President Obama’s Legacy: TBD
by Trevor Hopkins on Friday, April 24th, 2015
As President Barack Obama heads into the last year of his presidency, one wonders how he will be remembered and just what legacy he will leave. Most likely, Obama will be remembered for his past actions due to the Republican-dominated Congress preventing him from accomplishing much in the coming year. Obama can try to work around this major obstacle by utilizing his executive powers, but acting unilaterally will limit his chances to establish a new legacy for himself.
Opinions vary widely about whether Obama’s policies have had a positive or detrimental effect on our country. As one might suspect, these opinions divide quite cleanly across party lines. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as ObamaCare, is probably the most controversial of Obama’s accomplishments. According to The Economist, the proportion of Americans without health insurance has fallen from 16.2% to 12.3% since 2009, and the growth in America’s healthcare spending is slowing. Whether health care reform is the primary facet of Obama’s lasting legacy will depend, in large part, on how much of the act remains intact after facing a myriad of legal and political challenges. Regardless of party affiliation, one can see that Obama accomplished something that no previous president has through his universal health care act. Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton—each one a respected, well-liked President—all tried to set up government-run healthcare and failed. Only Barack Obama, with a Gallup presidential approval rating of 47%, was able to create a solid foundation for universal healthcare. Whether or not you agree with the act itself, you must admit it is an impressive feat.
Another accomplishment for which Obama will be remembered is his competent handling of the 2008 recession that he faced at the start of his presidency. Here again, Obama’s actions during this time were extremely controversial, but few dispute that his $900 billion bailout package along with other economic measures coaxed the economy into a steady recovery, according to NPR. The same article states, “the consensus of economists…is that the stimulus was the difference between a painfully slow recovery and Great Depression II, the sequel.”
Of course there will always be naysayers who believe that the bailout was ineffectual and too heavy-handed, but Obama’s recession recovery strategy, his first major decision as President, is one history will remember.
Obama’s legacy with regard to foreign policy is less straightforward; in fact, Gallup polls show that popular approval of his foreign policy has decreased significantly from the first year of his presidency. Foreign policy expert Aaron David Miller commented on NPR that Obama has had “no spectacular successes, save killing Osama Bin Laden.” With only one year left in his presidency, Obama can still meaningfully impact the country’s foreign policy success. How Obama handles the rise of ISIS, nuclear talks with Iran, and restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba are areas of opportunity where he can change his foreign policy legacy. However, Obama needs to act soon if he is going to leave a substantial impact.
While the amount of American progress during Barack Obama’s presidency has been highly debated, it cannot be said that Obama has been totally ineffective or that he accomplished nothing. Whether it was our failing economy or the widespread lack of healthcare coverage, Obama tackled the tough issues that faced our nation. While debate will rage as to whether Obama will be remembered as a good or bad president, he certainly cannot be remembered as a lazy one.
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