By Mike Griffith, Staff Writer
No President is all bad. To varying degrees, all Presidents pursue some good policies and support some worthwhile pieces of legislation. So it is with President Obama.
In today’s highly polarized, overly partisan political environment, the tendency is for one side to paint the other side as all bad, to nit-pick even the most trivial misstatements and apparent contradictions, and to act as though the opposition is doing nothing good. In the spirit of trying to break this unfortunate trend, in this article I will focus only on the good things that President Obama has done during his first 100 days in office.
Admittedly, a few of the items on this list are subjective and will be viewed as bad by some people. But, most of them are undeniably good.
* By any rational measurement, President Obama is proving to be a better friend to vetarans than President Bush was. Not only has he dramatically boosted VA spending, but he has also backed advanced funding for VA health care, which should have been done years ago.
* He has shown a willingness to listen carefully to veterans groups and to change his mind about policies that affect veterans after listening to them. In the one case where the President began to pursue a wrongheaded policy that would have hurt many veterans (i.e., making vets’ insurance companies pay for their service-related wounds and illnesses), he quickly abandoned the idea when veterans groups loudly objected. This is in striking contrast to how long it took the Bush administration to change its mind about a wrongheaded policy that hurt veterans, i.e., Bush’s opposition to concurrent receipt. Bush twice threatened to veto bills that included concurrent receipt and dragged his feat for years before dropping his opposition to meaningful concurrent receipt legislation.
* He has signed over $200 billion in tax cuts, the majority of which will help low-income and middle-income workers and their families (these tax cuts were in the stimulus bill that President Obama pushed through Congress).
* He has signed an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers.
* He has ordered the Treasury Department to institute tax law changes that will immediately help small businesses.
* He has signed an extension of the Small Business Act, which provides a host of badly needed tax breaks for small business owners.
* He has lifted travel and monetary restrictions on Cuban-Americans so that they can now visit their relatives in Cuba as often as they wish and can also send them all the money they want to send them. In addition to bringing families closer together, this move will help thousands of families in Cuba and will improve relations between our two peoples.
* He has increased defense spending by 4%, the largest single-year increase in DOD’s budget since the Reagan years. (You’d never know this to listen to certain partisan critics who claim he is "gutting" the defense budget.)
* He has set a fixed timetable for ending active U.S. combat involvement in Iraq and for withdrawing the majority of U.S. troops from the country.
* He has agreed to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq to ensure that the situation there remains relatively stable and to enable the newly established, democratically elected government there has the opportunity to stand on its own two feet. (Whether or not we should have gone into Iraq in the first place is another issue. But, now that we’re there and have spent so much blood and treasure, surely most of us would like to see a non-Jihadist, semi-democratic regime emerge in Iraq. If the situation deteriorates and ends up proving to be hopeless, at least no one will be able to say that it fell apart because we "cut and ran.")
* He has signed legislation that provides billions of additional dollars for revamping our power grid system. Even a conservative group like American Solutions agrees that we need to drastically improve our power grid system.
* He has signed additional funding for smart-grid technology.
* He has invested $20 billion in alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.
* He has begun to pressure credit card companies to stop their abusive practice of imposing unjustified higher rates and fees on customers (after all, credit card companies’ cost of borrowing is at an historic low). For example, some credit card companies will raise your interest rate if you are late paying another bill, even if that bill has nothing to do with your credit card account, and even if you’re never late paying your credit card bill. Can you imagine what would happen to a cable TV company or a utility company that tried to raise your rate because you missed a credit card payment?
* By any fair measurement, he did well in his handling of the rescue of Captain Phillips from Somali pirates. He approved the use of deadly force early in the crisis.
* He wisely withdrew the U.S. from a bogus UN conference on racism. This conference was little more than a propaganda stage for some of the worst racists in the world, such as Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who was allowed to give a speech in which he obscenely railed against Israel. Letting Ahmadinejad speak at a conference on racism is like letting O.J. Simpson speak at a conference on domestic violence.
* He has instituted a new ethics code for administration officials. Among many other things, the code severely limits the number of staffers who work on contracts or regulations that directly affect their former employers. Even the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution have praised the provisions of this new code, saying, "This tough and commendable new set of ethics provisions goes a long way toward breaking the worst effects of the revolving door" (American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank and policy advocacy group).
* He has given fewer positions to lobbyists than any other president in recent memory.
* He has approved 2,500 highway projects.
* He has signed a $2,500 tax credit for college tuition. It’s estimated that this tax credit will save some five million families close to $9 billion total.
* He has approved spending over $2 billion for research on electric cars (specifically, for advanced batteries for such cars).
* He has set a new tone in how America speaks to the rest of the world. Say what one might about a few of the President’s specific comments (some of which I have also criticized), there can be no doubt that overall he has improved America’s image in the world.
* He has secured $5 billion in aid commitments for Pakistan from foreign nations, including Japan, in an effort to help stabilize that troubled, strategic country.
* He has signed the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act, which dramatically expands the AmeriCorps program. This one’s a close call–I almost didn’t include it. AmeriCorps so far has proven to be pretty much a waste of money, with millions of dollars being spent out but little actual work or "service" being done as a result. However, supposedly, and on paper, the Serve America Act does address this problem by establishing tougher oversight and more accountability. So, assuming that recipients under this program are required to do meaningful, worthwhile service, I’m including it in this list.
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