How’d that Hope and Change Work Out for Ya?

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In 2008 the economy was in free fall and the wars-without-end in Iraq and Afghanistan were on the evening news every night reminding us how awful George Jr’s foreign policy had become. The Republicans realized they were going to lose the Presidential election and basically punted by nominating the cranky old RINO from Arizona, John McCain.

That left the road clear for the articulate, bright, clean, and nice looking African-American (Joe Biden’s words NOT mine) from Illinois to waltz into the Whitehouse despite being an almost complete unknown. Obama’s campaign came up with a great bumper-sticker slogan that sounded positive and optimistic: Hope and Change. People loved it!

But what the hell did it mean?

As it turned out, it meant a lot of things. Obama made a boatload of promises while on the campaign trail, including a few things so nebulous they were impossible to quantify (restore respect for America around the world and reduce oil consumption by 35% by 2030 for example). But he made a few major ones that most people remember and it was those promises that constituted the “Hope and Change”.

Those promises were:
– Stop the economic collapse, put people back to work, and keep them in their homes
– End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bring the troops home
– Close Guantanamo
– Pass a healthcare law that would insure ALL Americans while cutting healthcare costs
– Make the border secure and reform immigration laws
– Reform sentencing laws
– Make government more transparent

So how’d that Hope and Change work out for ya?

The Economy

The economy did stop collapsing less than 2 months into Obama’s first term. In fact, you can pinpoint the day we hit bottom – March 10, 2009. But it had absolutely nothing to do with anything that Obama, Bush, or Congress did. It stopped because of a passing comment made by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke after a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. He said “mark to market” accounting rules should be suspended for illiquid assets held by banks.

Bush and Obama had tried to stop the collapse by throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at banks hoping they would remain solvent, but to no effect. In fact, it looked like more banks would go under, dragging billions in taxpayer cash along with them. Bernanke’s comment about suspending an esoteric accounting rule became reality on April 3. And suddenly the banks were not only solvent, they were nearly drowning in dough! The collapse was over.

So then Obama took credit for saving the economy and moved onto the recovery – and made it clear that he had no clue what he was doing. He worked with Congress to enact legislation that borrowed trillions of dollars to stimulate the economy with wasteful government spending. They then colluded to pass reams of financial regulations that failed to address the real cause of the real estate collapse (massive government interference in the free market) and instead hobbled small banks and businesses while propping up too-big-to-fail banks.

The administration’s solutions were so out of touch with reality that people continued to lose their homes and their jobs for another year even though the economy was slowly growing. The result was the weakest recovery since the Great Depression. As of last November, just under 60% of Americans have a job. Prior to the collapse in 2007, there was no time during the Bush 43, Clinton, or Bush 41 administrations that such a small percentage of the population was working. You have to go back to the Reagan days, when a lot of women still stayed home to raise children and run the household, before you find fewer Americans working.

Right now there are over 13 million Americans who want to work but can’t find a job. If you are one of them then Obama has left you with no hope.

The Wars

We have been at war in Afghanistan since 2001. We have been at war in Iraq since 2003. Currently there are 15,000 US soldiers fighting in those two countries. We achieved the stated objectives in both countries – depose Sadam Hussein and kill Osama bin Laden – six years ago. And yet Obama has kept us there to kill people and blow things up.

Bush 43 got us into these wars, but it wasn’t enough for Obama to limit himself to killing people in just two countries. In 2011, US air and naval forces supported the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi. The ensuing civil war ended fairly quickly but was replaced by a weak government that couldn’t control all the belligerent factions. The result is continued fighting and predictably the US is still involved, flying bombing missions and supporting government forces on the ground.

2011 saw the beginning of another uprising in Syria and of course our Nobel Peace Prize winning President couldn’t resist sticking his nose in that one too. Without any consultation with Congress (making Obama’s actions illegal according to US law) the US started a bombing campaign in support of the rebels and gave them arms. Without having any clue who we were arming, the US gave weapons to a new terror group called ISIS. Oops! Looks like Obama spawned the scourge of the Middle East.

In addition to the bombing campaign, there are now 300 Special Operations troops fighting in Syria. That’s right, the US invaded Syria. Funny, I have yet to hear that reported on NPR.

Our cutting edge President hasn’t limited the war-making to gun toting humans, he’s too cool and high tech for that. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen he’s using flying robots – better known as drones. According to the administration, the drones are precise and cause hardly any civilian casualties. In fact they claim the drones killed no more than 116 civilians between 2009 and 2016. However, sources not committed to Obama’s propaganda claim that at least 800 civilians have been killed and the real number is more likely in the thousands. Dozens of lethal drone attacks have been witnessed when those on the ground know there were NO terrorists or soldiers in the vicinity.

None of the people being killed by these drones, even the so-called terrorists, have ever attacked the US. None of this has been authorized by a declaration of war. There is no other way to phrase this … the Nobel Peace Prize winner is a murderer.

Guantanamo

This is a shit sandwich that Bush left Obama. Guantanamo was set up to house POWs from the War on Terror in order to skirt the Geneva Convention Treaty signed by the US. Congress should never have allowed W to do this.

When Obama took office there were over 220 prisoners held at the Cuban prison. There are now just 55 and 19 more could be released before Trump sends his first tweet as President.

I can’t fault Obama on this one. He has been fought every step of the way.

Of course, none of this has any affect on your life.

Obamacare

There’s no need to say much about this. You’ve probably heard it all and, like me, might be unfortunate enough to be suffering from this disaster.

Obama promised that insurance premiums would fall by $2,500 a year and that you could keep your insurance if you liked it. These were both blatant lies that he knew were untrue when he said them.

Virtually nobody was allowed to keep their previous insurance plan because the new law made them illegal. Insurance premiums didn’t go down. They went up. WAY UP!

The exchanges are on the brink of collapse because the healthy refuse to pay for overpriced insurance, leaving only the sick to buy it. Over half of the people Obama claims became newly insured were put on Medicaid. The rest are getting welfare from the taxpayers for their subsidies.

People who got insurance through the exchange are finding that many doctors won’t take it. Folks on Medicaid have the same problem.

When the law was passed in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 25 million people would buy insurance on the exchanges in 2017. The real number is coming in at half that. Hardly anybody wants this crap.

Obamacare is a nightmare that will die on its own within a few years even if the Republicans don’t kill it.

Illegal Immigration

Did Obama “secure” the border? Of course not. Neither did Bush 43, Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, or any other President before them. And you know who else won’t secure the border? Trump.

It is impossible to stop people from illegally crossing the border. The US border with Mexico is 2,000 miles long. The border with Canada is 5,000 miles long. The US has nearly 100,000 miles of unguarded coastline. If somebody wants to sneak in then they will find a way to do it.

And no wall is going to stop them. Republicans whining that Obama refused to build a wall are ignorant fools. There already IS a wall. It has been under construction throughout Obama’s presidency. And guess what? IT DOESN’T STOP ANYBODY! (Here is an excellent video by Charlie Le Duff about a section of the wall in Texas.)

Incidentally, the Obama administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any President before him, so shut up Republicans!

Reform Sentencing Laws

Obama’s record on this is a story of good news/bad news – mostly bad. The administration did get rid of the draconian crack cocaine laws and directed federal police agencies to respect state laws legalizing marijuana (though the agencies have ignored the directive without any repercussions).

However he did nothing to end the drug war. In 2015 police made 1,488,707 arrests for drugs. 39% of those arrested were charged with the horrendous crime of minding their own business while smoking a joint. More people were arrested for having pot than were arrested for assault, rape, and murder combined.

Compare this to 1990 during the administration of the last President who wasn’t a marijuana smoker (Bush 41). In that year there were only 1,089,500 drug arrests, about ¾ of the total in 2015. However, overall crime was 31% higher in 1990. In fact, arrests for simple marijuana possession in 1990 were less than half the number of arrests in 2015 (260,390 in 1990 versus 574,641 in 2015). Police in 1990 actually worked on solving real crimes, making 40% more arrests for assault, rape, and murder than their counterparts did in 2015.

Why is this the case? Because of federal asset forfeiture laws. If the cops arrest you for a violent crime then you get to keep your money and other assets and use them to defend yourself in court. BUT, if they arrest you for having drugs the police can seize your cash, your car, and even your home and you have to sue the police department to get it back. In fact, the police don’t even need to arrest you. They can just stop you on the street, accuse you of being engaged in the drug trade, and take your stuff without any evidence that you have broken the law.

Thus the drug war is a big money maker for the police state. A few states have passed laws outlawing civil forfeiture within their borders, but the Justice Department has proven very willing to work with local police departments to get around these laws.

In 2014 the police seized $4.5 billion in assets from American citizens. This is nearly $1 billion MORE than criminals stole in that year – the first time this has ever happened.

Under Obama, the government has become the biggest criminal gang in history.

Make the Government More Transparent

Obama must have been laughing his ass off when he came up with this one. No Presidential administration has fought as hard as his to keep everything it was doing a secret … not even Nixon’s!

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the feds must provide any documents requested unless the release of the documents would threaten national security. In 2015 the “most transparent administration ever” denied 77% of those requests – setting a record for noncompliance. In half of those denials the feds simply said “we can’t find the documents.” This included a request made to turn over emails sent by an aid to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So the State Department got sued. Lo and behold, they suddenly found 90,000 emails!

As if the lying about document existence wasn’t enough, in 2015 Obama unilaterally declared that the FOIA did not apply to the White House and he simply refused to comply with any document requests submitted to him!

And if it wasn’t for Edward Snowden we wouldn’t know half the story. The Obama administration claimed that the warrantless wiretapping conducted under Bush had ceased. And Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified under oath that the NSA was not collecting data on US citizens.

Then Snowden released his data to Wikileaks and Clapper and Obama were exposed as the liars they are. Not only is Big Brother watching you, it is doing it so comprehensively that the former head of East Germany’s Stasi (secret police) marveled at the magnitude of illegal surveillance!

So after eight years of Hope and Change, what did Obama achieve?

The economy has recovered but the recovery was so weak that millions of people are still worse off than before the crisis.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still ongoing and Obama added wars in Syria and Libya. Plus, in just the last couple of weeks he sent thousands of US troops into Poland and Lithuania to threaten Russia. The dude is just itching to start World War III.

Guantanamo is almost empty. Obama nearly delivered on his most insignificant promise.

Obamacare failed to insure all Americans despite creating one of the biggest welfare programs in history. He also criminalized being uninsured while simultaneously doubling and tripling the cost of complying with the law. The American health insurance system is far worse than it was before his election.

The border is not secure (and it never will be) and illegal immigration is just as big a problem as before.

Only a weak attempt was made to reform criminal sentencing while the Pothead-in-Chief has worked just as hard as his predecessors to imprison people for the crime of not bothering anybody.

And finally, he never did anything to make government more transparent but actually worked diligently to make it as secretive as possible.

Eight years of Hope and Change looks a helluvalot like eight years of the same old shit.

Wayne Middlesteadt is the author of Five Ways to Beat the Market and The Golden Age of Distance Running.

About Author

Wayne Middlesteadt

Wayne Middlesteadt is a 1986 graduate of Georgia Tech and has an MBA from Georgia State University. Currently working as a financial writer and track and field historian, his latest book is Five Ways To Beat The Market.

  • AwesomeSibe

    It’s like you never heard of a guy named Mitchell and some group called Congress.