Will you miss Obama?
via AP

Will you miss Obama?

Join the conversation and vote below

President Obama is finishing his presidency with a 55 percent approval rating. His critics are excited to see him go; they see him as a champion of the elite and big government. Others recognize Obama secured huge progressive gains despite Republican obstructionism, but now worry his entire legacy may be undone. What do you think?

The Votes Are In!

Obama's critics think the outgoing president has royally messed up the United States. His policies have failed on just about every level, and he's leaving Americans worse off than they were eight years ago.

  • The economy has now failed to reach reach 3 percent growth in any of the past ten years. In other words: For millions of Americans, the recession’s aftermath hasn’t been much better than the recession itself.
  • For the past four years, median weekly earnings have increased less than 2 percent a year after inflation. The number of Americans who are working part-time but want full-time work is around 6 million, the highest level in 30 years.
  • Enrollment in the insurance exchanges for Obama’s signature health-care law is at less than half the initial forecast, and insurers are starting to recognize that even with the individual mandate, their new customers are older, sicker, and more expensive than expected.
  • Premiums are rising this year, with “an average jump of 62 percent for the biggest plan in Tennessee and increases of around 43 percent in Mississippi and 23 percent in Kentucky for large carriers.”
  • American views of race relations are at their worst since the Rodney King verdict and Los Angeles riots. The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, usually a strong supporter of President Obama, declared: “Obama will leave office without having healed the nation’s festering racial wounds. He will not have made them worse; rather, he will have allowed us to see how deep they remain and how much healing still needs to take place.”

President Obama's biggest legacy may be that he didn't make things worse. The U.S. economy is in better shape than in 2008, and while there are still many issues, things could be much worse.

  • Obama kept us safe while also retiring the War on Terrorism and restoring America’s reputation for decency.
  • Health care? Before Obamacare, the health-insurance system was trapped in an adverse-selection death spiral: Healthy people lost or dropped their insurance, which drove rates upward, which in turn induced other healthy people to drop their coverage.
  • Not long ago, the United States thought it might be on the brink of a shooting war with Iran, a war which would literally inflame the Middle East. Whether you like or deplore the deal Obama made with the mullahs (I like it, and I don’t believe its critics offered a plausible alternative), it has removed the nuclear issue from the crisis category, freeing the next administration to focus more attention and resources on other mischief by actors like Russia, the Islamic State, North Korea, and Iran itself. 
  • As Coolidge would have affirmed (perhaps using different terminology), “Don’t do stupid shit” doesn’t guarantee presidential greatness, but it’s the right place to start, and a lot harder than it looks. Obama presumably isn’t savoring the irony, but his most impressive legacy is just the sort of unglamorous, unrevolutionary, underappreciated achievement he promised in 2008 to transcend: He has passed the kindergarten test with flying colors.
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