For the Record… Sean December 7, 2010 Political The Obama Record Contributed by Robert P. Watson, Ph.D., Lynn University Poster’s Notation: Back in the Spring of this year Dr. Watson provided me with a list of the accomplishments completed by President Obama up through March of 2010. Shortly after Dr. Watson Provided me a more complete list of the President’s achievements. The last few days the President has been under attack for “Caving” to the Republicans on the Bush Era Tax cuts and I’ve seen comments such as: “Mr President, you have let us ALL down…” The reality is these “Fair Weather Supporters” have absolutely NO clue as to what the President has accomplished in less than 2 years in office. The true reality is, the President was forced into this position due to these pathetic, fair weather voters who chose to stay home on election day handing the house back to the Republicans. There is a lot of misinformation circulating on talk radio, at town hall meetings, in the blogosphere, and around office water coolers about President Barack Obama. For instance, Obama is criticized for allegedly doing nothing and for doing too much. While Obama, like all presidents, has made mistakes, his presidency has thus far been marked not just by bitter opposition but by an ambitious array of initiatives and numerous accomplishments. His is turning out to be one of the most active presidencies in history. Following is a list of initiatives that are either being pursued or have been achieved by the Obama Administration (through April 2010). – Dr. Robert Watson, Lynn University Ethics [list4] Ordered the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act; Bush era limits on accessibility of federal documents have been overturned (2009) Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible (2009) Placed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House (2009) Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration (2009) Signed a measure strengthening registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists (2009) Ordered that lobbyists must be removed from and are no longer permitted to serve on federal and White House advisory panels (2009) Companies and individuals who are delinquent on their taxes or owe back taxes are no longer allowed to bid for federal contracts (2009) Initiated the “e-Rulemaking Initiative” (cooperating with Cornell University) to allow for online public “notice and comment” of federal laws and initiatives (2010) Issued the “Open Gov Directive” ordering all Cabinet departments to promote transparency and citizen participation in their policies (2010) [/list4] Governance [list4] The White House website now provides information on all economic stimulus projects and spending, along with an unprecedented amount of information on our government (2009) Ended the Bush era practice of circumventing established FDA rules for political reasons (2009) Ended the Bush era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results (2009) Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000) (2009) Has urged Congress to adopt “Pay-Go” (whereby each dollar of spending is offset by a dollar in cuts or revenues, which was used in the `90s but abandoned in the `00s) (2010) Has been holding open meetings with Republican leaders who complained of a lack of access and information (2010) [/list4] National Security [list4] Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane (which wasn’t even used in Iraq/Afghanistan) and other outdated weapons systems (2009) Announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay – though the closure has been delayed due to opposition it is still on the agenda (2009) Attempting to house terrorists at a new federal “super max” facility in the US (2009) Cut the expensive Reagan era missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010 (2009) Cancelled plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic (2009) Replacing long-range, expensive missile systems with more efficient smaller systems (2009) Increased US Navy patrols off the Somali coast in response to pirating (2009) Established a new cyber security office and appointed a cyber security czar (2009) Ordered the first nation-wide comprehensive cyber threat assessment (2009) One-year extension on some provisions of the PATRIOT Act (2009) Instituted a new Nuclear Posture Review, revising US nuclear deterrence policy to encourage more nations to join the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (2010) Components of the policy: US pledges to stop nuclear testing US pledges to not build a new generation of nukes Nuclear terrorism – not a launch from another nuclear state – is a major threat US will pledge to not use nukes on a non-nuclear state [/list4] Iraq & Afghanistan [list4] Began the phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (2009); continuing the withdrawal (2010) Authorized the use of more unmanned warplanes/drones (Predator, Reaper, etc.) in Iraq/Afghanistan (2009) Authorized the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, which had been pending for months during the previous administration (2009) Changed the US military command in the Afghan conflict (2009) Tasked the Pentagon to reorganize US policy in Afghanistan; the new policy includes 30,000 additional troops deployed, priority training of Afghan forces, developing agriculture and infrastructure, limiting aerial bombing, etc. (2009) Ordered the Pentagon to send additional helicopters to assist US marine and special forces units in Afghanistan (2009) Increased unmanned drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan (2009) Ended the Bush era “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date (2009) Visited US soldiers in Afghanistan (2010) [/list4] Military & Veterans [list4] Ordered the Pentagon to cover expenses of families of fallen soldiers if they wish to be on site when the body arrives back in the US (2009) Ended the Bush era “blackout” imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and with the approval of the fallen soldier’s family (2009) Ended the Bush era “black out” policy on media coverage of war casualties – full information is now released (2009) Ordered better body armor to be procured for US troops (2009) Funding new Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (which are needed because of susceptibility of the old hummers to roadside explosives) (2009) Working to increase pay and benefits for military personnel (2009) Improving housing for military personnel (2009) Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses (2009) Ordered that conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other neglected military hospitals be improved (2009) Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military (initiated by Bush but abandoned after the war in Iraq began) to a post-Cold War, modern fighting force… this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military and special ops units, establishing new technology and cyber units, etc. (2009) Ended the Bush era practice of awarding “no-bid” defense contracts (2009) Improving benefits for veterans as well as VA staffing, information systems, etc. (2009) Authorized construction of additional health centers to care for veterans (2009) Suspended the Bush era decision to purchase a fleet of Marine One helicopters from foreign suppliers in favor of American made helicopters (2009) Ordered a review of the existing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military (2010) New GI Bill for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (2009) [/list4] Foreign Policy & International Relations [list4] Closed the Bush era “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe (2009) Ended the Bush era policy allowing “enhanced interrogation” (torture); the US is again in compliance with Geneva Convention standards (2009) Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks (Bush withdrew from them) and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols (2009) Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009) Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions suspended under Bush (2009) Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office (2009) Banned the export of cluster bombs (2009) Overturned Bush era plans to increase the US nuclear arsenal (2009) Authorized the Navy SEALS operation that freed by force the US shipping captain held by Somali pirates (2009) Restored the US commitment to the UN population fund for family planning that was suspended under Bush (2009) Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit families (2009) Extended an offer of engagement (free from sanctions and penalties) to Iran through December 31, 2009 (Iran did not accept the offer) (2009) Sent envoys to the Middle East and other parts of the world, reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy (2009) Authorized discussions with North Korea and the private mission by former president, Bill Clinton, to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons (2009) Authorized discussions with Myanmar and the mission by Senator Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive (2009) Renewed loan guarantees for Israel (2009) Signed the USIFTA trade agreement with/for Israel (2009) Authorized a $550m advance for Israel (six months prior to the scheduled date) in order to accommodate Israeli’s economic and financial needs (2009) Continued agreements with Israel for cultural exchanges, immigration, etc. (2009) Spoke on Arab television, spoke at an Egyptian university, and met with Arab leaders in an effort to change the tone of US-Arab relations (2009) Ordered the US to finally pay its dues to the United Nations (2009) Attended the Summit of America’s meeting in Trinidad and Tobago (2010) Invited the Israeli Prime Minister to Washington; met with him (2010) Dispatched several envoys and initiated talks with numerous nations (2010) Signed a nuclear limitation treaty with Russia; both countries reduce nukes by one-third (1,500) and launch systems by half (800) (2010) Hosted nuclear non-proliferation summit for several nations (2010) [/list4] Economy [list4] Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) after years of neglect during the Bush era (2009) Authorized the US auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages (2009) Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees (2009) Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan (1/3 in tax cuts for working-class families, 1/3 to states for infrastructure projects, 1/3 to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers, etc. at risk of losing their jobs because of state budget shortfalls) (2009) Instituted a new rule allowing the public to meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (in as quickly as one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying (2009) Authorized a continuation of the US financial and banking rescue plans initiated at the end of the Bush administration and authorized TARP funds to buy “toxic assets” from failing financial institutions (2009) Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that stimulated auto sales and removed old, inefficient, polluting cars from the road (2009) Convened a “jobs summit” to bring experts together to develop ideas for creating jobs (2009) Ordered the FDIC to beef up deposit insurance (2009) Ended the Bush era policy of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from the credit card industry’s predatory practices (2009) Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses (2009) After former presidents of both parties refused such action (George W. Bush refused four times), Obama placed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires and a few other products such as pipes after China was found to be illegally “dumping” exports below cost (2009) In November 2009, Obama extended unemployment benefits for one million workers and expanded coverage for some existing homeowners who are buying again (2009) Called on Congress to deliver a “Jobs bill” (2010) Credit card companies are prohibited from raising rates without advance notification or arbitrarily if customers are paying bills on time (2010) [/list4] Taxes [list4] Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks to permit the US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals (2009) Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy promotes in-sourcing investments to bring jobs back to the US (2009) Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provides small tax cuts for 95% of “working families” (2009) Convened an advisory board that is looking into simplifying the tax code (2009) Ordered the closing of offshore tax safe havens (for individual and business tax evaders) (2009) Reduced taxes for some small businesses to stimulate the economic recovery (2009) Extended the Home Buyers Credit for first-time home buyers (2009) Proposed doubling the child tax credit (2010) Called for the repeal of the capital gains tax for small businesses (2010) Proposed rolling back the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (families earning over $250,000/year) (2010) [/list4] Budgeting [list4] Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut federal spending (2009) Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify wasteful spending and practices (2009) Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient (2009) Overturned the Bush era practice of not listing certain federal programs in the federal budget (in an effort to hide programs and make the budget look smaller); such “off budget” items are now included in the annual budget (2009) (2010) Full appropriations for war are now included in the budget (2009) (2010) Funds for emergency appropriations are now included in the budget (2009) (2010) Proposed a three-year freeze on federal discretionary spending beginning in 2011 (2010) Is in the process of cutting 120 federal programs identified as either wasteful or unnecessary (2010) Established a bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility, staffed by House and Senate members and private citizens, tasked with submitted proposals to balance the budget (2010) [/list4] Healthcare [list4] Removed Bush era restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research (2009) Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research (2009) Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children (2009) Established an independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare (2009) Reversed some (but not all) of the Bush era restrictions that prevented Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical firms for cheaper drugs, allowing government to again competitively bid; negotiated with drug companies for them to lower their costs (2009) Expanding vaccination programs (2009) Issued new disease prevention guidelines and priorities for the CDC (2009) Authorized the FDA to finally begin regulating tobacco (2009) Tasked federal labs to prioritize research on and deployment of H1N1 vaccines (2009) Asked multiple congressional committees to bring forward a healthcare reform bill; held numerous public hearings and town halls on the issue (2009) (2010) Healthcare reform (32 million additional Americans will receive healthcare coverage and costs will be lowered for most Americans; the total cost to the government is $940 billion over 10 years; many of the goals phased in over four years) (2010) Components of the bill: Prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals/family members with pre-existing health conditions; a temporary plan is being developed to cover high-risk individuals with pre-existing conditions until the full reforms go into effect in 2014 Prevents insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on benefits Bans “rescission” so insurance companies can’t cancel coverage if individuals keep their policies current or if they become ill An individual’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are capped Closes the “donut hole” (Part D) for Medicare prescription drug coverage (under Bush, Medicare helped pay for drugs up to $2,600 and above $4,550, but individuals had to pay 100% of the costs in between these amounts); now Medicare helps cover costs irrespective of the amount – seniors will now pay only 25% of drug costs up to $4,550 and only 5% of drug costs above that amount In 2010, an emergency provision will offer seniors a $250 rebate on the costs incurred within the “donut hole” Individuals living at or below the poverty line were eligible for healthcare under Medicaid, but by 2014 individuals/families living slightly above (making up to $14,404/$29,327) the poverty line will also be eligible for benefits Individuals/families making less than $43,320/$88,200 per year will qualify for government subsidies to help purchase health insurance All individuals must have health insurance or face a government fine; all large (over 50 employees) employers must offer health insurance to employees or pay a fine Small businesses can get a tax credit if they offer health care There are hardship exemptions if individuals can’t afford health insurance Families can keep their children in college on their plans through age 26 Promotes health insurance “exchanges” so consumers can buy “wholesale” Creates consumer assistance offices to help consumers file complaints or appeal decisions from insurance companies; beginning in 2011, insurance companies can no longer make excessive rate hikes without justification and approval, and those doing so may be barred from participating in new health insurance exchange Funding sources: Large employers (over 50 workers) that don’t offer health benefits will be charged a $2,000/worker fee; if the employer offers coverage but employees instead purchase federally subsidized insurance the fee is $3,000/worker receiving federal subsidies or $750/worker (whichever is lower) Annual fees on pharmaceutical companies ($27 billion), health insurance companies ($60 billion), and medical device-makers ($20 billion) Annual penalties on individuals who do not have health insurance (up to a maximum of $695/person) Increase in the Medicare payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.35% for individuals making $200,000+ and families making $250,000+ 3.8% tax on unearned income for millionaires Insurance companies will be subject to a tax on each high-end insurance plan (so-called “Cadillac” plans) they offer Miscellaneous: Illegal immigrants are not eligible for insurance or subsidies By Executive Order, such federal funding can’t be used for abortion The federal government will assist states by covering all of the increased expenses of expanding Medicaid coverage (90% of costs after 2020) [/list4] Energy & Environment [list4] Removed a ruling that now allows individual states to enact automotive fuel efficiency standards above federal standards (2009) Offered attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles (2009) Overturned Bush era rule to weaken the Endangered Species Act (2009) Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government (2009) Ended the Bush era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions (2009) Signed a measure requiring energy producing plants to begin producing 15% of their energy from renewable sources (2009) Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites (2009) Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production (2009) Proposed a new refuge for wild mustangs (2009) Cancelled several Bush era mountain-top removal and mining permits (2009) Reengaged in international treaties and agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009) Asked Congress for an energy reform and “cap and trade” bill (2009) Developing plan to lease US coastal waters for wind and water-current energy production (2009) Overturned Bush-era policies that allowed uranium mining near national parks such as the Grand Canyon (2009) Expanded the Petrified Forest National Park (2009) Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protects millions of acres of scenic, historic, and recreational lands and trails (2009) Requiring that government buildings and facilities be retrofitted to save energy costs (2009) Authorized studies in several western states to determine how to support large-scale solar installations (2009) Attended the Copenhagen talks and, after the talks were stalled, negotiated an international (voluntary) agreement on reducing carbon emissions and raising funds to assist developing nations in offsetting carbon emissions (2009) Banned importation of pythons (in response to a growing population of pythons damaging the Florida Everglades) (2009) Committing the federal government to increasing research and use of renewable, clean energy sources such as wind, biomass, etc. (2009) Called for exploring the possibility of additional off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf, Atlantic, and off Alaska (but not in ANWR) (2010) Agreed to consider increases in nuclear energy production and requested a study on the feasibility of nuclear power plant construction (2010) [/list4] Rights [list4] Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Bill) (2009) Appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court (2009) Held the first Seder in White House (2009) Appointed a diverse Cabinet and diverse White House staff (2009) Spoke at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization (2009) Signed the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation that includes acts of violence against gays under the list of federal hate crimes (2009) Reversed the Bush era practice of politicizing Justice Department investigations and prosecutions against political opponents (2009) Pushing for some of the 9/11 perpetrators to be tried in federal court (2009) Signed an extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Bill to provide federal research and support for treating the disease (2009) Allowed the State Department of offer same-sex benefits for employees (2009) Proposed that the Pentagon repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; placed a “freeze” on current efforts to remove alleged homosexuals from the military (2009) After eight years of neglect, the Justice Department and EEOC are again enforcing employment discrimination laws (2009) Convened the White House Tribal Nations Conference, inviting representatives from 564 federally-recognized Indian tribes (2009) Provided increased school projects for Indian lands and increased funds for the Indian Health Service (2009) Signed an Executive Order mandating that his Cabinet develop plans to work with and consult Indian tribes on issues impacting Indian lands (2009) Commissioned a study to develop alternatives to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010) Called for federal agencies to look into recognizing gay partnerships in terms of benefits (2010) Signed an Executive Order for the President’s Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010) Increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010) [/list4] Education Policy [list4] Authorized construction funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access in K-12 public schools (2009) Increased funding for school construction (2009) Increased funding available for student loans (2009) Expanded the national youth service program (2009) Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years (2009) Changed the rule to allow students struggling to make college loan payments to refinance their loans (2009) Beginning discussions with Congress for education reform (2009) Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies (2009) Instituted a “judgment review” allowing families with student loans to petition to have their current financial status determine the loan rather than the previous year’s finances (2009) Launched “Educate to Innovate,” a public/private partnership making $236 million available for science, mathematics, and technology education programs (2009) Proposed capping the maximum amount students must pay on student loans (as percentage of their income) (2010) Proposed reducing student loan obligations for individuals going to work in community and public service jobs (2010) The federal government will offer direct student loans, cutting out the cost of private banks (“middle man”) who increase the costs in order to make a profit (2010) [/list4] Other Policies & Initiatives [list4] New federal funding for science and research labs (2009) Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program (2009) Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program (2009) Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness (2009) Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud (2009) Demonstrated an immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters (2009) Ordered that funds be released and red tape be streamlined for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in the Gulf Coast (2009) Ordered the DEA to stop raids on medical marijuana usage (2009) Ordered a review of existing “mandatory minimum” prison sentencing (2009) Signed an order to limit airport tarmac delays and the time passengers had to sit in the plane/on the tarmac during delays (2009) Restored the EPA to “Cabinet level” status (this was the case under Clinton but not Bush) (2009) FEMA once again reports directly to the president (this was the case under Clinton but not Bush) (2009) Beginning discussions with Congress for comprehensive immigration reform (2010) Commissioned expert panels and reports from NASA; announced a new direction for human space flight that involves funding a new heavy lift-launcher and jettisoning the Ares 1 program; boosting NASA’s budget by $1 billion in 2011 (2010) Ordered a ban on text-messaging for all commercial truck and bus drivers (2010) [/list4] Haiti Disaster Response [list4] Timely and massive relief effort in response to the January 2010 earthquake and ensuing humanitarian crisis (2010) Components of the response: The FBI’s National Center for Disaster Fraud was tasked to look into possible fraud with organizations soliciting funds for relief Announced the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund Established an emergency Haiti Task Force in the State Department Established a website with information, resources, and a posting of a “person finder” online to help families and friends to locate loved ones Joint aid and relief planning with the U.K. Sponsored a resolution in the UN Security Council for additional security and police forces in Haiti Dispatched the US Navy floating hospital (USNS Comfort) and, within 5 days, 9 naval and relief ships, 5 Coast Guard cutters, 8 Coast Guard aircraft, and 12,000 US military personnel Initial dispatch of several ships and cargo planes full of humanitarian aid and supplies, 6 search/rescue teams (500 personnel), and 265 Department of Health & Human Services personnel for emergency medical and aid support Established a mobile US air traffic control center at the destroyed airport in Port-au-Prince [/list4] P.S. [listarrow] The Obamas did not use the $100,000 authorized (to all First Families) for the refurbishment and redecoration of the White House’s private living quarters; they paid for it out of their own pockets (2009) The Obamas reused Christmas ornaments from previous White House trees rather than buy new ones (2009) The Obamas used LED energy-saving lights on White House Christmas tree (2009) Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; donated the award money for the prize to several charities (2009) Planted a garden for the White House’s vegetables and flowers (2009) Installed a swing set/playground for the Obama daughters and children of White House employees (2009) Held over 150 public town halls, press conferences, interviews, etc. in first year in office (official numbers are not available on such things, but this seems to be a new record high) Less than 30 days of vacation in first year in office (official numbers are not available on such things, but this seems to be a new record low) [/listarrow] To all you pathetic “Fair Weather” Democrats and Independents who feel that the President hasn’t done enough for this country. Perhaps we should get the President to come over and shovel the snow from your sidewalk as well so that you can finally give your support to him. After reading what I’ve read from you crybabies today, I want to vomit and tell you to go join the right wing brigade!