I found myself in a discussion with a group of what are otherwise intelligent, well-informed people. Many of them had the usual stinging attacks for the President that I've come to expect. But what I found amazing was the response when someone took up the mantle and explained why or how certain legislation had passed. Invariably, people would say, "Oh, I didn't know that" or "I had no idea". The President is far from perfect, but one can only wonder, given the amount of misinformation, about the source of such staunch disapproval.
So what follows is information about some of those promises. I focus primarily on the much contested Stimulus. Not in an effort to excuse, but merely to explain what many people seem to have either forgotten or never knew.
I can't figure if Americans have amnesia or are so civic-barren they think the President can do anything he wants:
Read executive order on GuantÃ¡namo [PDF]
From The New York Times
It's Congress' Fault That It's Still Open
Congress has effectively frozen in place one of the most counterproductive aspects of our national security policy -- and given Al Qaeda just what it wants.
.....Congress has barred Obama from transferring any detainees to the United States, not even to stand trial in a criminal court, and has put onerous conditions on their being transferred to any other country.
From The Washington Times
House acts to block closing of Gitmo
Congress on Wednesday signaled it won't close the prison at Guantanamo Bay or allow any of its suspected terrorist detainees to be transferred to the U.S., dealing what is likely the final blow to President Obama's campaign pledge to shutter the facility.
The President promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts for higher incomes, increase the capital gains and dividend taxes for higher-income taxpayers and phase out exemptions and deductions for higher earners.
People seem to forget the President compromised, extending the Bush tax cuts in order to maintain tax cuts for the middle class and an extension of unemployment. Was the preference that taxes go up on the middle class and unemployment end? He broke one promise in order to keep one to the middle class.
In response to the economy, I hear even the most informed politicians and pundits declare, "Instead of spending time on healthcare legislation, President Obama should have concentrated on the economy." Is it me? That's what the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, better known as the Stimulus was about!
When it was initially introduced, the Stimulus totaled just under $1 trillion. Everyone should be able to recall the original uproar and outrage about the price tag; headlines looked like this:
Stimulus package 'too big'; Galaxy Poll findings
Area Republicans criticize stimulus as too expensive
Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card: Stimulus too costly
Stimulus Too Expensive - Sun Sentinel
We're constantly reminded that President Obama promised if the Stimulus passed, the employment rate would not exceed 8% and the Act is called a failure. Despite their protestations, over a hundred Republicans happily handed out enormous checks representing money they voted against and publicly criticize.
In fact, President Obama never made such a pledge. The projection is the result of a Jan. 9, 2009 report "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" from Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, the vice president's top economic adviser.
The report was issued with heavy disclaimers:
"It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error," the report states.... the uncertainty is surely higher than normal now because the current recession is unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity."
In 2011, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and The Bureau of Labor Statistics unveiled a revision of data which showed that the Great Recession was even worse than initially thought. The BEA's first estimate of output, published in January of 2009, showed a contraction of 3.8% (this would have been the number used by economist who wrote the Stimulus), but a year later revised it to a 6.8% drop. The figure changed yet again in 2011, to a shocking 8.9% fall in GDP. Clearly, the Stimulus was a recovery plan based on available, but what turned out to be, false data. A fact that is seldom, if ever mentioned.
New government data shows 2007-2009 recession inflicted more severe than previously estimated
The numbers keep being revised inexorably downwards
Remarkably, the Stimulus met it's goal; stabilizing a flailing economy; saving and creating jobs (despite Republican efforts to sabotage growth by laying off masses of employees and voting against all job-creating legislation). One can only speculate what the result might have been if the initial GDP figures had been correct.
I concentrate on the Stimulus because it embodied in many ways an attempt to fulfill many of the promises the President made. What seems forgotten is that in response to the "Stimulus uproar", a group of Senators, Republicans and Democrats, led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins cut billions from the original stimulus. In the interest of bipartisanship (another promise), and because Republican votes were necessary for passage (there were not 60 Democratic senators seated) job-stimulating measures were traded for tax cuts. Most people know that much, but they don't know what was cut.
Many complain that there were not enough infrastructure jobs included in the Stimulus.
Here is what was cut:
$3.5 billion for energy-efficient federal buildings
$75 million from Smithsonian; for repairs, refurbishing and upgrading
$200 million from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund - for tank removal, drilling, soil sampling, etc.
$100 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - for habitat restoration, vessel maintenance, construction and repair of NOAA facilities, ships and equipment.
$100 million from FBI construction
$65 million for watershed rehabilitation
$25 million for Marshall's Construction
$300 million for federal prisons; repairs and upgrades to construction and security
$55 million for historic preservation
$165 million for Forest Service capital improvement
$16 billion for school construction
$3.5 billion for higher education construction
$2.25 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization - - for road, bridge and trail maintenance; including related watershed restoration and ecosystem enhancement projects; facilities improvement, maintenance and renovation.
$1.2 billion for retrofitting Project 8 housing
$100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization
Some complain that the President has not kept his commitment to "green technology" and move away from fossil fuels.
Here's what was cut from the Stimulus in favor of tax cuts:
$300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles
$1 billion for Energy Loan Guarantees - to encourage improved technologies in energy projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or emissions of greenhouse gases; and employ new or improved technologies; issue loans to automobile and part manufacturers for cost of re-equipping, expanding, or establishing manufacturing facilities.
Republicans cut law enforcement in state after state in order to balance their state budgets.
Here's what was traded from the Stimulus for tax cuts:
$100 million from law enforcement wireless
$440 million for BYRNE grant program - funding would have focused on preventing and reducing violent crime; expansion of the COPS program; reducing mortgage fraud and crime related to vacant properties and improving resources and services for victims of crime.
$10 million state and local law enforcement
$50 million from Department of Homeland Security
$200 million Transportation Security Administration
Republican governors cut hundreds of thousands of educators, adding to the unemployment rolls.
All jobs that might have been saved had these cuts not been made to the Stimulus:
$50 million for Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service
$100 million for distance learning - a process to provide access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both."
$98 million for school nutrition
$1 billion for Head Start/Early Start
$600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)
Remember when Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson complained that the President was not helping Texas with their wildfires? Perhaps it was because $700 million to supplement disaster recovery which would have been used to protect communities from large, unnaturally severe fires and contribute to the restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems; along with $90 million for State and Private Wildlife Fire Management was traded for tax cuts.
Homelessness would not be nearly as pervasive if $1.25 billion for project based rental to preserve tens of thousands of affordable housing units and prevent homelessness had not been stripped from the Stimulus.
States decimated medicaid because $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity - to help stabilize State budgets and maintain health care services to struggling families was cut from the Stimulus. The Stimulus sought to increase the Federal share of Medicaid funding; including assistance to hospitals, Tribal protections, and health professions training and support.
In fact, all kinds of healthcare benefits were eliminated in favor of tax cuts, including $2 billion for Health Information Technology Grants that would have enabled the coordination of care as well as the maintenance of the continuum of care across the nation. Also eliminated, $2 billion for broadband; $400 million for science and research.
Space geeks complain that the President failed to establish an organizational authority in the federal government to oversee policy dealing with the government's space-related programs. Many suggest the President has destroyed NASA.
These were some of the programs left on the cutting floor in favor of tax cuts:
$50 million for NASA - to among other things re-establish the National Aeronautics and Space Council
$50 million for aeronautics
$50 million for exploration and support of a human mission to the moon by 2020
Promises about Space on The Obameter
One can only speculate how many states would have found it necessary to cut jobs, reduce employee benefits and shred the safety net for the poor if $40 billion that was for state fiscal stabilization had not been traded for those elusive "job creating" tax cuts.
In the end the complaint would turn from the "expensive, overindulgent, wasteful Stimulus" to loud and constant declarations about the fact that "the Stimulus was just too small", as if a more expensive bill could have possibly passed the Congress.
The idea that the President doesn't fight or that he "caves" is sheer silliness. It isn't his job to plant his feet in order to appear to be a bad ass while everything falls apart. It's a fair assumption he knows how to count. And if the votes aren't there, all the bitching and moaning in the world won't pass a bill.
If you ask me, Americans have no one to blame but themselves. They should have stayed engaged. They should have supported their President, especially once they saw that so many forces were working against him. Like the Tea Party, Democrats should have gotten rid of representatives who stood in the way of legislation they felt important. But more than that, they really need to connect with sources that give the facts.