Obama’s Legacy Is a Weaker and More Divided America
This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky was published January 19, 2017 by The Daily Signal.
Americans voted in November for seismic change, but our outgoing president is still as clueless as ever about the nation he governed.
In his farewell speech-cum-lecture earlier this month, President Barack Obama proclaimed that he made America better by “almost every measure.”
The statement goes far beyond optimism, and lands squarely in the realm of delusion.
Eight years of Obama’s leadership has left America demonstrably weaker and more divided. Rather than the promised “healing” —- racial and other —- the Obama era frayed the ties that bind us.
It began when his Justice Department dropped an open-and-shut voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. It was essentially a declaration that his administration would use the Voting Rights Act to protect only certain races.
There followed a steady stream of false claims that America was an inherently racist society with a biased judicial and law enforcement system. Obama rekindled a racial divide that had been steadily disappearing in American society.
In fostering group identity politics for political advantage, the Obama administration only divided the American people. And the people know it.
A recent Rasmussen poll found that 60 percent of Americans felt “race relations have gotten worse since Obama’s election” —- a far cry from the president’s claim of “better” race relations under his administration.
The president also boasted of controlling health care costs while bringing Americans better insurance coverage. Neither claim is true.
This year, insurance premiums skyrocketed by an average of 25 percent in states with exchanges. Deductibles are through the roof. And people shopping for more affordable insurance are finding far fewer options.
Most states this year have even fewer insurance providers participating in health care exchanges than last year.
As for “better coverage,” the vast majority of previously uninsured people now covered are enrolled in Medicaid —- a troubled and increasingly stressed program that actually delivers poorer health outcomes than those of people with no insurance at all.
It’s no wonder that more Americans want to repeal the consistently unpopular law than keep it, according to a recent Kaiser Health tracking poll.
The president proudly stated that he opened a “new chapter with the Cuban people,” but it appears the new chapter for the Cuban people is one behind bars. Since Obama began “normalization,” arrests of Cuban political dissidents have escalated, with over 9,000 political arrests made in 2016.
It is no secret that the tyrannical Castro regime has a dismal human rights record. The influx of American capital blessed by normalization will only bolster the regime.
It was a huge mistake to give Havana diplomatic recognition with no conditions and no requirements to stop the oppression. In Cuban-American communities, the widespread celebrations of Fidel Castro’s death stood in stark contrast to the bitter disappointment in Obama’s failure to stand for freedom and liberty in Cuba.
Returning to domestic policy, the president ignored his real record: eight years of economic stagnation. Instead, he offered happy talk: “The good news is that today the economy is growing again.”
Really? Our economy continues to underperform, with low increases in gross domestic product, a low labor participation rate, increased cost of living in cities, and lower-than-expected wage growth.
Rather than implement policies that encourage business creation and investment, the president fostered an environment of class warfare and instituted policies, including Obamacare and overregulation in many other areas, which increased the barriers to entry for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
This no-regrets president remained unapologetic of his “pen and phone” approach to governance. First expressed in 2014, it reflects his belief that the limits of the Constitution on the power of the presidency do not apply to him.
Obama has engaged in more unilateral policy-making through executive fiat than almost any previous president —- bending, changing, rewriting, and ignoring the law at will.
From refusing to enforce federal immigration law or welfare work requirements, to ignoring statutory deadlines, to making illegal recess appointments, Obama abused his office and his power. That is not something to be proud of.
In his typical lawyerly fashion, the president skirted around the truth of cities riddled with racial tension and soaring crime rates, small businesses ruined by rising health care costs and crushing regulations, a metastasizing national debt, and a foreign policy that seems to favor authoritarian regimes over our allies.
Perhaps all the spin worked on the reporters attending Obama’s last speech. But the broad swathes of the American people who have suffered the consequences of his misgovernance for eight long years stopped buying it months, if not years, ago.