he closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year. He banned torture. He reversed a number of horrible Bush gifts to industry including attempting to stop coal companies from dumping the sludge and waste from mountain top mining into nearby rivers, and reversing a rule allowing people to carry guns in national parks. He ended the federal ban on stem cell research; and ended the ban on foreign aid to nations that promote birth control and abortion as part of family planning. He has started to change our policy towards Cuba and Iran, and is no longer a rubber stamp for whatever policies Israel promulgates. He released the torture memos and gives me hope that he will release more of the Bush administration's justification for un-American and illegal acts. It is enchanting to see that the President knows how to play old fashioned hard ball politics too. Despite great opposition from Republicans and some Democrats, the President put intense pressure on Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, to include a provision in the budget bill that would allow health care reform legislation to pass on a simple majority vote, preventing a filibuster by a minority. This was power politics at it's best. The Republicans are screaming like stuck pigs about how unfair and un-democratic this provision is, even though they used the very same tactics to pass two of the most disastrous tax cuts in American history. Finally, one cannot help but be humbled by the calm and focus of the President and his ability to stay on message. His personal popularity is high and in a span of about five months, the majority of Americans (more than 50%) believe the country is on the right track again. It is also humbling to realize how many issues still have to be addressed. Education needs new ideas and new funding. No Child Left Behind needs to be left behind. College tuition needs to be free. We have a shortage of primary care doctors; and we need a whole new generation of skilled craftsmen, artisans, carpenters, and electricians. Green industries need to be nurtured and jobs created. Immigration has to be addressed with an amnesty for those already here and a better procedure for those who want to come here. Our infrastructure is falling apart; and we are one blown transformer away from massive blackouts in many parts of this nation. Social Security and Medicare have to be reformed, and the military budget has to be drastically reduced. On top of all that, we must address global warming and a fresh water crisis worldwide that could lead to a pandemic of social unrest and massive migration of peoples ignoring national borders. The one consistent theme that seems clear in all of these issues is that we want progress. We do not want to regress or go backwards. Progress is the key to whether or not our children inherit a better environment and the hope of a better life than their parents. It is no longer left or right. It is Progressive policies vs. Regressive retrenchment. I opt for progress. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to email@example.com
Saturday, May 23, 2009
In the tradition of the New York Times, and since the President chose to take a four part question in his national news conference, the same four questions should be answered by Obama supporters as an indicator of how they feel about his presidency so far. So the question to you, or questions, are what are you most surprised, troubled, enchanted and humbled by so far in the Obama administration? I will answer for myself and then hope more people will add their list so that we can get feel for where progressive minds are at this juncture of history. I am surprised at the centrist nature of so many positions the President has taken on issues and how he dances away from controversy at every opportunity. If ever there was an example of free market capitalism failing, it is seen in the economic meltdown had by the world financial sectors. If ever there was an example of how capitalists will always be greedy and that their appetites know no bounds, it is this crisis. I once asked if there is a level of profit or wealth that is immoral; and the answer from capitalists appears to be "no". It is surprising then to see the President send hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up banks, non-banks, and hedge funds and rebuild the very institutions that started this whole mess. He says there will be new regulations and the market will not be so free anymore; but many people are concerned that the regulations will not contain enough teeth and will not be funded enough so that regulators can truly exercise oversight. Many Obama supporters are surprised that he still envisions a health care system which includes private health insurance companies. If ever a group deserves to be ushered into the dustbin of history, it has to be health insurance companies. They provide no services or care. They are simply pass-through entities who siphon off 20-30% of the premiums paid while passing the money through to your doctors. Pre-existing conditions, high-priced prescriptions, capitation fees that strangle good medical care and practice; these are all the fruits of the health insurance industry, not to mention a constant pressure to pay as little as possible when you actually get sick and need the coverage. President Obama appears to envision a health care reform that continues to allow them to exist; and that is surprising. There are many areas where an Obama supporter can be troubled. Start off with his open-ended commitment to the war in Afghanistan. It feels like he was stampeded into this course of action and without a lot of due diligence. As of today, there is no definition of what victory would entail nor any exit strategy. The President has not asked Congress for hearings, and a vote on this commitment hasn't gone before the American people to make his case. How many more times will American presidents commit the military to a war without first getting the American people on board? Is an American soldier dying in Afghanistan more honorable than a soldier dying in Iraq? The President says water boarding is torture, but he will not prosecute the torturers. The President is defending in court the denial of legal rights to prisoners at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan, a continuation of Bush policy. The President opposes an investigation into the illegal spying, wiretapping, and electronic surveillance of American's email; and he has yet to issue new policies banning such practices. So far, the President has not used any of his political capital to push Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act; which would establish open union elections , and is vital is we want to see a rise in trade unionism in this country. Enchanted is an interesting word, and the President didn't like it much when asked to use it in his press conference. I like the word, and there are a number of actions taken by his administration that have enchanted me. The Justice Department says it will stop raiding medical marijuana clubs in states where the voters approved marijuana for medical purposes. Despite claims to believe in a new federalism and states rights, the Bush Administration was raiding and jailing operators of such clubs at an alarming rate. The President has used executive orders in enchanting ways.