The late Sen. Ted Kennedy once said, “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” This quote can succinctly describe President Barack Obama’s first two years in office. While many believe the president could have gone further in implementing his agenda, so far Obama’s list of accomplishments packs considerable clout.
As it stands, health-care reform will cover up to 32 million people. It will expand Medicaid eligibility for people making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, and young adults are now able to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 years old. For reasons of political expediency, the tax on “Cadillac” plans and reduction in Medicare, payment rates won’t take place until later in the decade. But if future presidents and Congresses support these budget savings, then the bill will also be fully paid for. Regardless of whether health-care reform could have been improved by means of a public option, Obama definitely scored a major legislative victory, especially in light of the polarizing views the public holds about government expansion.
Another bright spot in the Obama presidency has been Iraq. The president has managed to bring the conflict to a responsible end, with 50,000 remaining U.S. troops staying and assisting the Iraq army before leaving next year. When Obama took office, the nation’s economy was shedding 600,000 to 700,000 jobs per month. In all likelihood, the passage of the economic stimulus package prevented the country from going into a depression, and has facilitated a recovery.
This week, the Federal Reserve revised upwards its predictions for this year’s economic growth to between 3.4 and 3.9 percent. Last summer’s passage of Wall Street reform will provide more oversight to the U.S. financial system, derivatives in particular, which were at the heart of the financial collapse.
As Obama looks toward his re-election, another prominent issue is tax reform. Reform is likely to involve removing loopholes in return for lowering the corporate tax to the high 20s from its current 35 percent.
Another issue is finding a bipartisan overhaul to Social Security and Medicare. Currently, Social Security accounts for 4.5 percent of GDP, which will increase as baby boomers retire, topping out at 6 percent by 2030. Entitlement reform may well entail a politically unpopular combination of spending cuts and tax increases, but these steps have to be taken to ensure the solvency of the programs.
Whatever the future may hold, a look back at the past two years of Obama’s presidency reveals a sound first term.
– Tom Scully
Junior public relations major