Monday, January 16, 2017

Reviewing Obama's Last Four Years

Four years ago, I made a series of predictions as to what was going happen during Obama's second term. As I do a little backtesting, I'm happy to see that the more disastrous of these predictions did not come to pass, while other not-so-bad predictions did. Overall, I was impressed with how mature Obama became, especially during his last year in office. But at the same time, I'm a little disappointed that the old divisive Obama came out even just a couple of weeks ago when he urged Democrats not to help Republicans in replacing Obamacare.

Okay, before I further diverge, let's take these point by point. I invite you to open my earlier post and follow along. We'll see if we can have a good laugh.

I'm going to claim a partial win for my predictions on Obamacare. It was nowhere near as bad as I said it was going to be, but there are definite pains. The "full force" implementation was delayed a year or two to help businesses get ready to pay, which helped smooth things out, and possibly avoided a recession. As many predicted, many businesses (mainly in the fast-food industry) did indeed take the route of cutting hours to avoid providing insurance. In fact, my son asked if he could work 40 hours this coming summer to save up for college, and was told "no" due to insurance concerns. His maximum is 30 hours.

Many people are still uninsured -- mainly those who are poor, but not poor enough to get subsidies. For these people caught in the middle, it really is cheaper to pay the $2,000 "tax."

Insurance companies were not forced to keep rates low, which is good, but it resulted in much higher premiums for everyone. Many are quick to blame the insurance companies, but the simple fact is that Obamacare did very little to reduce actual medical costs. If anything, it increased costs.

As for Atlas Shrugged sales, I can't seem to find conclusive evidence, but it seems its sales peaked around 2009, and its popularity seems to have declined since then. So, I was wrong there.

Unemployment: I'll give myself a big loss for that prediction. I still maintain that Obama delayed the recovery of our economy, and that it came back despite Obama's policies. But one thing that didn't happen was that he didn't come after corporations during his second term, so there were no real disasters, and no Triple Dip recession.

Of course, some of my friends will tell me that unemployment is still a bad problem (some people have stopped looking), and that I should claim a win. But no ... I said unemployment could possibly top 11% again, and that didn't happen. No matter how you spin it, we are definitely in a better position today than we were four years ago. Romney was also wrong on this point.

Deficit spending: I'll give myself a win. Obama prides himself in helping to bring down the deficit, but there has been only one year (2015) where our nation's deficit was lower than Bush's highest in 2008. People still debate whether the $1.4 trillion of 2009 belongs to Bush or Obama, but even if we give that year to Bush, we can see that Obama has still maintained record deficits over his entire eight years in office.

Thankfully, the Fed has acted responsibly in the last four years, ending Quantitative Easing and even raising interest rates in reaction to a better economy. Now, if only we can get that government spending down!

Military concerns: I honestly can't decide whether to give myself a win or loss. I think it was a mistake to pull out our troops so soon out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It may have been appropriate to reduce our presence, but our withdrawal probably helped ISIS to gain power.

Does Iran have nukes now? The official words seems to be "no," though they seem to have the capability and materials. I would call the evaluation of my prediction inconclusive. At least we're all still alive, and that's good.

Last but not least, there are all the social issues. Obama did get his tax hike on the rich. Yet, I have yet to see any benefit to me as a middle-class earner. My taxes didn't go down even one dollar, and my wages have hardly gone up. I'm also not benefiting from any new cool government programs. I'm still struggling to see how we middle-class families are benefiting. If anything, taxes on the poor have increased thanks to the new "I can't afford insurance" tax.

Immigration is exactly what it was four years ago. Obama tried an executive order, but that was shut down by the judicial branch.

I didn't mention anything about race issues four years ago, but I am unhappy to report that race relations seem to have deteriorated under Obama. His divisive rhetoric and praise of established criminals seems to have increased both white-on-black and black-on-white racism, and I fear we may live to see race riots. What I find very interesting is the fact that some black people are disappointed in what Obama failed to accomplish, as evidenced by a nice black woman who explained to me why she voted for Trump.

My biggest incorrect prediction was the one on gay marriage. Now, four years later, we may not have a federal law supporting gay marriage, but we do have a ruling from the judicial side that supports it. It's unclear how much Obama had to do with it, but gay people are happy and Obama is more than willing to take credit for it.

I'll try to end on a high note. I will truly miss Obama. Even though I disagree with most of his policies, I like who he became toward the end. I came to learn that he was always sincere on all human rights issues. He just went about things the wrong way. During the rise of Trump, Obama repeatedly stood up for religious freedoms (I know -- surprised?) and anti-discrimination. Most conservatives blasted him for his wise words, even though those words echoed that of another famous conservative, Lincoln.

Obama had good intentions. He tried to fix issues that he saw. Though he often went about it the wrong way, and caused other unintended consequences, he gave it his best shot. He had some success among the failures, and we survived. Obama remains a person I'd like to visit and just converse with for an hour (I don't drink beer). In the long run, I think he will be remembered for his good intentions and his good speeches.

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