Has Barack Obama's presidency been a failure?
Outgoing United States President Barack Obama made history in the year 2008 when he became the first African-American leader and the first president to be born outside the nation. As expected, his rule has been marked with scrutiny especially after all the promises that came in his campaign when running for office. He captured the hearts and votes of Americans with his oratory prowess and pledged to bring economic, health, security, and social reforms in the country. Almost a decade later, this paper seeks to establish mainly whether his rule was a success or a failure.
Highlights of Obama’s rule
It suffices to state that America has witnessed several changes primarily legislative enactments in the last decade under the new rule. This section highlights some of the positive outcomes attributed to Obama’s regime. First, he took office when the United States was experiencing a deep financial crisis in the form of recession. Therefore, his immediate concern was finding a way to prevent the country from plunging further into the crisis characterized by bankruptcy in institutions, collapse in housing prices, and inflation. Obama’s administration supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) initiated by former President George W. Bush (Jacobson, 2011 p.225). It was a 700 billion US dollars trust set to rescue the institutions facing the crisis. Obama expanded the program to include loans to prevent General Motors and Chrysler companies from closing down. Even though TARP was unpopular, it stabilized the economy, revived credit markets, and prevented the shutdown of key institutions. It also only cost taxpayers approximately 25 US billion dollars instead of the initial 700 billion amount set aside. The country’s stock market had rebounded by 2010 and evaded a rerun of the Great Depression. His legislative achievements during his reign made the 111th Congress the most productive in comparison to others. Statistics indicate that the unemployment ratio dropped from 10% in 2009 to approximately 5% in 2016, attributed to the end of the country’s recession.
In his campaign, Obama pledged gradually to decrease the American involvement and participation in Iraq and relocate the forces to Afghanistan to deal with the Taliban. He successfully did so, gaining public popularity among the majority. He has also been at the forefront of campaigning for the adoption of global climate policies changes. The United States takes global leadership on the climate change agenda in the reduction of carbon emissions. It is the leading currently in enforcing pro-climate change policies and in the advocacy to other nations globally. All the factors mentioned above point to a favorable political regime in a larger picture. However, Obama’s critics claim that his policies and changes only suited a particular group of minorities and liberals.
The failures of Obama’s reign
His government was marked with several significant legislative changes such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that had the greatest impact (Broesamle, 2014 p.55). Other areas that Obama’s government failed to get positive reviews include the international security issue, concerning the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan, and failure to curb the unemployment menace in the country even with a growing economy. These areasare further discussed below:
a) United States Health policy and Obamacare
“Millions of Americans are just a pink slip away from losing their health cover, and one serious illness away from losing all their savings, and on any given day, over 37 million Americans — most of them working people and their little children — have no medical cover at all. And in spite of all this, our medical bills are growing at over twice the rate of inflation,”(Kaiser Family Foundation, 2011).
This was a statement made by retired President Bill Clinton. It describes the state of medical care in the United States which has been in the spotlight for years regarding the medical care service provision and insurance for its citizens. The statement was specifically on the PPCA medical policy commonly known as Obamacare signed into law in 2010. It is among the several controversies that have defined outgoing President Obama’s rule (Rom, 2011 p.12). United States health reform issues started way back in the 1900s period. Teddy Roosevelt’s attempt to introduce compulsory health care in the Social Security Act did not take off well. Health insurance became tied to employment, and this ended up leaving out the unemployed, those earning meager wages and the retired senior citizens. According to Clinton, all American citizens were required to register in a medical policy managed by cooperatives. However, this never came to be as his bill was never passed. Back then as is the current situation, the poor are not only unable to afford medical insurance but are also struggling to pay for health services in the country.
Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPCA) was introduced in 2010, and United States President Barrack Obama signed it into law in March 2010 (Rom, 2011 p.1). The purpose of PPACA was to provide affordable health care to everyone living in the United States. This Act consists of measures aimed at controlling medical costs and expanding coverage of health services provision through public and private health insurance.
Currently, there are four categories of persons in healthcare. Those with insurance from their employers, those who are government insured, those who are privately insured, and those who have no form of health insurance. The challenges facing the country in health care called for action from President Barrack Obama whose primary goal was to provide universal healthcare. This is how the PPCA came to birth. Some people were receptive to this new health care changes while others were not. Politically President Obama’s health bill was met with hostility from the majority of the Republican Party Senate. Even with the hostility more than half of the states have expanded the Medicaid order with major states like Florida still holding out. Opinion polls indicate that most of the negative reaction is due to people’s fear of change and non-understanding of the concepts of this Act. Over the year the number of individuals signing up for medical insurance has been on the increased meaning that more people are receptive to the ideas of the PPACA. Approximately 30 million persons in the United States are insured under private medical covers (Rom, 2011 p.1). When PPACA was passed most of their plans got canceled because of the inability to meet, the 10 Essential Health Benefits prerequisite. The cost of replacing their previous cover became higher to cover the extra services meant to be offered like maternity care. Some of the people do not require the additional services and are not ready to pay more for those services. About 5 million inhabitants are at risk of losing corporate medical covers (Rom, 2011 p.12). Some businesses opt to drop employees and let them buy their covers in a bid to cut on costs. Smaller companies also find it more appealing to get plans through the state as opposed to insuring their employees privately. The employee loses on when this happens.
Looking at the short term effects increase in medical coverage will likely increase health care costs. This is because the number of people needing to receive testing, and preventive care will drastically increase. The increase will mean more spending on related medical issues. The hospitals and medical facilities will need to improve equipment to manage the increase of people needing these services as well. Another issue raising controversy is the tax applied to citizens who do not subscribe to any insurance plan. It is predicted that most of the people will end up paying the tax as opposed to getting cover plans. A list of exemptions will facilitate further this prediction.
To meet some of the costs, the government intends to take on the health plans in PPACA a policy was passed that saw tax raised on people who earn more than $200,000 and on couples who filed joint incomes exceeding $250,000. Their Medicare taxes were increased from 1.45% to 2.35% on income above the stated threshold. In 2013 manufacturers in the medical industry also felt the effect after 2.3% excise tax was applied to them and 10% excise tax was implemented on providers of indoor tanning service (Congress, 2010).
Even though Obamacare increased the number of people who got access to health cover, the plan only benefited a group of people at the expense of others and its implementation would be more costly. The affected Americans were not impressed by the aspect of having their taxes increased or paying for the extra services which they did not require. In a nutshell, the ACA health policy worked in favor of the senior citizen, disabled, and poor populations, and against the upper middle and higher classes of people.
b) ISIS and withdrawal of American troops
During the rule of George W. Bush, he declared war on Iraq to fight the Sunni Taliban insurgency that had threatened to destroy the country. By the time his rule ended, Bush had not yet fully withdrawn the American military troops from Iraq but the country was stable after the American invasion to fight the Taliban extremists. However, Obama called the troops after internal pressure to dissociate the country from Iraq and allow it to develop without American interference. The withdrawal act gave room for the rise of the newly formed terrorist sect known as ISIS. Former Al Qaeda members formed ISIS and recruited people in large numbers. Iraq was struggling under the new regime with a weak army and an unpopular government. Due to poor administration, the citizens were in support of ISIS and got recruited in large numbers. The lack of a strong American presence paved way for the development of this terror group. The president’s critics state that instead of removing the entire unit from Iraq, he should have instead left behind a section of the military force to serve as peacekeepers, maintain stability, and counter any arising threats from radicals.
The US- Afghanistan war had been long-standing for almost a decade and President Obama vowed to take on the war from where Bush left it from and increased the troops to 37,000 in January 2009. By August 2009, the US troops had increased to a whooping range between 60,000 and 68,000, and in December, the figure increased by 30,000 more soldiers (Crotty, 2012 p.72). After the death of Osama bin Laden, the government got pressure to start withdrawing the number of American troops from Afghanistan, including the Democrats. Polls conducted indicated that the Americans were not in favor of the war. The government schedules for surge troops to leave Afghanistan and plans to leave behind 70,000 soldiers.They also plan to have peace talks with Taliban leaders. By 2014, the government had spent 444 billion US dollars and lost close to 2,000 soldiers in the war (Hanlon 2012, p.135). This marked as a failure because this cost could have been redirected to other internal issues for example the economic meltdown in the country, the unemployment issue, and working towards offsetting the country’s economic debt. Instead of sending a large number of troops, the president should instead have focused more on training the Afghanistan soldiers to combat terrorism and lay a foundation for future security handling.
Still on the issue of security, a report by Klaidman reveals that President Obama has approved the execution the use of drones to attack locations suspected of harboring terrorists, for example, the attack that led to the death of the infamous Osama bin Laden. According to Klaidman, the President has used this approach even when the warring rival poses no direct threat to the United States. In his book, Klaidman also describes Obama’s rule as being split between the “Aspen Institute” and the “Tammany Hall” factions (Ralph 2013, p.145). The first faction represents the ideals of a philosopher who seeks to create a just society while the second one comprises of people who have adopted a hardheaded realist policy. This description was in line with Obama’s approach to dealing with the international security and terrorism predicament. Instead of working towards building Afghanistan by keeping troops on the ground to quell any suspicious activity, he uses drones to attack, causing further destruction. Obama built his campaign on being anti-Bush (Jacobson, 2011 p. 235). Therefore, people expected him to be more diplomatic than prone to war hence causing the Tammany Hall versus Aspen Institute spilt. He spoke of using a reconciliatory approach but chose to declare full on war by use of advanced technology weapons on enemies and the invasion of their states (Sanger, 2012 p.244). Due to this, he has caused tension where unnecessary, for example in Iran. The increased warfare has caused more collateral damage and shook the relationship between countries that were once allies such as Iran, Pakistan, and Syria (Sanger, 2012 p.245). These actions created a drift in the government and his party. He lost popularity within both Republican and Democrat parties.
c) The economic impact of Obama’s regime
His first act as president was to curb the recession that had hit the country for over ten years. The TARP program initially endorsed by former President George Bush and supported its implantation but was eventually associated with Obama’s rule (Jacobson, 2011 p.225). Even though this program had a positive influence on the economy, it had more shortcomings on the long-term. Some institutions may have been redeemed from closure, but the unemployment levels were still high. TARP also failed to prevent mortgage foreclosures and several businesses still failed. It is arguable that the institutions being saved had little impact as compared to the larger population of citizens affected by the recession. Also, the country’s economists came to a consensus that allowing the large financial institutions and automobile companies to fall would in turn result into a greater downturn, but the Americans were not convinced of TARP’s effectiveness. In fact, the majority of the American citizens believed that the loans affected the country negatively as opposed to positively. A large percentage was particularly skeptical about the banks being financially bailed. Another negative impact of Obama’s government executing TARP is that it failed to cater to the millions of citizens who suffered from unemployment, business failures, and property loss.
President Obama also passed the Consumer Protection Act in 2010 (Jacobson, 2011 p.227). This enactment comprised of a broad revision of policies regulating the country’s economic sector. It was created to prevent the recurrence of the banking crisis, preventing future bailouts, and protecting local consumers from predatory business practices. Even though several Americans initially supported it, a recent poll conducted shows that they currently doubt its efficiency. This also lessened Obama’s popularity and other Democrat candidates by portraying the party and its supporters as people who were unsympathetic to the interests of business people (Sears, 2010 p. 17).
President Obama’s reign is possibly the most scrutinized regime; whether it was due to the circumstances in which he gained the presidency or his well-mastered campaign strategy appealing to a nation that was currently facing its highest level of economic and social decline, and needed a new and visionary leader. Either way, when he took office, he had set a lot of expectations for the country and was bound to be analyzed for it. He took over from George Bush and found a country that was failing economically. Even though he had the country’s interests at heart, he seemed to get it wrong almost every other time. Saving Chrysler and General Motors was a noble act, but having millions of young people unemployed in the market without creating industries to absorb them is a total failure. The country also faced serious health issues regarding access to and affordability of medical care. He also got it wrong with Obamacare. Instead of adopting a program that was suitable for everyone without bias, he signed into law a bill that oppresses the higher working class citizens who fail to understand why they have to pay more tax to cater for other people’s needs. I am in agreement with critics that his rule has omitted the larger American population percentage and focused on a minority group.
Regarding national security, he reduced the occurrence of the terror threat in the country but had it blow up outside America. Even by being a contributor through constant invasion using technological warfare, the President opts for selective intervention on matters of global security, as opposed to prioritizing involvement. It is quite unfortunate that the United States, being a first world country with all the resources, technology and manpower at its disposal, is still far from being the economically and socially liberated nation that was expected when President Obama took office in 2008.
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Broesamle, J. J. (2014). How American presidents succeed and why they fail: from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. New York. The Edwin Mellen Press.
Congress, U. S. (2010). Compilation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act . Washington: US Government Printing Office.
Crotty, W. J. (2012). The Obama presidency: promise and performance. Lanham [Md.], Lexington Books.
Hanlon, M. (2012).Obama’s weak and failing states agenda. The Washington Quarterly, 35:4.
Jacobson, G. (2011). Legislative Success and Political Failure: The public’s reaction to Barack Obama’s early presidency.The Early Obama Presidency.
Kaiser Family Foundation. (2011). Retrieved from Kaiser Family Foundation Files:
Ralph, J. (2013). America's war on terror: The State of the 9/11 Exception from Bush to Obama. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rom, C.M. (2011). President Obama’s Health Care Reform: The Inevitable Impossible.
Sanger, D. (2012). Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.New York: Crown Publishing Group.
Sears, R. (2010). The surprising failure of the Obama presidency.Policy Options. October 2010.
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