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Archive for September, 2014

The 2014 Midterm Elections

The Future of the Republican Party

In America

Introduction

The upcoming 2014 Midterm elections will be one of the most important in American political history. This is because we, as Americans, are coming to a crossroads as far as where we want the country to go in the future. After six years of gridlock, the country as a whole is fed-up with politicians. This anger the public feels might be translated into a larger voter turnout in November or not (people staying home on election day).

At the moment I can’t predict which way that might go. Efforts to get people to vote will be critical in this midterm election. Traditionally, weak voter turnout occurs in midterm elections more than in years where both parties are running candidates for President.

However, the country has placed more blame on the Republican Party and their Tea Party sidekicks for the debilitating government shutdown that occurred in late 2013. Consequently, the probability that many Republicans and Tea Party members will be re-elected to the House or Senate in 2014 is slim to none. I base this prediction on four major factors:

  • Changing Ethnic and Racial Demographics
  • The Tea Party in America: Gridlock and the Legacy of Conservatism
  • Age-Related Generational Perspectives
  • Hypocrisy of Republican Political Values (smaller government and lower taxes)

Changing Ethnic and Racial Demographics

One reason it is difficult to predict elections is something called changing demographics.

Early evidence suggests that, based on changing demographics, The Republican Party is fast on the track to becoming a defunct political party in the United States. It is conceivable that one day soon there may be just two major parties in the United States: The Democratic Party and perhaps an Independent Party. The more ethnically and racially diverse a political party is, the more likely they will receive a greater number of votes during election time.

     The following information was obtained on the Internet by writer Frank Newport. Please notice the lack of diversity in the Republican Party.

PRINCETON, NJ — Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 89% of Republican self-identifiers nationwide in 2012, while accounting for 70% of independents and 60% of Democrats. Over one-fifth of Democrats (22%) were black, while 16% of independents were Hispanic.

These results are based on more than 338,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking in 2012, and clearly underscore the distinct racial profiles of partisan groups in today’s political landscape.

  • Republicans are overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white, at a level that is significantly higher than the self-identified white percentage of the national adult population. Just 2% of Republicans are black, and 6% are Hispanic.
  • Seventy percent of Americans who identify as independents are white, but independents have the highest representation of Hispanics (16%) of the three groups. Eight percent of independents are blacks.
  • Democrats remain a majority white party, but four in 10 Democrats are something other than non-Hispanic white. More than one in five Democrats is black, roughly twice the black representation in the adult population.

Racial and Ethnic Groups Gravitate Toward Different Parties

Looked at differently, these party composition patterns reflect major differences in the way Americans in various racial and ethnic groups identify their political affiliation.

  • Almost two-thirds of blacks identify as Democrats, with most of the rest identifying as independents. Only 5% of blacks nationwide identify as Republicans.
  • Half of Hispanics identify as independents, although the majority of the rest identify as Democrats. This is despite their high level of approval and strong majority voting support for Democratic President Barack Obama. Relatively few Hispanics (6%) identify as Republicans.
  • Whites are the most politically diverse of the three major racial and ethnic segments, with between 26% and 38% identifying with one of the three partisan groups. Whites tilt slightly toward being independents or Republicans rather than Democrats. The large white concentration of Republican identifiers, in short, is caused by a dearth of nonwhites self-identifying with the GOP, rather than a monolithic Republican orientation among whites.

Although Asians and other races make up a small proportion of the U.S. population, the data show that the political pattern they follow is quite similar to that of Hispanics: they are most likely to identify as independents, second-most likely to identify as Democrats, and least likely to identify as Republicans.

Racial Breakdown of Independents and Democrats Has Shifted Most Since 2008

The racial and ethnic composition of the Republican Party today is similar to what it was in 2008, the year when Gallup began its daily tracking. There have been essentially no changes in the percentage of GOP identifiers who are white, black, and Hispanic.

Independents have become more Hispanic since 2008 (and slightly more black), while Democrats have become more black and more Hispanic. Phrased differently, the independent and Democratic segments of the U.S. population are now less white than they were in 2008, reflecting the uptick in the U.S. nonwhite population over these five years.

Implications

One of the more important realities in American politics today is the substantial divergence in the racial and ethnic composition of the major political parties. Almost nine in 10 Republicans are white, in stark contrast to the racial and ethnic composition of the overall adult population. On the other hand, the Democratic Party is disproportionately nonwhite.

The future of the two major political parties depends on two factors. The first is whether these patterns of party identification change in the years ahead. The ability of the Republican Party to make inroads among nonwhites has been much discussed in recent months, particularly the GOP’s efforts to improve on the 13% allegiance that Gallup data show it obtains from Hispanics. Another path to growth for the Republican Party would be an increase in its penetration into the white sector of the population, only 35% of which now identifies as Republican. On the other hand, the Democratic Party will grow if it too can extend its identification among whites, and maintain or strengthen its position among nonwhites.

     A second factor that will affect the future of the political parties in the U.S. is straightforward demographics. Projections show that the nonwhite proportion of the American adult population will grow in the years ahead. This means that if current partisan allegiance patterns prevail, the size of the Democratic base will be in a better position to grow than will the Republican base.

The Tea Party in America: Gridlock and the Legacy of Conservatism

Many organizations in society, including political organizations, engage in what is called sub-optimizing behavior. That’s when stated goals are not the real goals.

The real goals of organizations, political groups, or individuals are often hidden and not stated publicly. Words from politicians often disguise their real motives. The Tea Party is no exception, especially when backed by Big Business and the Billionaire Koch Brothers and Koch Industries.

Based on the behavior of Tea Party members in Congress, my assumption is that the Tea Party in America is a lunatic fringe and, at the same time, is the new face of the Republican Party.

Currently only 8% of Americans identify themselves as Tea Party members. Nevertheless, the Tea Party in Congress has a stranglehold on all other Republicans. It’s okay for people to cling to their values and beliefs. But when such values and beliefs threaten the United States with financial disaster and ruin, then it’s time for other stronger forces to counter such attacks on the integrity of the United States and its people.

As much as I’d like to see it, it’s unlikely these congressional reprobates will ever be tried for treason or brought up on criminal charges by the U.S. Department of Justice. The best thing the people can do is toss the Tea Party members out of Congress in the next mid-term election. Another option is to petition their immediate recall from office.

The Ongoing Problem of Gridlock     

The vast majority of Americans are moderate “Middle-of-the-Road” independents, Democrats and Republicans. When one has different values from their fellow citizens, it naturally creates tension, suspicion, distrust, and polarization. Since 2008 we’ve witnessed the worst of these political differences acting out as irreconcilable gridlock when it comes to carrying out the various duties of the government (passing a budget on time, passing legislation to help our citizens, properly defending the country, etc.). For several years now, gridlock has created and prevented very little from being accomplished.

Politics has always been called, “the Art of Compromise.” This is an old saying that no longer appears applicable in modern day politics.

The primary function of politicians should be to honestly represent their constituency. But at the same time politicians need to make prudent, critical choices in the handling of scarce resources (taxpayer dollars). That latter function is an awesome responsibility that needs careful attention to detail. But the overriding responsibility of those in Congress today should be to help their fellow citizens live better, more prosperous lives. With the exception of President Barack Obama, that does not seem to be the case.

The Legacy of Conservatism

Unfortunately, the legacy of conservatism has never aligned itself with helping people.

During the last 160 years conservatives were opposed to the abolition of slavery, and were responsible for promoting racism and Jim Crow, particularly in the old South. They fought against giving women the right to vote, opposed the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s, and opposed the Social Security Act in 1935 and later, minimum wage laws. In the 1950s they fought against integration, desegregation and later busing. Conservatives were a major voice against the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s; During the 1970s conservatives opposed affirmative action and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

In more recent years, conservatives have opposed amnesty for illegal aliens, and they want to cut entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Now, with strong Tea Party support and a strident attitude, they oppose the President’s Affordable Care Act that promotes universal healthcare.

One way of characterizing all this political history is that, if legislation was going to help a lot of people and improve their lives, conservatives were “hell-bent” to oppose it. That collectively is their ugly legacy.

At this point in history the Tea Party has been at the center of Washington’s gridlock. The only real option for Americans in the 2014 and 2016 national elections is to totally limit their access to power. This also applies to all Republicans seeking public office in the mid-term elections, and in 2016 as well.

This doesn’t mean that creating jobs, cutting spending or raising or lowering taxes aren’t important issues; they certainly are. But Tea Party members who take a simplistic ideological viewpoint of how the economy works lack insight into the complexities of the economy and its basic business cycles.

 Come the Next Election Just Remember These Statistics

Since Democrat John F. Kennedy took office in January 1961, non-government payrolls in the U.S. swelled by almost 42 million jobs under Democrats, compared with 24 million for Republican presidents, according to Labor Department figures. Though they occupied the oval office for 23 years since Kennedy’s inauguration, Democrats hold the edge, compared to 28 years for Republicans. In addition, over the past 50 years, Republican administrations oversaw the largest decline in wages as measured as a percentage of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Age-Related Generational Issues

It has long been said that “our children are our future.” And, given the fact that political perspectives vary by generation, it is incumbent upon society in general to recognize that voting patterns among the various generations will be very important to the future of politics in America and the 2014 mid-term elections. Nowhere is this truer than with the Millennial Generation. So what can we expect to happen in November 2014? The following is a fine article written by Jonathan Chait. He refers to the Millennials as “those kids with Obama posters on the wall.”

The Millennial Generation: Our Liberal Future

How doomed are conservatives? Pretty doomed, if you look carefully at the Pew Research Survey’s close analysis of the youth vote in the 2012 elections. The Republicans’ long-term dilemma has generally been framed in racial terms, but it’s mainly a generational one.

The youngest generation of voters contains a much smaller proportion of white voters than previous generations, and those whites in that generation vote Republican by a much smaller margin than their elders. What’s more, younger voters supported President Obama during the last two election cycles for reasons that seem to go beyond the usual reasons — social issues like gay marriage and feminism, immigration policy, or Obama’s personal appeal — and suggest a deeper attachment to liberalism. The proclivities of younger voters may actually portend a full-scale sea change in American politics.

More than four decades ago, Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril identified the core of Americans’ political thinking as a blend of symbolic conservatism and operational liberalism. Most Americans, that is, oppose big government in the abstract but favor it in the particular. They oppose “regulation” and “spending,” but favor, say, enforcement of clean-air laws and Social Security. The push and pull between these contradictory beliefs has defined most of the political conflicts over the last century. Public support for most of the particulars of government has stopped Republicans from rolling back the advances of the New Deal, but suspicion with “big government” has made Democratic attempts to advance the role of the state rare and politically painful.

This tension continues to define the beliefs of American voters. Among the 2012 electorate, more voters identified themselves as conservative (35 percent) than liberal (25 percent), and more said the government is already doing too much that should be left to the private sector (51 percent) than asserted that the government ought to be doing more to solve problems (44 percent). But this is not the case with younger voters. By a 59 percent to 37 percent margin, voters under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems. More remarkably, 33 percent of voters under 30 identified themselves as liberal, as against 26 percent who called themselves conservative.

What all this suggests is that we may soon see a political landscape that will appear from the perspective of today and virtually all of American history as unrecognizably liberal. Democrats today must amass huge majorities of moderate voters in order to overcome conservatives’ numerical advantage over liberals. They must carefully wrap any proposal for activist government within the strictures of limited government, which is why Bill Clinton declared the era of big government to be over, and Obama has promised not to raise taxes for 99 percent of Americans. It’s entirely possible that, by the time today’s twenty something’s have reached middle age, these sorts of limits will cease to apply.

Obviously, such a future hinges on the generational patterns of the last two election cycles persisting. But, as another Pew survey showed, generational patterns do tend to be sticky. It’s not the case that voters start out liberal and move rightward. Americans form a voting pattern early in their life and tend to hold to it. That isn’t to say something couldn’t shake these voters loose from their attachment to the liberal worldview. Republicans fervently (and plausibly) hoped the Great Recession would be that thing; having voted for Obama and borne the brunt of mass unemployment, once-idealistic voters would stare at the faded Obama posters on their wall and accept the Republican analysis that failed Big Government policies have brought about their misery.

But young voters haven’t drawn this conclusion — or not many of them have, at any rate. So either something else is going to have to happen to disrupt the liberalism of the rising youth cohort, or else the Republican Party itself will have to change in ways far more dramatic than any of its leading lights seem prepared to contemplate.

Hypocrisy of Republican Political Values (smaller government and lower taxes)

The following is an interesting article that was posted on AlterNet on September 20, 2014 by Alex Henderson.

 

10 Red States that Mooch off the Federal Government

Republicans claim they’ve had it with American socialism. Maybe they should return the tax dollars subsidizing them

One of the most hilarious talking points coming from far-right Republicans and the Tea Party is that when “red states” like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are asked to bail out California or Massachusetts, that’s when they will finally become “fed up with socialism” and secede from the Union once and for all.

The problem with that meme is that it has no basis in reality: the more prosperous and Democrat-leaning areas of the United States are likely to be subsidizing dysfunctional “red states,” many of which are suffering from insufficient tax revenue and an abundance of low-wage workers who don’t have much to tax.

Tea Party Republicans like to point out that poor cities like Detroit, Baltimore and Camden, New Jersey are run by Democrats, but they neglect to mention that some of the most affluent parts of the United States—from Manhattan to the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area to Cambridge, MA to Seattle to Chicago’s North Shore suburbs—are dominated by the Democratic Party. People in those heavily Democratic areas pay a lot of federal income taxes, and quite often, their tax dollars go to red states.

Earlier this year, the personal finance website WalletHub.com conducted an in-depth study of the amounts individual states are paying in federal taxes compared to the amounts they are receiving. WalletHub analyzed data from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Commerce Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. WalletHub’s research demonstrates that, as a rule, the states that are the most likely to rail against “big government” are the most likely to be benefiting from it.

A few of the states in WalletHub’s study that were receiving the most tax revenue from the federal government are states that President Barack Obama won in 2012 (most notably, New Mexico and Hawaii), but most were hardcore “red states.” And most of the states that, according to WalletHub, are taking less from the federal government than they are paying in are “blue states” that Obama won in both 2008 and 2012, including California, Massachusetts, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Minnesota. WalletHub’s research bears out comparable figures released by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in the past: analyzing IRS data, Tax Foundation has found, more than once, that red states are likely to be the biggest recipients of federal tax money.

Summary and Conclusions

Back in the late 1960s I used to vote for liberal democrats and sometimes well-meaning moderate republicans, particularly in local elections. Moderate republicans today, unfortunately, are only a thing of the past. In 2000 when Al Gore was cheated out of becoming President of the United States, I knew it was time to close the chapter on ever voting for a republican again. Today, politics seems to be more about ideology than doing what’s right for the country.

The Republican Party, along with its bastardized Tea Party, is a national disgrace to the people of the United States. With changing racial and ethnic demographics they are fast becoming defunct as a political party. Many factors have and will contribute to their demise:

  • gridlock and the shutting down of the government in 2013 caused by a recalcitrant and belligerent Republican Party and their Tea Party affiliates in Congress
  •  a legacy of conservatism that has shamed the people of the United States in the eyes of the world
  • the hypocrisy of their own values regarding the size of government and lowering taxes
  • changing racial and ethnic demographics
  • Generational changes in voting patterns

     Republican and Tea Party members everywhere have no business representing anyone, anywhere, anytime. It’s time to get the country moving forward again. Please remember to vote this November in the Midterm elections. It is critical that you do.    

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President Obama’s Real Accomplishments in Office   Introduction Where politics is concerned there always seems to be a real disconnect between facts on the one hand, and political rhetoric espoused by the media and the various political parties on the other. Citizens expect the media to decipher fact from fiction. But since the media is often biased in favor of one political party over another, the voting public is actually left to their own devices to determine fact from fiction. As a consequence, the average citizen is left out in the cold where unbiased evaluation of a candidate for political office is concerned. As we all know, politicians talk more about values, not facts. Facts are often used to measure results of a politician’s programs, while values are used to make promises and to encourage the public to vote for a particular candidate. Facts are too dangerous for politicians while values are safer when interacting with the public.   Purpose of Blog The purpose of this Blog is to present to my cyberspace public a factual review of the real accomplishments of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I will review his accomplishments in two ways: Review the two most important promises the President made back in 2008 which were to lower the unemployment rate and create middle class jobs for Americans. The second way is to list the accomplishments of Barack Obama. When it came to the President’s promises, both related to economics. This was important since the country came close to a financial disaster and collapse during President Bush’s last term in office. At the time he made his promises, little did he know that his vision for America would be met by a recalcitrant and often times obstreperous Congress, particularly the House of Representatives. Despite the juggernaut of destructive gridlock offered up by the Republican Party and its Tea Party members, achievements were made in the last 6 years by the President. The Promises of President Obama The first promise was to lower the unemployment rate, and the second was to create jobs for middle-class Americans. I will present data that supports these promises, and I will carefully review actual achievements. The Unemployment Rate The President took office in January 2009. At that time the unemployment rate had been climbing during the previous year under the Bush Administration from 5.0 percent in January 2008 to 7.8 percent in January, 2009. The rate of unemployment continued to rise to a high of 10 percent in October 2009 as a lagging effect of the recession and near financial collapse in 2008. It continued to drift from 9.9 down to 9.4 percent during the rest of 2009, and continued through to the end of 2010. By this time the policies of the President and the Federal Reserve Board (primarily the economic stimulus packages) were starting to have an effect on the unemployment rate. In January 2011 the unemployment rate dropped to 9.1 percent. A year later it was 8.2 percent. By January 2013 it was 7.9 percent. In January 2014 the unemployment rate had dropped to 6.6 percent. In June 2014 the unemployment rate dropped again to 6.1 percent. During the President’s watch, the unemployment rate declined 39 percent. As of August 2014 the unemployment rate still stayed at 6.1 percent. It would, of course, be simplistic and rather naïve to either ascribe total credit or total blame to the person holding office of the presidency for the lion’s share of any economic change. The reality is economic cycles and the economy itself each have a life of its own (see my previous Blogs on economics and economic theories).  Nevertheless, fiscal and economic policies of any President do matter.  So from a policy standpoint, President Barack Obama has very much helped impact the unemployment rate in a positive way, thus achieving his first promise. Unemployment Rate (January 2004 – June 2014)

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2004  5.7 5.6 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.6 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.5 5.4 5.4
2005  5.3 5.4 5.2 5.2 5.1 5.0 5.0 4.9 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.9
2006  4.7 4.8 4.7 4.7 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4
2007  4.6 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.6 4.7 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 5.0
2008  5.0 4.9 5.1 5.0 5.4 5.6 5.8 6.1 6.1 6.5 6.8 7.3
2009  7.8 8.3 8.7 9.0 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.6 9.8 10.0 9.9 9.9
2010  9.7 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.6 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.8 9.4
2011  9.1 9.0 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.8 8.6 8.5
2012  8.2 8.3 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.1 7.8 7.8 7.8 7.9
2013  7.9 7.7 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.0 6.7
2014  6.6 6.7 6.7 6.3 6.3 6.1

  Source: Department of Labor Statistics     Job Creation and Growth   It is a fact that, since President Roosevelt, the average amount of private sector jobs created during Democratic Presidential terms is 1,463,220 and the average amount during Republican Presidential terms is a paltry 642,000 jobs.     Obama’s Second Promise

52 Straight Months of Private Sector Job Growth

July 3, 2014 Under President Obama’s leadership, the economy has added private sector jobs for 52 straight months. During this span, 9.7 million private sector jobs have been created. In the Senate,    Democrats are fighting to continue this positive trend and help speed along the economic recovery.   President Obama’s Major Accomplishments What follows is a PARTIAL list of Obama’s accomplishments so far.

 

Despite the characterizations of some Republicans, Obama’s success rate in winning congressional votes on issues was an unprecedented 96.7% for his first year in office. Though he is often cited as superior to Obama, President Lyndon Johnson’s success rate in 1965 was only 93%.

Fiscal Responsibility

Within days after taking office, Obama signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse. The President created the post of Chief Performance Officer, whose job it is to make operations more efficient to save the federal government money. On his first full day, he froze White House salaries. He appointed the first Federal Chief Information Officer to oversee federal IT spending. He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems, and also signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system. Through an executive order, he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Improving the Economy, Preventing Depression

Obama pushed through and signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package,” despite the fact that not one Republican voted for that bill. In addition, he launched recovery.gov, so that taxpayers could track spending from the Act. In his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy 3.5%. Obama completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, and recovered virtually all of its costs. He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan. Obama oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.  He oversaw a bailout of General Motors that saved at least 1.4 million jobs, and put pressure on the company to change its practices, resulting in GM returning to its place as the top car company in the world. Obama also doubled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership which is designed to improve manufacturing efficiency. He signed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system. It also created a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown. Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices. He increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect.  Obama signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures. The bill also provided $2.2 billion to help combat homelessness, and to stabilize the housing market. Through the Worker, Home Ownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, Obama and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery. He initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses. Obama created business.gov, which allows for online collaboration between small businesses and experts remanaging a business. (The program has since merged with SBA.gov.) He played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis.  Obama took steps to improve minority access to capital.  He created a $60 billion bank to fund infrastructure improvements such as roads and bridges. He implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs.  Many are of the opinion that he saved the entire auto industry, and even the economy of the entire Midwest. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama saved at least 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors that would have otherwise been lost. Obama dismantled the Minerals Management Service, thereby moving forward to cut ties between energy companies and the government. He provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession. He used recovered TARP money to fund programs at local housing finance agencies in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan. Obama crafted an Executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.

Wall Street Reforms and Consumer Protection

Obama ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money. He pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.  Dodd-Frank also included the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama made it so that banks could no longer use YOUR money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests. He supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation.  Obama wholly endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that would close offshore tax avoidance loopholes. He made a deal with Swiss banks that permit the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and tax evaders. He established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses. Obama oversaw and then signed the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.

Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination

Obama advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. He pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping. Obama appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. Helped Congress pass and signed the Civil Rights History Act.  He extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Obama has appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history.  He issued a Presidential Memorandum reaffirming the rights of gay couples to make medical decisions for each other. He established a White House Council on Women and Girls. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.    Obama wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families. He expanded funding for the Violence against Women Act. Under Obama’s watch, National Labor Relations Board has issued final rules that require all employers to prominently post employees’ rights where all employees or prospective employees can see it, including websites and intranets, beginning November 2011.

Fighting Poverty

Obama provided a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps). He signed an Executive Order that established the White House Office of Urban Affairs.

Improved Foreign Relations and American Status Abroad

Obama visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president during his first six months in office. As he promised, he gave a speech at a major Islamic forum in Cairo early in his administration. He did much to restore America’s reputation around the world as a global leader that does the “right thing” in world affairs, at least according to the rest of the planet. He re-established and reinforced our partnership with NATO and other allies on strategic international issues. Closed a number of secret detention facilities. Obama improved relations with Middle East countries by appointing special envoys. He pushed for military to emphasize development of foreign language skills. Offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence. He refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program. He worked to make donations to Haiti tax-deductible in 2009. He established a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Issued an Executive Order blocking interference with and helped to stabilize Somalia. He established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba, such as allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families and send money to support them. He ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was Republicans (and a smattering of Democrats) who prevented him from following through. Obama ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of torture, or what Bush called “enhanced interrogation.” He ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual. He ordered all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to be closed.  He released the Bush torture memos.   On his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention. In response to the emerging “Arab Spring,” he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them. Obama passed the Iran Sanctions Act, to prevent war, and to encourage Iran to give up their nuclear program.  Obama ended the Iraq War. In response to current events with an ISIS invasion in Iraq President Obama ordered air strikes and offered humanitarian assistance to Iraq religious minorities under threat of death from ISIS. He has now created an international coalition through NATO to annihilate ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He authorized and oversaw a secret mission by SEAL Team Six to rescue two hostages held by Somali pirates. The importance of this international act of terrorism was later made into a movie with Tom Hanks.

Better Approach to Defense

Obama created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat. He authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010. He restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush. He signed and pushed to ratification a new SALT Treaty. Negotiated and signed a new START Treaty that will last until at least 2021. Through the Defense Authorization Act, he reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq. He developed the first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan. He returned our focus to Afghanistan, stabilized the country, and began the process of withdrawing our troops. Obama fulfilled his campaign promise and ended our involvement in Iraq in 2011. However, current events have altered a total and complete withdrawal from Iraq. Despite the current problems in Iraq the president, during his administration, has taken steps to severely weaken al Qaeda and limit their ability to terrorize the world. Many of the top al Qaeda leaders have been killed or otherwise neutralized. He negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India. He took decisive action to use NATO to limit the slaughter of innocents in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple a despotic government and determine their own fate.   Veterans He made sure that families of fallen soldiers could be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB by providing funding for it.  He also ended the media blackout on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers. He funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with an extra $1.4 billion to improve veterans’ services. He provided the troops with better body armor. He created the Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program for military personnel in order to improve the quality of their medical care. He put an end to the Bush-era stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan beyond their enlistment date. He supported and signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans. He ushered through the largest spending increase in 30 years for the Department of Veterans Affairs for improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities. He created the Green Vet Initiative, which provided special funding to the Labor Department to provide veterans with training in green jobs. He oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals.

Education

He has repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process. He completely reformed the student loan program to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. This includes a major expansion of broadband availability in K-12 schools nationwide as well as an expansion in school construction. Also, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he put $5 billion into early education, including Head Start. He signed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, also known as GI Bill 2.0 He oversaw expansion of the Pell Grants program to expand opportunity for low-income students to go to college. He passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provided an extra $12.2 billion in funds.

Greater Transparency and Better Government

He signed an order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch. He signed an order banning anyone from working in an agency they had lobbied in previous years. He also put strict limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House. He held the first-ever online town hall from the White House, and took questions from the public. The Obama White House became the first to stream every White House event, live. He established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities. He provided the first voluntary disclosure of the White House Visitors Log in history.  He crafted an Executive Order on Presidential Records, which restored the 30-day time frame for former presidents to review records, and eliminated the right for the vice president or family members of former presidents to do the reviews. This will provide the public with greater access to historic White House documents, and severely curtails the ability to use executive privilege to shield them. He improved aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, and issued new guidelines to make FOIA more open and transparent in the processing of FOIA requests.

National Safety and Security

He’s restored federal agencies such as FEMA to the point that they have been able to manage a huge number of natural disasters successfully. He authorized Navy SEALS to successfully secure the release of a US captain held by Somali pirates and increased patrols off the Somali coast. Obama has repeatedly beefed up border security. He ordered and oversaw the Navy SEALS operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

Science, Technology and Health Care

He created a Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity in government decision-making. Obama opened up the process for fast-tracking patent approval for green energy projects. He eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. He also provided increased federal support for biomedical and stem cell research. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he committed more federal funding, about $18 billion, to support non-defense science and research labs. He signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of Americans living with paralysis. He expanded the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families, to cover more first-time mothers.  His EPA reversed research ethics standards which allowed humans to be used as “guinea pigs” in tests of the effects of chemicals to comply with numerous codes of medical ethics. Obama conducted a cyberspace policy review. Obama provided financial support for private sector space programs. He oversaw enhanced earth mapping to provide valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use. He ushered through a bill that authorized the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.  As a result, the FDA has ordered tobacco companies to disclose cigarette ingredients and to ban sale of cigarettes falsely labeled as “light.” Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he provided $500 million for Health Professions Training Programs. He also increased funding for community-based prevention programs. He oversaw a 50% decrease in cost of prescription drugs for seniors. He eliminated the Bush-era practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies on price. Two weeks after taking office, he signed the Children’s Health Insurance Re-authorization Act, which increased the number of children covered by health insurance by 4 million. He held a quick press conference, and urged Congress to investigate Anthem Blue Cross for raising premiums 39% without explanation. Rep. Waxman responded by launching a probe, and Anthem Blue Cross put the increase on hold for two months. He ushered through and signed the Affordable Health Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to 30 million more people, and ended many common insurance company practices that are often detrimental to those with coverage. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees; thereby 29 million people will receive tax breaks to help them afford health insurance. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of your premium actually goes to pay for patient care. Provisions in Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act have already resulted in Medicare costs actually declining slightly this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Last year’s increase was 4%. Compare that to the average 12% annual inflation rate during the previous 40 years. Strengthening the Middle Class and Families Obama worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care to working families. He cracked down on companies that were previously denying sick pay, vacation and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare tax payments through abuse of the employee classification of independent contractor. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he cut taxes for 95% of America’s working families. Under Obama, tax rates for average working families are the lowest they’ve been since 1950. He extended and fully funded the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax for 10 years. He extended discounted COBRA health coverage for the unemployed from 9 months to 15 months, and he’s extended unemployment benefits several times.

Environment and Energy

Obama fast-tracked regulations to allow states to enact federal fuel efficiency standards that were above federal standards. His fast-tracked regulation increased fuel economy standards for vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. It was the first time such standards had been increased in a decade. He oversaw the establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, which creates more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies. His EPA reversed a Bush-era decision to allow the largest mountaintop removal project in US history. He ordered the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances. He ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021. (As you can see, Republicans are trying hard to kill it.) He oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers. Obama bypassed Republican opposition in Congress, and ordered EPA to begin regulating and measuring carbon emissions. His EPA ruled that CO2 is a pollutant. He doubled federal spending on clean energy research. He pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars. He created a program to develop renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents. Obama reengaged in the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions agreements talks, and even proposed one himself. He also addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, officially reversing the Bush-era stance that climate change was a “hoax.” He fully supported the initial phase of the creation of a legally binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide. He required states to provide incentives to utilities to reduce their energy consumption. Following Bush’s eight year reign, he reengaged in a number of treaties and agreements designed to protect the Antarctic. He created tax write-offs for purchases of hybrid automobiles, and later he and Democrats morphed that program into one that includes electric cars. Mandated that federal government fleet purchases be for fuel-efficient American vehicles, and encouraged that federal agencies support experimental, fuel-efficient vehicles. Obama oversaw and pushed through an amendment to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  He also actively tried to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to eliminate the liability limits for those companies responsible for large oil spills. He initiated Criminal and Civil inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Through Obama’s EPA, he asserted federal legal supremacy, and barred Texas from authorizing new refinery permits on its own.  He strengthened the Endangered Species Act. His EPA improved boiler safety standards to improve air quality and save 6500 lives per year. Through the EPA, he took steps to severely limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, and to increase their efficacy in humans.  Obama increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%. He announced greatly improved commercial fuel efficiency standards. He announced the development of a huge increase in average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg starting in 2016 and 54.5 starting in 2025.

Other Accomplishments

Obama has expanded trade agreements to include stricter labor and environmental agreements such as NAFTA. He oversaw funding of the design of a new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.  He protected the funding during the recent budget negotiations. He oversaw and passed increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the Court’s history, and these women represent only the third and fourth women to serve on the court, out of a total of 112 justices. He appointed the most diverse Cabinet in history, including more women than any other incoming president.  He eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and he rescinded the global gag rule. Obama loosened the rules, and allowed the 14 states that legalized medical marijuana to regulate themselves without federal interference.  His FDA banned the use of antibiotics in livestock production.  Obama ushered through and signed national service legislation, increasing funding for national service groups, including tripling the size of the AmeriCorps program.     The material used for the list of accomplishments was obtained from the article below. It has been altered somewhat due to many of the current events that have taken place globally in last few weeks and months. Read the original article at http://pleasecutthecrap.typepad.com/main/what-has-obama-done-since-january-20-2009.html     Post Script It is clear that President Obama is one of the most successful presidents of all time. Despite a much fractured Congress and a very disruptive Republican/Tea Party, President Barack Obama has exceeded all expectations as a president. Whoever the next president in 2016 is—one thing is for sure—she/he will definitely follow in the footstep of a presidential giant. As an aside, I hope the voting public will evaluate the Republican/Tea Party in a fair and balanced manner. It should be based on the number of their accomplishments for the American people since President Bush left office. That evaluation should be very easy based on the overwhelming number of their accomplishments. At the last count Republicans/Tea Party have ZERO ACCOMPLISHMENTS. If you really want to know which party to support in the upcoming mid-term elections this fall, just ask yourself one important question based on the following. Twenty years ago the Republicans swept into office with their promise in 1994 of a Contract with America. A November 13, 2000 article by Edward H. Crane, president of the libertarian Cato Institute, stated, “…the combined budgets of the 95 major programs that the Contract with America promised to eliminate have increased by 13%.” President Bill Clinton often remarked that the Republicans had actually put forth a “Contract on America.” The question you need to ask yourself and answer is—What part of Contract with America, if any, was ever accomplished by the Republican Party? If the answer is none of it, then you should clearly know which party or candidates to support in the upcoming mid-term elections. Why, you ask? — Because history, including political history, has a habit of repeating itself. The government shutdown, and economic harm that was subsequently felt by the American people a year ago, was caused by Republican/Tea Party members in Congress. I think it is fair to say that any Republican/Tea Party members running in the mid-term elections in 2014 (who supported the government shutdown) should have no subsequent role in that government since they tried to “deep six” it in 2013.

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