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The 44th President: Barack Obama’s Legacy

Sean Young, Staff Writer

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On January 20th of 2017, Donald Trump will become president, Republicans will lead the Senate, and Paul Ryan will run the House of Representatives. But as of right now, Barack Obama is the President of the United States. Whether or not you agree with Obama’s policies, his Presidency will be remembered primarily for a few major pieces of legislation, Supreme Court cases, and his overall moderatism.

On February 10, 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He emphasized his goals to rapidly end the Iraq War, increase energy independence, and reform the health care system in a campaign that projected themes of hope and change. On November 4, Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to 173 by John McCain, and 52.9% of the popular vote to McCain’s 45.7%. Obama became the first African American to be elected president.

One of Obama’s first acts was signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was a $787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at helping the economy recover from the deepening, worldwide recession. The act included increased federal spending for health care, infrastructure, and education, various tax breaks and incentives, and direct assistance to individuals. Studies on its effects have produced a range of conclusions, from strongly positive to strongly negative. In 2012, a poll conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found 80% of leading economists agree unemployment was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus. During this time, Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize due to his work on ending the War in Iraq. Upon receiving the award, Obama noted that his efforts were humble and donated the prize money to several charities.

Obama’s next significant action was the creation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). It was passed in the House by a vote of 219 to 212 and was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The Affordable Care Act was intended to increase health insurance quality and affordability and lower the population of uninsured Americans by expanding insurance coverage and reducing the costs of healthcare. As implementation of the law began, opponents nicknamed the ACA “Obamacare,” but the term quickly caught on. As the law was developed, more opposition created many disagreements and in October 2013, the government shut down for 16 days when Republicans and Democrats could not agree on how to pay for the Affordable Care Act. Over 800,000 people working for the government were not paid during this time, but the government paid them back after the shutdown ended. During his time as president, Obama also dealt with several issues, including his position as the first sitting US president to openly support legalizing same-sex marriage, continuing the war on terror (which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011), and increasing gun control after a surge in school shootings.

In 2014, Obama faced a few setbacks after people first heard the rumor that the NSA was listening to their phone calls. The Democrats also lost the Congressional midterm elections. Since then, Obama has needed to use executive orders to help reform and pass laws. In his last two years, he has supported an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay for women, and has called for the first two years of college to be fully government-funded for students who study full-time and earn good grades. During this time, the Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must issue a license to marry between all people of the same sex. It also requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Obama’s administration also passed a new law that blocks states from defunding Planned Parenthood or other Title X-funded health care providers due to political reasons.

Over the past seven years, Americans have heard many things about Barack Obama and his presidency, but the actuality of his domestic policies and their impact on the country remain poorly understood. Barack Obama is often dinged for failing to deliver on the hope-and-change rhetoric that inspired so many voters during his ascent to the presidency, but a review of his activity shows that Obama’s legacy has produced much more change than most Americans may realize.

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The 44th President: Barack Obama’s Legacy