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Just How Historic Was Obama's First Term?

So many things about Obama’s first term were supposed to be made for the history books. But, policy-wise, he just may end up on the wrong side of them.


From Townhall Magazine's EXCLUSIVE May feature, "Just How Historic Was Obama's First Term?" by Fred Lucas:

Perhaps only a Forrest Gump would be kind-hearted enough to believe the last three years have been a success for the current White House.

In the 17-minute, Tom Hanks-narrated Obama campaign film released this spring about how Osama bin Laden is dead and GM is alive, how America has a health care nirvana and the stimulus brought the economy roaring to life (the first two are actually true), Hanks says, “Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt had so much fallen on the shoulders of one president. Now when he faced his country, who looked to him for answers, he would not dwell in blame or dream in idealism.”


Two days before the release of the film, White House spokesman Jay Carney reminded reporters Obama “inherited a war in Afghanistan that had been adrift.” Be it war, the economy, debt or gas prices, Obama “inherited” everything bad from his predecessor. The word “inherited” comes up 19,500 times on the White House website’s search engine, usually used in reference to the previous administration. Records for blaming presidential predecessors aren’t kept, but if they were, it’s thoroughly plausible Obama would break them. And while Obama doesn’t talk about it, we all know the president also ‘inherited’ the intelligence obtained to kill bin Laden, the Status of Forces Agreement to withdraw from Iraq, and (as unpopular as it is with conservatives) the auto bailout from the previous administration. To “dwell in blame” and spend your administration talking about “inherited” problems aren’t necessarily the same thing, but a reasonable person could be forgiven for confusing the two.


Can We Afford This Much History?

The president’s lasting historical legacy may be on the fiscal front, as he does his part to ensure the next generation of Americans has a tougher life than the previous one.

The national debt will likely reach $16 trillion this year. Obama is on track to increase the national debt by $6.2 trillion by the end of his term (with an average of $4.2 billion per day), which is more debt than was accumulated by all presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton, CNSNews.com first reported in January. The national debt reached $6.2 trillion during President George W. Bush’s second year in office.

While Bush was indeed fiscally irresponsible, federal spending averaged 20.43 percent of gross domestic product during his eight years as president. Under Obama, federal spending reached almost one-quarter of GDP, the highest percentage since World War II. Meanwhile, the national debt is almost equal to GDP.

Obama’s excuse for the spending binge: It helps the economy.


Yet economic growth has averaged less than 2 percent per quarter during his administration, below half of what it had averaged from the 1940s through the 1990s, according to The Wall Street Journal. The administration expected Americans to be dancing in the streets in February after the announcement that unemployment had fallen to 8.3 percent. First, that does not include the people who stopped looking for a job. Second, even if that was the real unemployment, it’s higher than the unemployment rate of 7.6 percent he inherited from Bush.

The ridiculous spending is why Standard & Poor’s—for the first time in American history—downgraded the U.S. credit rating one notch below AAA to AA-plus. The economy is why the American public has downgraded Obama’s approval rating, with the worst first-year to fourth-year comparison of any president since Carter, according to the Roper Center Public Opinion Archives.

By March of this year, Obama’s approval rating had dropped to 41 percent. It was 65 percent in March of 2009. March is a reasonable measure, as it gives time for the honeymoon to dissipate while still reflecting the president’s relative newness in the first year. For Bush, the approval rating was 63 percent in March 2001. By March 2004, it had only slipped to 46 percent. Bill Clinton’s approval rating essentially held steady from 53 percent in March 1993 to 52 percent in March 1996. George H.W. Bush saw his approval numbers go from 56 percent to 41 percent from March 1989 to March 1992. Ronald Reagan held an approval rating of 60 percent in March 1981 that dropped only to 54 percent in March 1984. Only Jimmy Carter had a steeper dive than Obama, going from 72 percent approval in March 1977 to 39 percent approval at the end of March in 1980.


Read more of Fred Lucas' piece in the May isssue of Townhall Magazine.

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