President Obama assumed office on 20 January 2009 as the 44th president of the United States of America. He is the first US president from an African-American racial affiliation. During his first term, he mainly focused on policies that sought to address issues such as GFC and tax policies. He signed legislation that sought to reform the US healthcare system while at the same time exploring various foreign policy initiatives.
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In terms of enhancing security of the US to foster freedom from external aggression, he has been exploring mechanisms of reducing nuclear arsenals through diplomatic strategies, such as negotiations. In 2012, President Obama was re-elected back to the White House for a second term.
Upon successful re-election, his victory speech mainly dwelled on the need to address inequality, global warming, and reformation of the American system of education to encourage innovation and technology.
Over the first term and now, during his second term in office, President Obama introduced several policies to reform the US. However, for more than five years, one would ask, has he changed the nation? This paper addresses this question by considering success and failures of President Obama’s administration during his first and second terms in office.
Obama’s Presidency and Transformation of the US
From the time the US acquired its independence, all presidents of the United States of America have had their failures and successes in terms of changing the nation. As Watson reveals, close to the end of his political campaign in 2008, President Obama remarked that he was remaining with almost five days to transform the nation.1
He promised economic growth by boosting employment levels of the US citizens. While several of his promises during the first term’s campaigns went partly or even without being met at all, this pronouncement was, perhaps, one of the most accurate and truthful prophetic statement that President Obama had ever uttered.
Transforming the US amounts to one of the most substantial promises he has kept, although it is detrimental in some situations to the interest of many US citizens. Skocpol and Jacobs contend with this assertion by claiming that his presidency with support from his radical political left-wing supporters has changed the US from being the nation of the brave into a place, which enslaved and timid people can call home.2
Through President Barack Obama’s administration, federal governments have undergone immense transformations. After his election in 2008, Crotty asserts that he changed centralised regime from a bulky, semi-compassionate administration that was characterised by its sluggishness and incompetence into a giant, which could help the management representatives detect, intimidate, and mistreat the general public.3
After his election, federal governments acquired unlimited size while possessing unrestricted power. This strategy has been deployed to induce change in all aspects of the American people, rather than its utilisation to enhance the US prestige and dominance in the international arena.
For instance, through his presidency, he has redefined the philosophy of taxation, changed the perceptions of individual liberty, turned people into whiners, and/or brought about varying impacts on unemployment patterns.
Change in the Philosophy of Taxation
From economic paradigms, the philosophy of taxation rests on the need to generate money that is required in paying for government services. Through taxations, governments acquire the capability to balance their budgets in a bid to redistribute wealth while also ensuring ardent control of the taxpayers as Moe and Howell confirm.4
President Reagan assumed office during an economic situation that was similar to President Barack Obama’s first term of presidency. The American economy was in recession. In spite of Reagan’s failure to rein successfully over his two terms under pressure of the increased congressional spending, he made an important impact to the understanding of the taxation philosophy in the US.
Indeed, he proved that the government could increase its revenues while cutting the taxation. According to Kesler, President Obama’s administration has totally ignored or dismissed this supply-side fundamental concept of economics.5
His administration has increased taxes while failing to appreciate that further increase in taxation beyond certain threshold can reduce the revenue that is generated by the government while at the same time subjecting people to financial difficulties.
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Transformation through increased taxation encompasses one of the most disturbing changes on the American people’s way of life that was realised by President Obama’s administration. From an economic dimension, lower taxes imply leaving more financial resources in the hands of the citizens.6
Apart from empowering people, this plan of tax enables them to arrive at self-driven decisions to become more self-sufficient. Interpreting the increased focus of the President Obama’s administration on raising taxes in the context of economic theory only portrays his administration as concentrating on raising government revenue.
However, according to Ferrara, from a political dimension, his government is also uninterested in developing an equipped population that is capable of making choices autonomously without the control of centralised regime.7
Liberal political power is best served when a subservient population exists so that people cannot achieve their sustenance without relying on the federal government in all their decision-making processes. Hence, the concept of increasing taxation is all about controlling citizenry power through the federal governments.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Obamacare into law. Although, the policy may be important in ensuring transformation of the healthcare system to make it more adequately accessible to low-income earners, it imposes more taxation on some people. Obamacare costs America huge sums of money. Any government earns from its citizens.
Therefore, to fund this plan, the American citizens will have to carry the weight either directly or indirectly. Even if new taxes to fund the plan are not directly reflected in the US tax tables, the cost is still enormous to citizens. President Obama’s administration promised that the plan would not affect families, which made less than $250, 000 annually.
Perhaps, members of such families may have been employed by organisations that do not avail healthcare insurance. They are not likely to be capable of buying healthcare insurance policies. If they are not targeted by Obamacare new taxes, people remain doubtful in terms of where the $503 billion will come from without impairing the economy from 2010 to 2019.
Consequently, as Dubay asserts, PPACA may increase taxes that are levied on middle-income households in direct contrast to President Obama’s pledges.8 There have also been many delays on the dates of implementing various provisions of the Obamacare Act. This situation raises concerns on the commitment of President Obama is delivering change to healthcare systems. It may also imply that Obamacare has already failed.
While Americans still have hope for the capacity of President Obama to deliver change to the nation, there is concern that the impacts of Obamacare on the middle-class citizenry remain imperative.
As Dubay informs, the 40 % health insurance exercise tax will “apply to plans that are valued in excess of $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families and will take effect in 2018 and is projected to raise $32 billion by 2019.”9
In fact, many of the Americans who earn much lower than $250,000 annually usually have high-end health insurance plans. This finding means that when the 40% exercise tax provision of the Obamacare comes into action in 2018, such families will have to dig deeper into their pockets.
Therefore, President Obama’s pledge that such families will not be influenced by the health insurance plan might be broken. The inference here is that in overall, Obamacare will impact US economy negatively. Thus, it changes the US in unfavourable perspective, yet the Americans have always anticipated positive changes.
The president’s Obamacare plan has the impact of hiking the portion of the payroll tax on hospital insurance. With regard to Dubay, the result of this move is to heighten workers’ share to almost 3% percent for households that receive $0.25million annually.10
This observation means that the enduring convention, which holds that payroll duties can only be utilised to finance Medicare and communal protection, is broken. It also means that the funds will be redeployed to cater for a separate new entitlement.
Consequently, probability may exist that the government can utilise the payroll taxes to fund other social programmes, which are not incorporated in the original plan for spending in payroll taxes. Additionally, Obamacare objects to utilise payroll taxes in investment.
In support of this position, Dubay claims that PPACA was to begin using new higher 3.8 % HI tax in income investments as from 2013.11 This direction is a violation of the history of programmes for social insurance since an attempt has never been made to employ a portion of payroll taxes in investments to yield incomes.
Changes in Individual Liberty
President Obama has repeatedly claimed that his government sought to guarantee equality to all people irrespective of their diverse characteristics. The manifestation of this promise plays out in his administration’s approaches to individuals’ liberty.
According to Chinni and Gimpel, it has changed the US prestige on individual liberty into a state that complies with administration directives, policies, and augmented manoeuvring of people.12
McElya contends that America has not had any other administration that imposed as many regulations compared to that of the President Obama.13
All aspects of the American people are under control by the federal government through regulations that apply from the food business, manufacturing industry, and mortgage business among others. These controls ensure that people continue to rely on the federal governments to make decisions on their behalf.
Changing People’s Mindset
The Americans have always admired people who take individual responsibilities. However, through Obama’s regime, this mindset has been altered, thus turning them into whiners who perceive themselves as having a responsibility to deliver to the entire world. As Lee says, America has been the way it is today due to individualist attitude towards an upward mobility14.
People have always relied on the government to initiate or show them the way forward. After the establishment of an opportunity, since time immemorial, the American people have sought for ways of manoeuvring through an existing opportunity to achieve individual success.
This claim explains well the reason behind America’s dominance in entrepreneurship compared to other nations of the global. Unfortunately, the culture of whiners that is currently dominating America encourages some people to work hard while others enjoy the benefits that accrue from their efforts.
President Obama and his left-wing supporters insist on the need for redistributing wealth and public goods in an effort to reduce inequality gaps. Even though this plan may be an important aspect of transformation of the American society, whiners are the main recipients of products of other people’s hard work.
Liberalist views are at home with the idea of some people doing excessive work to earn higher incomes in relation others, who do less work. However, as Aberbach, and Rockman confirm, they force the higher income-earners to redistribute their incomes through federal government regulations.15
Obamacare exemplified well the concept of redistribution of income, wealth, and public goods. In 2010, the US president declared the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ a decree that was alternatively referred as the healthcare reform Act or Obamacare.
Among many concerns of the Act, Flaer and Mustafa reveal the goal of the healthcare reform, which entails availing a healthcare insurance that is affordable by all citizens of the United States together with a reduction of the escalation of healthcare spending.16
In this context, Obamacare ensures that all American people have equal accessibility to healthcare irrespective of their differences in their capacity to generate income. However, amid the benefits of Obamacare, it creates and encourages a whiner’s culture.
In the end, small businesses, particularly the ones that hire 50 to 199 people, might adjust their conducts in response to Obamacare. Perhaps, medium-sized businesses will be forced by business economic challenges to adopt appropriate mechanisms to minimise operational costs.
Such strategies may include increasing working hours for the existing pool of employees, rising preferences for low-skilled employees in comparison with high-skilled employees, employing seasonal workers, and/or hiring more temporary workers. Such change impairs negatively the productivity of an organisation while at the same time disadvantaging the American workers.
In response to the increasing costs of maintaining employees within organisations, many firms, especially medium-sized businesses, will opt to drop insurance coverage if they presently offer it and/or shun away from proposing it.
In fact, this move might be the most appropriate way of responding since no provisions are made in the Obamacare to obstruct them from doing so. In the light of such possible responses, an interrogative emerges on the capacity of President Obama to change America positively through the Obamacare plan.
Medium-sized businesses may consider dropping insurance coverage in an effort to escape the health insurance regulation that Obamacare imposes. This means that their employees have to depend on the contributions made by other people in the kitty to finance their health insurance.
This situation replicates the whiner’s culture, which advocates for some people to work hard while others share the fruits of their hard work to ensure equality.
Change in Unemployment Patterns
The election in 2008 and re-election in 2012 of an African-American president were understood to be a major watershed in the history of the United States. Americans anticipated many changes in terms of a better future for their generations through the presidency of Barack Obama.
For African-Americans, their hope was even multifold as it meant ending the remnant traits of segregationist policies that had been introduced by President Woodrow Wilson between 1913 and 1921.
One of the major struggles of African-Americans involves securing equal access to employment. The main question is whether African-Americans have acquired equality in terms of accessing employment during the reign of President Obama compared to his predecessors.
From 1963, African-Americans experienced many changes, which had translated better assimilation into the American society. However, according to Abrajano and Alvarez, their unemployment rates have not changed significantly.17. Their unemployment rate has remained twice that of the whites for over six decades18.
By the last quarter of 2013, the unemployment rate of the blacks was 13.4 percent while the rate of the whites was 6.7%.19 It is beyond any doubt that President Obama assumed office when the economy was in recession. This situation implies that higher levels of unemployment were expected.
Indeed, after the great depression, the US has experienced 10 recessions. However, all lost jobs were recovered during its recuperation. Why is this not the case during the President Obama’s administration? In fact, by November 2013, six years after the 2008-2009 global financial crises, the US had not recovered job losses.
The six consecutive years also included the longest period in the history of the US in which unemployment levels remained above 8% on average. In 2009, President Obama’s administration provided an economic stimulus that amounted close to US $1 trillion with the aim of boosting economic recovery until 2012.
From 1948 to 2013, America has never experienced any months with unemployment levels that exceeded 8% apart from only 26 months in which it suffered from the 1981 to 1982 recession.20 Although unemployment rates during this challenging moment were still higher on the part of blacks in relation to the whites, inequality persists even during President Obama’s administration.
Such inequality is worse upon considering the inconsistencies of unemployment levels during President Obama’s reign. All lost jobs were recovered after 27 months during Reagan’s presidency. However, five years after the 2008-2009 GFC, all lost jobs have not yet been recovered. Additionally, during Reagan’s presidency, after 71 months, the number of jobs grew by 11.2 %, which was an increase of 11 million job opportunities.21
The recession that lasted between 1981 and 1982 occurred during President Reagan’s first term in office. For President Obama, the 2008 to 2009 recession occurred within 5 months of his term. Surprisingly, during Reagan’s first four years in office, females’ real median wage increased by 32.1% compared to President Obama’s 6.6%.22
In Reagan’s first four years, employment for African-American females increased by 15.1 % while it increased by only 2.6% in Obama’s first four years.23 A possible explanation of these disparities is that during Obama’s first term, the recession hit the US economy harder. However, the history of American recessions provides evidence that the harder the recession, the stronger the recovery.24
Even President Obama believed in this assertion when he came out on national television in 2009 and confidently told the public that if the economy were to fail to recover by 2012, his presidency would last for only one term.
In fact, the Americans waited with enthusiasm the re-emergence of the capacity to change a nation through Keynesian economic theory when he promised in 2009 that his US $1 trillion would reduce unemployment to settle constantly at 5%.
In conclusion, President Obama’s election for the first term in office presented a lot of hope to the Americans. People saw him as a liberal messiah who had the capability to establish a new generation of liberalists. Others saw him as Abraham Lincoln or even Franklin Roosevelt of the modern times. Re-evaluation of these forecasts has left most Americans surprised.
Now, President Obama looks more of a typical politician, who seeks to maintain his coalitions intact through compromise and/or balancing of his constituencies as opposed to a transformational leader.
While the Americans waited for policies that would change America to meet their expectations, the administration enacted anti-growth policies, which only enhanced increment in taxations. Such increments ensure that money and hence power of control fall in the hands of the federal governments.
The erosion of power from the public is enhanced through an explosion of government-enacted regulations across all industries. Such regulations are implemented through the federal governments. The booming economy forms the pillar of increased wages for middle-class and the poor.
Borrowing from Reagan and President Kennedy’s approaches for reviving the economy, such an economy can only surface from a reduction of marginal taxes, but not through President Obama’s way (increasing taxes to fund a seemingly failed programme, such as Obamacare).
Nevertheless, he promised to alter the US presumably during his first four years in office so that the US had more whiners than producers by the time he sought for re-election. The whiners re-elected him successfully in a bid to maintain their status quo. Therefore, President Obama has definitely changed America.
Aberbach, Joel, and Bert Rockman. “The Appointment Process and the Administrative Presidency.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 39, no.5 (2009): 38–59.
Abrajano, Marisa, and Michael Alvarez. ‘‘The Hispanic Vote in the 2004 Presidential Election: Insecurity and Moral Concerns.’’ Journal of Politics 70, no. 2 (2008): 368–82.
Chinni, Dante, and James Gimpel. Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth about the “Real” America. New York: Gotham Books, 2011.
Crotty, William. The Obama Presidency: Promise and Performance. New Jersey: Lexington Books, 2012.
Dubay, Curtis. Obamacare: Impacts on Taxes. Web.
Ferrara, Peter. Barack Obama’s Presidency is A Complete Failure by his own, Self-imposed Standards. Web.
Flaer, Paul, and Younis Mustafa. “Thinking through Healthcare Reform.” Ageing International 37, no.2 (2012): 181-185.
Kesler, Charles. Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism. New York: Broadside Books, 2012.
Lee, Frances. “Dividers, Not Uniters: Presidential Leadership and Senate Partisanship, 1981–2004.” Journal of Politics 70, no. 11 (2008): 914–928.
McElya, Micki. “To Choose Our Better History: Assessing the Obama Presidency in Real Time.” American Quarterly 63, no.1 (2011): 179–189.
Moe, Terry, and William Howell. “Unilateral Action and Presidential Power: A Theory.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 29, no.3 (1999): 850–73.
Skocpol, Theda, and Lawrence Jacobs. “Accomplished and Embattled: Understanding Obama’s Presidency.”Political Science Quarterly 127, no.1 (2012): 1–24.
Watson, Robert. The Obama Presidency: A Preliminary Assessment. New York: The State University of New York Press, 2012.
1 Robert Watson, The Obama Presidency: A Preliminary Assessment (New York: The State University of New York Press, 2012), 309.
2 Theda Skocpol, and Lawrence Jacobs, “Accomplished and Embattled: Understanding Obama’s Presidency,” Political Science Quarterly 127, no.1 (2012), 9.
3 William Crotty, The Obama Presidency: Promise and Performance (New Jersey: Lexington Books, 2012), 117.
4Terry Moe, and William Howell, “Unilateral Action and Presidential Power: A Theory,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 29, no.3 (1999), 853.
5 Charles Kesler, Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism (New York: Broadside Books, 2012), 211.
6 Ibid, 213
7Peter Ferrara, Barack Obama’s Presidency is A Complete Failure by his own, Self-imposed Standards.
8 Curtis Dubay, Obamacare: Impacts on Taxes.
9 Ibid, Para.9
10 Ibid, Para. 9
11 Ibid, Para.12
12Dante Chinni, and James Gimpel, Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth about the “Real” America (New York: Gotham Books, 2011), 96.
13Micki McElya, “To Choose Our Better History: Assessing the Obama Presidency in Real Time,” American Quarterly 63, no.1 (March 2011), 181.
14Frances Lee, “Dividers, Not Uniters: Presidential Leadership and Senate Partisanship, 1981–2004,” Journal of Politics 70, no. 11 (2008), 915.
15Joel Aberbach, and Bert Rockman, “The Appointment Process and the Administrative Presidency,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 39, no.5 (2009):41.
16Paul Flaer, and Younis Mustafa, “Thinking through Healthcare Reform,” Ageing International 37, no.2 (2012), 182
17Marisa Abrajano, and Michael Alvarez, ‘‘The Hispanic Vote in the 2004 Presidential Election: Insecurity and Moral Concerns,’’ Journal of Politics 70, no.2 (2008), 371.
18 Ibid, 373
19 Ferrara, Para. 2
20 Ibid, Para. 13
21 Ibid, Para 17
22 Ibid, Para.19
23 Ibid, Para.19
24 Kesler, 171