Wide right turns

by Lorenzo Piccoli

I am sick of all these people saying that ‘Obama did nothing at all’. I was not among those supporting his presidency: initially, when everyone was cheering Obama I was supporting McCain.

Then, starting from summer 2008 I started realizing that he was actually meaning what he was saying with stunning capacity. Obviously, if you judge him from outside it is easy to get disappointed. As pointed out by Nicholas Kristof on the NYT, ‘President Obama came into office with expectations that Superman couldn’t have met. Many on the left believed what the right feared: that Obama was an old-fashioned liberal’. Surely, Obama did not revolutionize the country, nor world politics. But he accomplished a huge list of achievements. For this reason, saying that he did nothing at all is plainly not sense.

Here’s a list I draw of the very main things he did (sources: one and two).


On January 19, 2009, the last day of President Bush’s presidency, world’s economy was on the verge of a collapse: the Dow closed at 8,218.22. In February 2010, the Dow closed at 10,309.24, up more than 20%. President Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), a $789 billion economic stimulus package to help with economic recovery and saving the world from a huge financial catastrophe. (People complaining about spending – Bush spent $800 Billion and counting in Iraq, at least this money is going to America). And, by the way, all the money he passed to the big banks as a bail out have been returned to the government.

He punished those responsible of the crisis, cutting salaries for 65 bailout executives. Futhermore, he Established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and with the Dodd-Frank (DF) Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act he supported the biggest financial reform law since the Great Depression.

President Obama also saved the collapse of the American automotive industry by making GM restructure before bailing them out, and putting incentive money to help the industry. Finally, he closed offshore tax safe havens and negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals.

Contrarily to what you think, with President Obama federal deficit shrank 8% year-on-year basis.Job loss exploded under Bush, improves under Obama (ref).

Foreign policy

World’s opinion of U.S. has “improved sharply” under Obama (ref).

He found Osama bin Laden and won a war without American casualties in Lybia to defeat Quaddafi.

He renewed dialogue with NATO and other allies and partners on strategic issues. He made speeches in Egypt and at the UN in NY underlining that Islam religion is not the evil. In the Middle East he pledged $400 million in aid to Gaza civillians.

He negotiated Nuclear treaties, including START treaty with Russia. In fact, the missile defense program was cut by $1.4 billion in 2010 alone.

Finally, he instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit loved ones


He increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to the highest level since 1992. Alas, he provided Financial Aid for students attending college and funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools. He created the Race to the Top Fund ($4.35 billion) to reward States that create comprehensive education reform plans. In total, he provided $77 Billion for reforms to to strengthen Elementary and Secondary education.

Civil rights

He signed order to close the prisoner “torture camp” at Guantanamo Bay. He ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts and ended also the media “blackout” on war casualties and previous policy on torture; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards, reporting full information. He also provided the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America’s Veterans and ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts.

He supported the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), which eliminated the ban for gays to serve in the army.

He appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court. He also appointed first black Attorney General, Eric Holder
Financial agencies must establish Offices of Women and Minorities to promote more diverse hiring.

Finally, he passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act instituting equal pay for women and increased Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.


Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources. He increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and funding for national parks and forests. He also allocated $175 million of ARRA for water conservation, $135 million of that in the West. Wind power growth up 39% due to government stimulus

He established a new cyber security office and federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research.

He also limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000.

He gave funds for deep space travel by NASA (incl. asteroids and Mars).

He passed a comprehensive Health Care Reform, providing for health insurance to millions of Americans.

In sum

He did an awful lot of things. He is not Superman, but he’s by far among the most successful politicians of the last 50 years. You can criticize him, but you must know what he actually did.