Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama's 100 day test

I still have hope for the Obama administration in a few areas: Health care, environment, and public transportation.

But the first 100 days has not only been less than stellar, Obama's first 100 days have been rather disappointing.

Here is the how the Green Party grades Obama's first 100 days (remembering, of course, that they represent an Ideology as well)

Civil liberties: F
The Executive Branch is finally following the law by releasing and repudiating the Bush Administration's legal memos that attempted to justify torture. The President also raised the possibility of prosecuting those responsible for providing that justification.

However, the Obama Administration defends the illegal wiretapping program, leaves the door open to outsourcing torture through "extraordinary rendition", and argues that prisoners can be denied habeas corpus if they are shipped to the Bagram prison in Afghanistan instead of Guantanamo! The Administration also opposes a Congressional truth commission to investigate torture by the Bush Presidency, although citizen pressure may successfully force an investigation.

Obama supporter Glenn Greenwald, who writes for, recently wrote: "What's being asserted here by the Obama DOJ is the virtually absolute power of presidential secrecy, the right to break the law with no consequences, and immunity from surveillance lawsuits so sweeping that one can hardly believe that it's being claimed with a straight face."

Environment: D+
The Obama Administration has taken some positive steps on global warming by allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants, initiating legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and providing funds for alternative energy in the recently passed economic stimulus bill.

Unfortunately, the Administration has committed to spending only $145 billion on alternative energy over the next 10 years, about 0.1% of our country's gross domestic product (GDP). In contrast, the proposed military budget for 2010 alone is $664 billion. The Administration supports nuclear power and "clean" coal, and its proposed cap and trade scheme is vulnerable to abuses such as free giveaway licenses for utilities to emit greenhouse gases. In the European Union, free licenses have resulted in increased emissions from coal plants that have offset the reductions gained from new wind power.

Economy: D-
The Obama Administration's economic stimulus bill is headed in the right direction with new infrastructure projects that can put Americans back to work. Plans to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire are also encouraging.

However, the stimulus was too small and too focused on tax cuts. The Administration's plans for repairing the financial system are likely to result in a great deal of wasteful spending, reward those who got us into the current economic crisis, and ignore the fundamental problems. It is unfortunate that the Administration has rejected calls to nationalize the largest and most insolvent banks in favor of a plan that loans nearly $1 trillion to hedge funds to indirectly subsidize the banks. By contrast, Wall Street Journal recently reported that only "10% of borrowers in some stage of foreclosure appear to be eligible for the federal aid to homeowners program."

Health Care: D+
The Obama Administration has proposed substantial increases in federal spending in order to extend health coverage to more Americans. The Administration's spending plans will extend coverage only to about one-half of uninsured Americans and are short of effective methods for cost control.

Foreign policy/military: D
The Obama Administration has taken a few encouraging steps, such as starting to at least open talks with foreign leaders. The President has shown an increased willingness to negotiate with Iran, and has stated plans to discuss nuclear arms reductions with Russia. However, there are numerous loopholes in the agreement to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, and the Administration is re-deploying some of the troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. is also continuing to launch military operations in Pakistan that have killed and displaced many civilians and contributed to destabilizing the country. The Administration also plans to maintain unnecessarily high levels of military spending.

When all is said and done, I don't give the administration quite such low grades. Obama has clearly made some real improvements in all the above listed areas and is clearly better for our country than we have seen in a very long time. Nevertheless, the Green party has a good point.

For a fuller analysis read
Johann Hari's piece in the The Independent. Hari presents a much more balanced view than the Green Party does.

Hari's article praises some things about Obama, but reminds us that WE must pressure him to make real change, we cannot sit and watch him operate at his own will. According to Hari:

Should we have "faith" he will do the right thing? Absolutely not - and the very idea is dangerous. You should pick the best leader available, and then pressure him or her like hell. Obama is dramatically better than Bush - but in the end, he will only be as good as the pressure put on him by ordinary people. FDR came to power as a budget-balancing centrist, until the American people forced him to the left, and to greatness. One hundred days in, are they ready to shove Obama to act on his own best instincts? He ain't Franklin Delano Obama yet.

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