Wed 26 Jul, 2017
While trying to compile a list of the positive changes that Obama made during his presidency, I realized it would be too long for one blog post to handle. The man and his wife worked their asses off. They fought hard when the Republicans gave them no slack. They underwent and traversed so many false and sensational allegations. They had to deal with Alt-Right America screaming impeachment for 8 years without letting up. So while so much negativity has stolen our attention, especially most recently, let’s take a moment of positive focus for the blessing and historical moment that was the Obama presidency. Here is just some of what he did, and is still doing:
As President he enacted permanent expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which together now provide about 2 million African American working families with an average tax cut of about $1,000 each.
The poverty rate for African Americans fell faster in 2015 than in any year since 1999. While the poverty rate fell across all racial and ethnic groups that year, it fell 2.1 percentage points (p.p.) for African Americans, resulting in 700,000 fewer African Americans in poverty.
The Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare”, is arguably the most important law passed in the last 50 years. The A.C.A. cemented several new principles in American health care. Health insurance is now mandatory for all citizens, part of a grand bargain that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. This law subsidizes premiums for those who cannot afford to pay market prices for health insurance. Obamacare also prohibits insurance plans from charging women higher premiums, and it requires mental health be covered as comprehensively as physical health.
Let’s speak frankly about racism. In July 2009 President Obama weighed in on the case of a black Harvard University professor, Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested for “disorderly conduct” after he protested being questioned by the police while trying to enter his own home. The police acted “stupidly” the president said at a press conference, adding, “there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That’s just a fact.” This was only one of several times when President Obama reminded Americans that his own election did not mean that racism had ceased to exist. After Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by a neighborhood watchman in Florida in 2012, President. Obama pointedly said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” The President then invited leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement to the White House to talk about the often-tense relations between police officers and racial minorities.
The United States is rethinking policies that have led to the incarceration of more than two million citizens, or four times the number in 1980. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Many of the attempts to reduce mass incarceration and to reclaim human potential are taking place at the state level, but President Obama helped steer the public conversation away from the “tough on crime” overreach that peaked in the 1990s. In July 2015 he met with inmates at a federal prison in Oklahoma, focusing media attention on excessive sentences for nonviolent, drug-related crimes. The president also commuted the prison sentences of 248 individuals, convicted mostly for nonviolent drug crimes — this is more than the past six presidents combined.
Obama’s term in office coincided with the dramatic final victory for the struggle for marriage equality, which culminated in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision striking state down laws banning same-sex marriage. Obama’s role in this battle was somewhat equivocal, but nonetheless crucial.
The 44th President announced in May 2017 that he and his wife, Michelle Obama, will be donating $2 million to summer jobs programs in Chicago. He has also publicly spoken out against Trump’s immigration laws and continues to fight to redraw the electoral college map so it is more equitably distributed across party lines.
While all of the official stuff is impressive, nothing is more powerful to me than the fact that hundreds of thousands of girls, and especially boys, were born into a world where a black man was President. The interviews of hundreds of children who feel they now have hope and a chance to succeed in this country, due the the leadership of Barack Obama, will move your heart.
You can’t make a better argument for why we should never forget, or take for granted, that we were here on the planet witnessing what our ancestors fought and died for. We should never get complacent… our kids are watching.
Be Well and Stay Woke