11 November 2014

Obama's domestic legacy

Joe Biden called it straight. When Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010, the vice-president was heard to whisper by his side, "This is a big f...... deal!" It really is, too.  This is as good as it gets for Democrats of every vintage [...]

This is a political legacy all on its own and Obama has his name on it. Ten million Americans who had no insurance before 2010 do so now. Premiums are lower than feared and the rate of the uninsured has fallen from 20 percent to 15 percent. Into the bargain, Obamacare has also created 9 million jobs.

Which is the second part of the case for Obama. The inheritance from George W Bush was awful but, where Reagan inflated the deficit, Obama has reduced it. The unemployment rate, which almost doubled under Bush, has fallen from 10 percent to less than 6 per cent under Obama. The US$800 billion pump-priming plan attracted criticism but it helped to stimulate a recovery that has been quicker than in any European nation [...]

Obama has also won victories in the chronic culture war. His first executive act was to sign the Fair Pay Act into legislation. Two women have been appointed to the Supreme Court and Obama lifted the ban on gays in the military, another cause that eluded Clinton.

Obama has actually done, in other words, what Democrats have before only talked of doing. The gap between the appearance and the reality is precisely because Obama was such a good talker. Ascending to the White House on a wave of gorgeous sound, Obama excited hopes that could never be satisfied but that should not obscure the fact that he has achieved more than the Kennedys or Clintons that British politicians so oddly revere.

- Philip Collins, The Times, 7 November 2014 (reprinted in Dominion Post, 8 November 2014)

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