As we rapidly approach the end of the second year of the Obama administration, it is a good time take an in-depth look and see if the President delivered on the “change we can believe in” campaign promise. This analysis was prompted by an Associated Press article on September 27, 2010 which reviewed the comments the President made on a recent broadcast interview on the Today Show as it related to public education in this country.
The President’s thoughts included the following:
– “The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense.”
– The President admitted that his daughters could not get the same quality education at a public school than what they are currently getting in a private school. He did admit that the struggling D.C schools have “made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform.”
– He said that he wants to work with teachers’ unions but warned that they should not defend a status quo in which one third of U.S. children drop out of school, challenging them not to be resistant to change.
– The President also endorsed the firing of teachers who are low performers.
These are all great ideas …. if you are running for office. Of course longer schools years make sense. Kids would not forget as much during the summer plus, while U.S. kids go to school about 180 days a year, most of the rest of the world goes to school 10% more or about 197 days a year. While D.C. schools have made some strides recently, the American Federation Of Teachers union recently spent $1 million to help defeat the D.C. mayor who supported the changes to the status quo that resulted in those improvements. While the schools improved, the defeated mayor, Adrian Fenty oversaw the firing of 200 teachers for poor classroom results. Thus, it does not look like the unions are on board yet with the President.
The President still talks a good show but the results leave everything to be desired. His words are good on education reform, but he has not put forth any concrete plans to improve the dismal performance of public schools in this country. He “thinks” that a longer school year makes sense but apparently has no plans to see if that assumption is true. He “wants” to work with the teachers’ unions but apparently has no plan to see how the cooperation might take effect. He “endorses” the firing of low performing teachers but apparently has no plan to determine how to define what low performance is.
Bottom line, is 18 months into this administration, there is no plan afoot to fix the public school system in this country. Makes you wonder why we are paying the salaries for the Federal employees in the Education Department if there is no national plan to fix the education system. If we are still at the “I think, I want, I endorse” phase as opposed to the “we will do this at this time with these resources and measure our effort this way to get to these goals” phase, i.e. have a coherent, reality based plan underway, then nothing has really changed since Bush left office. Verdict: no change from the Bush administration.
Okay, the public education problem in this country has not resulted in change we can believe in, are there any areas where this campaign promise is true:
– Iraq – yes, the President did draw down the U.S. troop levels to around 50,000 troops. However, this time table was basically negotiated by Bush and the President campaigned to get all of our troops out of Iraq, not a lot of them while leaving 50,000 behind for who knows how long. Verdict: no change
– Patriot Act – probably one of the biggest threats to freedom in this country, the Obama administration renewed the Patriot Act earlier this year, basically unchanged from the version that was passed during the Bush administration. Plus, a September 27, 2010 Associated Press article summarized some additional actions that the current administration wants to undertake relative to national security. The article highlighted how the Obama administration wants “broad, new regulations” to make it easier for the government and law enforcement officials to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications that go through social networks and Smartphones. This step takes us another step closer to George Orwell’s world of “1984.” Verdict: change for the worse.
– Guantanamo Prison – one of the President’s big campaign promises was to close the terrorist prison that Bush opened at Guantanamo since it served as a recruiting tool for international terror organizations. The prison is still open and does not look like it will be closed any time soon. Verdict: unchanged.
– War On Drugs – not sure either administration did anything significant to solve the drug problem in this country. As a result, we have a drug war going on in Mexico that could result in a narco nation just under our southern border and the violence and destruction that goes with it. Verdict: no change.
– National Energy Policy – despite having lived through the horror that were the energy crises from the 1970s and the added belief by some that fossil fuels are causing global warming, the country is no closer to a coherent, efficient long term energy plan than it was 35 years ago. The so-called cap and trade legislation that has been bouncing around Washington for a while will never get passed since it is too obtuse, too hard to understand, and impossible to operate or regulate. Now, while the Bush administration was probably happy to keep the status quo of as it related to oil, coal, and other energy sources, the Obama administration has done nothing to come up with a workable energy plan. Verdict: no change.
– Immigration Reform – Lord only knows how many illegal immigrants came over the Mexican border during the Bush administration and the Obama administration seems more intent on using its resources to sue Arizona for trying to protect its citizens from the problems of high illegal immigration than actually sealing the borders and coming up with a long term strategy for the problem. Verdict: no change.
– Rising health care costs – Bush did try to contain rising health care costs in the prescription medicine arena and passed a Medicare amendment. This effort has greatly added to our national debt without significantly bringing down the cost of medicine for older Americans. Obama passed a massive health care reform bill that was touted as the solution to the high cost of health care and the resultant high levels of uninsured Americans. However, a new, in-depth analysis by the Cato Institute shows that there will still be over 21 million uninsured Americans by 2019, the cost to the nation will be $2.7 TRILLION (not the $900 billion that Obama promised), and the legislation will add $352 billion to the national debt (not save $135 billion that Obama promised). Two failed programs, with objectives missed and national debt increased. Verdict: change for the worse because the Obama effort is far more damaging to the country.
– Earmarks – Obama campaigned explicitly against the high number of earmarks in the Federal budget. Under the Bush administration, they rose from under 2,000 early in his administration to over 10,000 at the end of his administration. Under Obama, the his last Federal budget was approved with over 11,000 earmarks costing the American taxpayer almost $20 billion a year. Verdict: no change.
– Deficit spending – when the Democrats took over Congress in 2007, they vowed that the would get Federal spending under control and would institute a pay as you go process. This means that no new government programs would be funded unless cuts were made in other government areas to keep the spending in check. Since then, the Democrats in Congress, along with President Obama when he came into office in January, 2009, have run up record high national deficits over the past three years, with no end in sight. While they may blame Bush for the last few years of high deficit spending in order to recover from the recession, that is no excuse for the continued high deficits that the Obama administration forecasts and plans for the coming years. Verdict: change for the worse.
– Uniting the country – partisan politics probably got considerably worse during the Bush administration. The image of Vice President Dick Cheney exchanging f-bombs with Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor is not a pretty one. Bush backers calling those opposed to the war in Iraq as unpatriotic disrespected the rights of those Americans to have an honest contrary opinion. Some of those in the press that opposed some of the policies of the Bush administration reverted to likening him to Hitler. Unfortunately, partisan fighting has not improved under Obama, He has allowed those in his party to call those Americans that honestly oppose some of the Obama administration’s programs and intentions a myriad of names including racists, terrorists, un-American, and knuckle dragging Neanderthals.Verdict: No change (leaning towards change for the worse).
– Mideast Peace Talks – American Presidents keep trying and usually keep failing to get the two central parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to take each other and the effort for peace seriously. As I write this, the Palestinians are contemplating leaving the current round of peace talks if the Israelis restart building settlements in disputed lands. Another good effort, another likely failure. Verdict: No change (but not for lack of trying on Obama’s part.)
– Iran and North Korea – we are no closer to having an adult conversation with either regime but they are 18 months closer to having a nuclear arsenal. Neither Bush nor Obama found an effective way to talk or deal with the madmen. Verdict: no change.
There you have it relative to the major issues facing America today. Much like the old Who song, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” the Obama administration has either continued many of the Bush policies or has been just as unsuccessful as the Bush administration in many areas. And like Bush, Obama really has no excuses, at least for the first year of his Presidency. His party controlled both houses of Congress and in the Senate, the Democrats were filibuster proof. He basically could have had any “change” he wanted if he pushed them through and controlled his fellow Democrats.
However, two things precluded his changes. First, he never did control Pelosi and Reid. As a result, Obama’s agenda moved along very slowly until the Republicans busted the filibuster number in the Senate. Second, it appears that President Obama has been more interested in playing President in his first two years than actually being President. He jetted all over the world giving speeches and trying to woo the Olympic Committee, he had photo ops with college and professional athletic teams, he filmed a TV commercial for the George Lopez show, he hyped his NCAA basketball picks, etc. Maybe if he had spent more time putting some plans and strategy in place for education, energy, immigration, foreign affairs and other issues, he could have been the “change” President.
Instead, he is being called the “second coming of Jimmy Carter” President, which makes him just like every other politician. As with most politicians, he does not seem to have a process for planning and attacking problems. To solve a problem, you first need to identify the root causes of the problem, determine what desired solution you want, determine what resources are needed to attain the solution, and put together a work plan and schedule to attain that solution. Politicians of all kinds they never use this process. Their only process is what is the easiest way to look like they are solving problems that nets them the most votes in the next election, regardless if the problem ever gets solved. Or as Karl Marx once said: “The oppressed are allowed every four years to decide which representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and oppress.”