Felicia Muftic _ Grading Obama
May 3, 2009
Television talk show pundits and news shows deserved an F for grading Obama’s first 100 days with A, B, or C’s. The “incomplete” option was not on the table and no bias was left behind as they viewed results through the filter of their own political loyalties.
Most Republican pundits gave Obama a C or worse on domestic policies and a B on foreign affairs. The Democrats uniformly gave Obama A’s and better. CNN absurdly averaged grades and came up with a B. Local Fox listeners gave him an F. So what did you expect?
At the same time, another grade card was in the works … public opinion polls. In most, Obama received 60 percent to 70 percent approval ratings depending upon the questions asked and the subject or evaluations of him as a leader. These are highs in recent history. Polls revealed for the first time in years more Americans think the country is going in the right direction than not. Most voters have hope laced with patience the Obama approach will succeed.
A “satisfactory, fail, or incomplete” grade would have made more sense because the Obama agenda is still a work in progress. Instead of basing a report card on “how much do I agree with what he is doing,” a more revealing one might have been “how well is he doing what he said he set out to do.” Here is my report card.
He deserves a “satisfactory” for getting his stimulus plan through Congress. Implementation is an “incomplete.” The stimulus tax reductions for 95 percent of Americans, which constituted nearly 40 percent of stimulus costs to the federal budget, have hit consumers’ pockets, and consumers have begun spending on durable goods, the only bright spot in continued contraction of the U.S. economy.
Job creation is just under way. It takes time to get bids on shovel-ready projects and to approve applications for others. The longer term economic development programs, such as converting the rust belt to green, will not be implemented until 2010 and beyond.
The Wall Street/finance sector bailouts in the form of TARP/TALF/mortgage rescues get a “satisfactory/incomplete” grade. There is evidence that the market may have reached a bottom, to the relief of retirees living on their IRAs .The mortgage bailouts of lower interest rates and refinancing at historic lows seem to be working. The Denver Post reported last week foreclosure rates in the Denver area, for example, have plummeted.
The rest of the financial sector bailout could be termed an “incomplete.” Maxed out credit cards portend a future hiccup in recovery. Credit is not flowing as it should. Bailout of General Motors is probable in June and publication of the stress tests this week will likely lead to more financial sector bailouts. Chrysler is getting bailout money assist as they work their way through bankruptcy and purchase by Fiat and publication of the stress tests this week will lead to more financial sector bailouts. Whatever happens in the automotive sector, there will be more unemployment as the industry shrinks, but much less than if the bailouts had not been available. Obama has work to do and he was the first to admit that at last Wednesday’s news conference.
The public is putting the specter of government debt on the back burner for now because they want a balm for their own immediate personal financial pain. Long term debt is a real concern, though. Debt reduction depends upon the success of the Obama administration’s getting us over the immediate hump, cutting government spending, and stimulating long term economic growth. He has made a start on all three goals. This one is an “incomplete.”
If there is a failed grade to be given Obama, it is his promise to change the way Washington does business. He has a good excuse, not better than “the dog ate my homework,” but close. Congress reverted to bad behavior. Republicans held party discipline tight to oppose any and every Obama economic rescue initiative. Neither side gave an inch. Obama is left with two tools: powering his agenda (especially health care and energy policy) through Congress and using administrative powers. Use of both will bury bipartisanship on most issues.
At long last we have a president who is popular in the world. Leaders of adversarial countries and terrorists will have a much harder time whipping their followers into an anti-American lather. That gets a “satisfactory plus” from me. It is too soon to tell how that translates into tangible results, so that element gets an “incomplete.”
Imagine where we would be if the Republicans controlled the White House and Congress. Their reversion to Bush II economics that got us in the worst shape in 50 to 80 years and a resounding “no” to everything but tax cuts would have given them a richly deserved failing grade. Even hope would have been left at the starting gate if they had had their way.
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