Forum

Obama will be known for ushering in Lost Decade

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

In the midst of multiple foreign policy crises and racially motivated shootings, it’s difficult to take a step back and look at the larger picture of President Obama’s stewardship of the country. However, six years into his presidency, it’s time to start examining the legacy our president will leave behind.

As many of us remember, when President Obama was ushered into office on a tide of hope, change, and most importantly, bipartisan support, it seemed like our country had turned a corner and another Era of Good Feelings was upon us. We’d finally found a charismatic leader who represented the antidote to everything we’d hated about his predecessor and offered us the post-partisan, post-racial future that Americans yearned for. President Obama promised to restore foreign policy sanity, safeguard individual freedoms, reform health care and immigration, and make the economy a fair place to earn a living after the recession.

Six years from then, it’s apparent that none of that happened. The Middle East is a mess, we’re still not sure if the Affordable Care Act has helped more people than it’s hurt, and 25 percent of college graduates are unemployed with a further 25 percent underemployed, many with crushing student debt. Perhaps most alarming, however, is that partisanship is at an all-time high, congressional approval at an all-time low, and a plurality of Americans now believe that race relations have worsened under Obama.

By nearly any measure, the country is in worse shape than when President Obama took office in January 2009. Worst of all, even Democrats in Congress call Obama disengaged and uninterested in governing. It’s gone so far that The New York Times published an article defending the president’s golfing habits in times of crisis last Friday. With Republicans favored to win control of the Senate, the president isn’t likely to regain his interest in governance, which is just about to get harder for him.

With this in mind, let’s examine the question of Obama’s legacy. A lot of his foreign policy legacy will be determined by how the current situation in Iraq resolves itself, so let’s focus on domestic policy. President Obama’s two primary domestic achievements were the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (The Stimulus) and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

With the lowest percentage of Americans working full time since the Depression, college looking like an increasingly bad investment, and companies relocating overseas to avoid our oppressive corporate tax structure, the economy is doing very poorly. Median household income is still lower than it was before the Recession, and income inequality is worsening at an increasingly rapid pace. Perhaps the Stimulus mitigated the effects of the Recession, but seven years after the start of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and six years into the weakest postwar economic recovery in United States history, the president’s economic stewardship can only be credited with mediocrity at best, and abject failure at worst.

The troubled legacy of the Affordable Care Act, from the failed rollout to the Hobby Lobby Case, isn’t worth rehashing, but it’s important to note that throughout its entire life, the act has always had more Americans opposed to it than in favor of it. Millions of Americans have lost their insurance, and millions more will continue to lose their insurance as corporate mandates kick in over the next few years. Health insurance rates have continued to rise much more quickly than inflation and many are finding that the new networks they have been given access to by their exchange-based insurance plans are severely limited to the point of inefficacy. In addition to this, even by the most generous estimates, the United States will still have at least 30 million uninsured when it’s fully rolled out, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

None of this is likely to matter soon, because two pending court cases threaten to cripple or at least derail the entire act. Speaker John Boehner’s case against the president will likely overturn Obama’s executive orders that keep the most potentially damaging parts of the act at bay until the 2014 midterms, reinforcing limits on executive powers. Finally, another lawsuit is making its way through the courts, one that could possibly stop the majority of states from being able to give subsidies to its citizens. If either of these lawsuits win, then the Affordable Care Act will be fatally undermined, and possibly thrown out altogether.

If this happens, then President Obama will have no major accomplishments to tout when building his legacy, and he will be remembered by his string of second-term scandals and incompetence, if not detachment, when dealing with domestic crises, such as the current ones at the border and in Ferguson. The president has yet to visit the sites of either issue.

This type of thing has happened in history before. Stagnant economic growth, domestic crises, and incompetent leadership are not unique to our country or our time. Japan experienced similar conditions in the 1990s, and historians have remembered the period as “The Lost Decade.” When historians look back on President Obama’s tenure as president, they won’t remember the lofty rhetoric that got him elected, but instead, they’ll remember the very real and very negative consequences of his policies, which very well may usher in our own Lost Decade.