the office of the presidency does not come with the powers to shape the nation in accordance to your will. There is no enchanted staff, bestowed on inauguration day, that can be wielded to shine the blessing of full employment upon us all. Even the Hollywood-tale of the spellbinding statesman able to unite us, cow the opposition, and win the day with unimpeachable logic and soaring rhetoric -  is largely a myth.

Ultimately, inevitably, the President of the United States is just a person. The office itself is a job. The chosen individual is either good at it, or not.

By this basic, honest, standard Barack Obama has been an exceptional President of the United States. Over the past four years, day after day, on issue after issue, he has demonstrated an uncommon combination of wisdom, patience, competence, compassion, and leadership. He is good at this.

There are number of areas where the actions of this President have had a positive impact. On education, the environment, financial reform, immigration, the war on terror, clean energy, killing Bin Laden, foreign policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, marriage equality, equal pay for women, women's reproductive rights, disaster relief, student loans... the list of positive achievements is long and impressive.

And there are two issues in particular that have touched us directly.

I've spent my career working for technology start-up companies. It has often, and recently, been the case that these small and new companies do not offer health insurance coverage with the job. Shopping for insurance for my family has given me an all-too-close perspective on the dysfunction of the current system and the urgent need for reform. We've been denied coverage, had family members rejected due to pre-existing conditions, and seen huge premium increases year after year. Even for people with money and good jobs, the system is broken. It hasn't worked. It especially hasn't worked for small businesses. My experience has left me with zero sympathy for anyone who has opposed health care reform and immense gratitude for this administration for seeing this through.

Everyone should be able to afford health insurance for their family. Thanks to this President that is will soon be a reality. It is inconceivable to me that anyone would want to throw it all away and return to the costly, nightmare, unstable system we've been force to live with.

The second issue is the economy. Our family has been fortunate enough to have weathered the Great Recession with relatively little personal hardship. But it's not hard to remember what things were like four years ago, when the financial crisis hit. I remember walking by the empty storefronts on my way to work. I remember wondering who was going to close next, and how this business or that new restaurant was going to survive. I remember personally laying-off one new hire and putting off on others while we cut back to see what would happen.

Are we better off now than we were four year ago? We absolutely are. I've recently left my job and signed on with a new one, not because I had to, but because there were new opportunities to pursue. In my little corner of the world, new businesses are opening.  New companies are hiring. Existing companies are seeing new opportunities. Entrepreneurs are dreaming and scheming once again.

Part of the recovery comes from the natural rhythms of the business cycle. But no small amount of credit is due to President Obama and his administration. They pushed through the stimulus bill that invested in roads, bridges, clean energy companies, and saved million of jobs. They provided assistance to the states to close budget gaps and keep workers on the job. They cut our taxes and put more money in our pockets. They supported an aggressive monetary policy that saved our financial system and insured banks were there with the capital and credit that businesses need to survive and to grow.

The last four years have not been easy. We have been cursed to live in interesting times. But we have been blessed to have Barack Obama as our President for the last four years. I am proud to support him for another term.

All people, all politicians, all Presidents are imperfect. But this one is as good as they get. We are lucky to have him. He has earned our support, our respect, and our vote.


  1. Better than Romney? Of course.

    Best president in our lifetimes? Well, here's a few black marks:
    Extending the Patriot Act
    Keeping Guantanamo open (indefinite detention without trial)
    Signing the NDAA (Guantanamo for US citizens!)
    Sustaining the drug war (including raiding state-legal medical dispensaries)
    Indiscriminate drone strikes

    I admit I don't know as much about Carter or Clinton's terms, but I don't think they pulled that level of liberty-destroying shenanigans.

    1. The civil liberties stuff is tricky. I've expressed some of my own preferences here:

      Obama generally lives up to my expectations in this area.

      Regarding some of your examples. They tried to close Guantanamo. The Obama administration has explicitly stated that NDAA does NOT permit indefinite detention of citizens. And the drone strikes, while aggressive, have not been in any way indiscriminate.

      The drug war escalation has been puzzling (although hardly unique to Obama). I'm hoping that'll change in the 2nd terms, especially with more states decriminalizing marijuana. But I'll admit that might just be wishful thinking.

  2. Ben, it's estimated that only 1 in 50 killed in these drone strikes is an actual target. Indiscriminate, perhaps not. But they carry a huge amount of collateral damage. Thousands of civilians. I'm sure the left will rediscover its outrage over this if Romney wins the election.

    As for the rest of you Obama accomplishments, obviously I disagree. Equal pay? Sure a new lawsuit statute, but is there any evidence that this has actually closed the pay gap (which is itself something of a fiction)? How about the national debt - still a trillion a year three years into the supposed recovery? Unemployment? (14.5% real unemployment is horrendous). Obama promised to tackle entitlement reform, and has not lifted a finger. Welfare and poverty rates are through the roof -again, THREE years into his "recovery". Growth is 1-2 percent, which is stall speed.

    Finally, I'm curious. Has your family insurance gotten cheaper since Obamacare? Why do you expect it to?


    1. There are plenty of dire statistics. But I'm struck by the extent to which, even among the critics who cite the problems incessantly, how rarely an alternative is offered.

      On each of these issue (deficit, unemployment, etc...) there is little credible mention of obvious errors, missed opportunities, or superior plans. If even Obama's fiercest critics can't explain what should have been done differently, then the administration must be doing quite a lot right.

      On entitlement reform, I disagree. The ACA constitutes significant reform of our health care programs. And on a personal level, we're already seeing some benefits. Plans can no longer reject children for pre-existing conditions. Our insurer owes us a rate cut and a rebate because they were spending less than 80% of our premium dollars on actual care.

      I expect more changes, transparency, and competition and opportunities for us, personally, when the exchanges open and the law fully takes effect. This is something I plan writing about more after then election and as things take shape in 2013.

  3. Has my family insurance every gotten cheaper? Was "getting cheaper" promised? Mine's basically unchanged; it goes up a little every year, as I would expect anything sold for-profit to do (talking real world, not the world according to Adam Smith). What it did do is provide it to millions of people who don't have it (I've never been one of those) and it will slow the rate of growth of cost.

    There are other metrics by which to judge goodness and badness besides "SAVE ME TEH MOOOONNNNEEEEEEEEE!!!!"

  4. How can this guy be the best president???? Our debt was at an all time high when he started and he has certainly done NOTHING to reverse the trend. All "leaders" must accept the ultimate responsibility of results.

  5. How can this guy be the best president???? Our debt was at an all time high when he started and he has certainly done NOTHING to reverse the trend. All "leaders" must accept the ultimate responsibility of results.