Wednesday, January 27, 2010

White House: The 2010 State of the Union Address: Grading the First Year of the Obama Presidency








I realize that we're past the 365-day mark of the Barack Obama presidency and we're probably around the 400-day mark but I want to lay out in this blog how I believe the first year of the Obama Presidency has gone so far.

As we all know, when Barack Obama became President in January 2009, he inherited several awful problems that he had to deal with right away. On the domestic side, he inherited a deep recession of  -7% economic growth, where we were losing 700,000 jobs per month, roughly the population of Columbus, Ohio, one of the largest cities in America, which now has a 10% unemployment rate. He inherited a budget deficit of over $1 trillion and a national debt of over $10 trillion.  So that's what was on the plate for Barack Obama and his Administration when he became President, facing two strikes with not a lot of room to make mistakes.  To grow on the job he had to make a lot of quick decisions with Congress right off the bat without much room for error. 

It's easy to blame the other guy when you are President and in a tough situation, but that's not leadership.  Part of leadership is facing the problem and solving it the best way possible.  Putting the country back on a path of prosperity for better or worse is now the Barack Obama Administration's problem.  His foreign, domestic, and fiscal problems come with being a leader responsible for his actions.

They did pass the 2009 Recovery Act and it was written quickly and could have been designed a lot better.  I would have put in around $400 billion for infrastructure spending, especially since the Corps of Engineers says we need about $500 billion of repairs across the country.  We also need small-business tax relief and capital gains tax relief.  If we are going to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from China and other nations, we might as well put that money to the best use possible and plan a payroll tax holiday to encourage hiring and double the Make Work Pay Tax Credit to $1,000 per individual and $2,000 for couples to encourage consumer spending. 

On foreign policy, as I said before, I think the Obama national security team screwed up the GITMO situation by announcing they would close that military prison without finding an alternative location for these terrorist inmates.  But I think President Obama has done a good job with Afghanistan, conducting a review of the Afghan War instead of just announcing his own policy from day one without having all the facts. And once he had all the facts, he announced an Afghan surge and sent in an additional 30,000 troops. Also, President Obama has made it clear to the world that although America is back as a partner, this doesn't mean that America will be dictated to on foreign policy or anything else.  It does mean we are attempting to garner cooperation where we can. 

So overall I would give President Obama an A- for his handling of foreign policy, with the minus applied to GITMO. Overall I would give the President a B because he could have done better on economic and fiscal policy.  But it's his first year and he's learning.  He's off to a good start with a lot of potential to improve.