Yes We Are Better Off

Are we better off since President Obama took office? That’s been the question most often asked across the country lately, it seems. Republicans would have us think that we’re not, but in my opinion they are completely, and factually, wrong. One accomplishment after another goes unrecognized and/or forgotten, so maybe it’s time to refresh our memories. Here’s a partial list of accomplishments of the Obama Administration:

• Auto Industry saved
• Got North Korea to stop enriching uranium
• Iraq war ended
• Bin Laden dead
• Nuclear weapons reduced by 1/3 in US & Russia
• Stock market more than doubled
• Turned around the plummeting job loss number of the Bush Administration
• U.S Gross Domestic product went from steady decline to increasing every ¼ of the Obama Presidency
• Ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
• Settled Libya problem in 60 days with no American casualties or use of ground troops
• Got more Taliban leaders in 30 days than Bush/Cheney did in 6 years
• Insurance companies must cover pre-existing conditions
• Kids stay on their parent’s insurance until 26 under certain conditions
• Requires health plans to disclose how much of premium goes to patient care
• Prevents children from being denied health insurance coverage
• Cut prescription drug cost for Medicare recipients by 50%
• Requires large employers to contribute to a national healthcare plan
• Spending growth under Obama lower than that of both Bushes, Nixon, Carter & Reagan
• Temporary suspension of taxes on Unemployment benefits
• Jail population decline for first time in decades
• Wind power growth up 39%
• Instituted the toughest Wall Street reform since Great Depression
• Passed health reform: Others tried & failed over the last 60 years
• Insurance companies can no longer drop you when you get sick
• Stimulus Plan which brought us out of the brink of financial collapse
• Amped budgets at NASA & National Science Foundation
• Expanded state run health insurance to cover additional four million kids
• Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – Equal pay for equal work
• Global initiative keeping nuclear material out of hands of terrorists
• Hate crimes prevention act (Matthew Shepard Act)
• FDA for first time allowed to regulate tobacco
• Eliminated scandal plagued Mineral Management Services
• Overhauled the astonishing stupidity of the student loan system
• Cancelled bloated weapons program including useless F-22
• Stopped Russia supplying $1 billion of high-tech missiles to Iran promised by Bush
• $14 billion in federally funded loans to stimulate job creation
• Taxes cut for 95% of working families
• Passed 16 different tax cuts for American small business owners
• Fought GOP for Health benefits for 9/11 responders
• Consumer spending increase
• Orders for durable goods increase
• Ryan White AIDS Treatment Act
• Appointed more openly gay officials than any other president
• Expanded loan program for small businesses
• Increased funding for National Parks and Forests
• Led effort to phase out whaling
• Funding for high speed broadband internet access to students K-12
• $26 billion to states saving 160,000 teacher jobs among other things
• Helped rebuild schools in New Orleans
• Doubled research funds for cleaner fuel
• $2 billion to solar power
• Raised fuel economy standards
• Cash for clunkers
• Limited mercury emissions
• Eliminated oil company liability caps for oil spills
• Ordered BP to provide $20 billion liability fund for damages from spill
• Mandated new safety rules for offshore drilling
• World opinion of US improves significantly since Obama takes office
• Return rights of Americans to  visit and assist their families in Cuba
• Renewed loan guarantees to Israel
• Pressured Israel to end Gaza blockade
• Nuclear arms agreement with India
• Agreement with Switzerland to bolster tax information exchange
• Cut salaries of senior White House officials
• Prevented congress from receiving cost of living pay raise
• Established a Patient’s Bill of Rights
• Expanded vaccinations program
• Same-sex partners assured visitation & healthcare decision rights
• $8 billion to establish smart power grid
• $13 billion for high-speed rail in 13 major US corridors
• Major expansion of AmeriCorps
• Committed US to almost 5 million charging station by 2015
• Expanding broadband internet
• Improved benefits for veterans
• New and improved hiring policy for veterans
• Ended media blackout on war casualties
• Increased access to PTSD treatment for soldiers and veterans
• Reconstruction of military to reflect modern-day threats & technology
• Ended torture
• Recommitted the U.S. to  full compliance to the Geneva Conventions
• Cut missile defense system by $1.4 billion
• Increased pay benefits to military personnel
• Began draw-down of war in Afghanistan
• Ordered Seal operation to free of US captain held by pirates
• Negotiated nuclear arms agreement with Australia, India, & Russia
• Increased Navy patrol of Somali coast
• Provided $210 Million for building and upgrading fire stations
• Ordered extensive review of hurricane & natural disaster preparedness
• Edward Kennedy Serve America Act: Expands national volunteer program
• Removed restrictions and provided support of embryonic stem cell research
• Worked with international allies on International Space Station
• Used private sector to improve space flight
• Used Space Station for fundamental biological and physical research
• Established consumer tax credit for plug-in hybrid cars
• $60 billion in spending & tax incentives for renewable & clean energy
• For first time in 13 years America’s dependence on foreign oil below 50%
• Tax breaks to promote public transit
• Income floor for medical expense deductions for individuals 65 & older
• Health insurance tax credits & subsidies for incomes to 4x poverty level
• Tax increase for corporations with assets of at least $1 billion
• Closed offshore tax safe havens, tax credit loopholes
• Tax bills hit lowest level since 1950
• Tax refunds up 10 percent due to stimulus
• Imposed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House
• Limits White House aides working for lobbyists after tenure in office
• Closed lobbyist loopholes with respect to the Recovery Act
• Banned lobbyist gifts to executive employees
• DOD will film all interrogations
• Created more jobs in 2009 than Bush in his entire presidency
• Gets 47 nations to agree to 4 years non-proliferation efforts
• Forced airlines to disclose prices upfront
• Helped clean out weapons-usable uranium from 6 countries
• Number of oil rigs in US oil fields has quadrupled in past three years
• US now has more rigs at work than the rest of the world put together
• First time since 1949 we now export more gas than we import
• Rescued hostages held by Somalia Pirates with precision mission
• Makes health insurance available to seasonal firefighters
• No deportations for young illegals born in country

So-Called Medicare Cuts Explained to Paul Ryan by the President

This is from one of the 2010 televised “Question Time” debates between the president and congressional Republican leadership. Here the president explains why Medicare Advantage needs to be reformed and where the savings should go.

Now I’m a participant in Medicare Advantage and have the private part of my plan subsidized by my private retirement provider, and must say that I love the affordability, flexibility, and overall care and access to care that it provides. I certainly don’t want to see it turned into the mutation that Romney/Ryan are proposing and envisioning, and I don’t think very many Medicare or Medicare Advantage participants would disagree with my viewpoint.

Nothing has been cut. Everyone is getting a better deal and paying less for it. According to HHS, Medicare Advantage premiums are down and enrollment is up. Hardly indicative of something that’s suffering and despised.

Now Ryan is on the campaign trail as presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney’s running mate, and he is echoing the mantra that the President is stealing $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act. We see him sitting in the video, apparently listening, and presumably comprehending what the President is explaining, and yet he’s now out there spewing the blatant lie about the gutting of Medicare, which is a total lie. Now he either knows he’s lying, or he didn’t understand what the President articulated in this meeting. One explanation calls into question his integrity, the other his intelligence. Either way you see it, should disqualify someone like this from holding public office, let alone the second highest one in the land.

The Truth About the Obama Stimulus

Republicans would have you believe that President Obama’s stimulus package failed, even as economic consensus and actual fact prove the oft-repeated statement that “the stimulus didn’t work” is actually false. Nevertheless, Republicans and conservative commentators continue to recycle this myth.

A recent example comes from conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who blasted the stimulus as a failed policy in a column. Krauthammer’s evidence for that failure is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as the stimulus is properly known, didn’t generate a project as big as the Hoover Dam:
“First, the $831 billion stimulus that was going to “reinvest” in America and bring unemployment below 6 percent. We know about the unemployment. And the investment? Obama loves to cite great federal projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system. Fine. Name one thing of any note created by Obama’s Niagara of borrowed money. A modernized electric grid? Ports dredged to receive the larger ships soon to traverse a widened Panama Canal? Nothing of the sort. Solyndra, anyone?”

Krauthammer is correct in his claim that Obama’s stimulus bill didn’t create a Hoover Dam. In actuality, it created the equivalent of a dozen Hoover Dams.

The maximum output of the Hoover Dam is about 2 gigawatts of electricity. The increase in U.S. wind-power output under the Obama administration so far has been 25 gigawatts — 12 times as much as produced by the dam. Under normal wind conditions, that’s enough to power over 6 million more homes with renewable, environmentally-friendly energy.

That explosion in wind-power didn’t happen by chance: as Michael Grunwald points out in a Time column, it was “the Obama stimulus bill that revived the wind industry and the rest of the clean-tech sector from a near-death experience.”

Under Obama, the United States has doubled its annual wind power output to 50 gigawatts, thanks in large part to the stimulus bill, enabling us to keep pace with China, the world’s wind power leader.

Krauthammer only asked for “one thing of note,” but Grunwald supplies us with more, just on the clean energy tip, which has only been a fraction of the overall stimulus effort: “The stimulus has financed the world’s largest wind farm, a half dozen of the world’s largest solar farms, the nation’s first refineries for advanced biofuels, a new battery industry for electric vehicles, unprecedented investments in cleaner coal and a smarter electric grid, and over 15,000 additional clean-energy projects.”

As far as the right’s repeated insistence that the stimulus didn’t work, that’s false too, as you can see by watching the short video explanation, below:

The Lie About Obama’s Spending

There are so many lies and so much misinformation being told about President Obama that one would be hard pressed to pick one that is the worst. Oh, there’s all the birther nonsense, the wild-eyed charges of him being a socialist, fascist, or communist, and the allegations that he’s worse than Hitler, Stalin, and whatever other boogeyman comes to mind.

But I guess if I had to pick one that is heard most often and is most easily refutable by using simple facts, it would be the one about his irresponsible spending spree.

Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even a great number of Democrats seem to think it’s true.

But it didn’t happen, nor does it appear to be in the offing. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since the first term of Dwight Eisenhower in the early 1950s. Even Herbert Hoover, thought to be a master of fiscal austerity, increased spending during his four years in office by a whopping 12.3% per year.

Here are the facts, according to the official government statistics:
• In the 2009 fiscal year, the last budget of George W. Bush’s presidency, federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Check the official numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.
• In fiscal 2010, the first budget under Obama, spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.
• In fiscal 2011, spending rose 4.3% to $3.60 trillion.
• In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August.
• Finally in fiscal 2013, the final budget of Obama’s term, spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget outlook.

Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%, which is much lower than the rate of inflation.

There has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.

Why do people think Obama has spent like a drunken sailor? It’s in part because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the federal budget.

What people don’t seem to know is that the first year of every presidential term starts with a budget approved by the previous administration and Congress. The president only begins to shape the budget in his second year. It takes time to put together a budget proposal and steer it through Congress, especially in these days of congressional gridlock.

The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans unfairly count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress.

Like a relief pitcher who comes into the game with the bases loaded, Obama came in with a budget in place that called for spending to increase by hundreds of billions of dollars in response to the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Before Obama had even lifted a finger, the CBO was already projecting that the federal deficit would rise to $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2009. The government actually spent less money in 2009 than it was projected to, but the deficit expanded to $1.4 trillion because revenue from taxes fell much further than expected, due to the weak economy and the emergency tax cuts that were part of the stimulus bill.

The projected deficit for the 2010-13 period has grown from an expected $1.7 trillion in January 2009 to $4.4 trillion today. Lower-than-forecast revenue accounts for 73% of the $2.7 trillion increase in the expected deficit. That’s assuming that the Bush and Obama tax cuts are repealed completely.

When Obama took the oath of office, the $789 billion bank bailout had already been approved. Federal spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicare was already surging to meet the dire unemployment crisis that was well under way. See the CBO’s January 2009 budget outlook.
Obama is not responsible for that increase, though he is responsible, along with the Congress, for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill, from the expansion of the children’s’ health-care program, and from other appropriations bills passed in the spring of 2009.

If we credit that $140 billion in stimulus to Obama and not to Bush, we find that spending under Obama grew by about $200 billion over four years, amounting to a 1.4% annualized increase.

After adjusting for inflation, spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace. That’s the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam.
In per-capita terms, real spending will drop by nearly 5% from $11,450 per person in 2009 to $10,900 in 2013 (measured in 2009 dollars).