Barack Obama has not just dribbled away the progressive mandate of 2008, he has emerged over the past three years as a politician “to the right of President Ronald Reagan, the Tea Party hero” on at least some issues. The U.S. continues its steady decline in all the indices that count for the average person. “Only three developed countries – Albania, Russian and Moldova – had a worse maternal mortality rate.” African Americans are in free fall under the First Black President.
BAR editor and columnist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, PhD
“Of 891 promises made, Obama has kept 233, broken 116 and failed to address 61 percent.”
Barack Obama recently told a radio interviewer of his response to criticisms of his administration, “I tell them what Joe Biden says, judge me not as the Almighty, consider the alternative.”
Obama’s comment was astonishing. The man who came in on a wave of public optimism and support, whose rallying cry was, “Yes, we can” was brushing off his four years of “no, we can’ts.” Here are some examples:
– Obama has increased drone strikes eight times over what the Bush administration did across two terms according to John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies
– He prevailed upon the Environmental Protection Agency to pull back anti-smog legislation as part of the Clean Air Act. The U.S. with China and India is the worst carbon emitter in the world.
– He has failed to close Guatanamo Bay – an election promise.
– He promised immigration reform - a key promise given that 26 percent of the electorate is Latino. In 2010, his administration arrested more migrants – 393,000 - than any administration before (81,000 more than in President George W. Bush’s last year in office).
Obama’s failure to keep promises has been mapped by a user of Idea Palooza, a U.S. website, it is sobering reading. The creator, who appears to be conservative, compiled all 891 election promises Obama made (perhaps the first warning was a candidate who made so many promises, but Americans and the world, exhausted after eight war-mongering years of George W. Bush failed to pay attention). So far, according to this measure, which is used by major U.S. news media, Obama has kept 233 promises, broken 116 and failed to address 61 percent.
“In some states schools are on four-day weeks because there is no funding and thousands of teachers have been retrenched.”
He is to the right of President Ronald Reagan, the Tea Party hero, according to the Institute for Policy Studies on some financial issues. They point out that after more than 250 economists wrote to him earlier this year calling for more imagination in the handling of the $15-trillion debt, their call was spurned by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Obama remained silent). The IPS said, “That rigid position places the Obama administration to the right not only of Reagan, but also both Bush presidencies and the International Monetary Fund.” Geithner served as head of New York’s Federal Reserve under Bush, and is one of a number of key Bush appointees Obama has kept close; they also include national Federal Reserve chief, Ben Bernanke and former Defense secretary, Robert Gates, among others.
When Obama was elected into office in November, 2008, he had the strongest majorities in both houses of Congress since 1993. Democrats held 258 of the 435 seats in the House and at least 54 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Two years later he lost the House to the Republicans.
And since then a bitterly divided Congress has slumped to a nine percent approval rating – its worst ever – for its failure to legislate and continual threats to shut down government. These threatened shutdowns have seen government departments freeze – they are too nervous to implement projects or to hire staff because there is no assuredness that they will receive an ongoing flow of funding.
“Nearly two-thirds of city employees across the country facing layoffs are African American.”
And so America’s infrastructure has begun crumbling: 12% or 69,000 bridges are “structurally deficient,” as just one example. In some states schools are on four-day weeks because there is no funding and thousands of teachers have been retrenched.
In August the White House reported that unemployment among young African Americans was 32%; by December it had leapt to 41.3%. The union group, AFL-CIO, reported last week that, “The loss of public-sector jobs has disproportionately impacted African Americans – nearly two-thirds of city employees across the country facing layoffs are African American.”
While Africa greeted his election with joy, Obama has shown little interest in the continent. In September, he signed into law a $23.2 million cut for Pepfar – the HIV and AIDS program introduced by President George W. Bush and an important funder of treatment and care programs in developing nations. But global family planning and reproductive health services took the biggest hit with a reduction of $85 million.
The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation according to the CIA Factbook. The Save the Children Fund notes that “an American woman is more than seven times as likely as one in Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes and her maternal death risk is 15 times that in Greece. Only three developed countries – Albania, Russian and Moldova – had a worse maternal mortality rate.”
The Census Bureau reports the number of Americans in poverty jumped to 15.1 percent in 2010, a 17-year high. About 46.2 million people, or nearly one in six, were in poverty. And 49.9 million were without health insurance.
“The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation.”
In October, the Congressional Budget Committee revealed that since 1979, the richest one percent had seen incomes rise 275%, while the middle class was 40% more comfortable and the lowest fifth of the nation had seen incomes rise only 18% – essentially, they got poorer. Yet in November, when the so-called super-committee nominated by Obama to find ways out of the debt crisis failed to reach accord, one of the biggest stumbling blocks was a refusal by Republicans to increase taxes on the rich, many of whom pay far lower taxes than the lowest earning members of society. Billionaire Warren Buffet famously pointed out recently that his personal assistant pays more tax than he does.
Many of these issues Obama inherited, but with the mandate the electorate gave him he had the greatest capacity of any president in decades to make a real difference.
When he was elected Obama said: “Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blue states, we have been and always will be the United States of America.”
Under Obama the United has fallen off the States of America. History still has to reveal whether Barack Obama is a victim of racists in the Republican Party who will do anything to stymie the first black president for the United States or whether he simply was not the right man for an important job.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA is available through amazon.com and the National Whistleblower Center. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit lead to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 ( No FEAR.)