President Obamas Accomplishments: Part 1

Obama's First Term AccomplishmentsThe right-wing would have us believe that President Obama has accomplished little, when in reality, he has been one of the most active presidents in U.S. history. Like all presidents, Obama has made mistakes, but his ever growing list of accomplishments would be the envy of most.

The following list includes a few highlights of some of President Obama’s initiatives, all fact-checked by Robert P. Watson, Ph.D., Lynn University. The list is current, through the end of 2011.

In Part 1 we look at President Obama’s economic, educational, energy & environmental accomplishments. In other parts we will explore accomplishments with the budget, consumer protections, disaster response, economics, education, energy & the environment, ethics, foreign policy and more.

Be sure to check out Part 2, which includes highlights of President Obama’s initiatives in areas related to foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, the military and veterans, and national security.

ECONOMY

• Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) (2009-2010) * Note: Bush was the first president since Herbert Hoover to not make infrastructure a priority
• Authorized the US auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages (2009)
• Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees (2009)
• Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) (Feb 17, 2009) * Note: 1/3 in tax cuts for working-class families; 1/3 to states for infrastructure projects; 1/3 to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers, etc. at risk of losing their jobs because of state budget shortfalls
• Instituted a new rule allowing the public to meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (in as quickly as one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying (2009)
• Signed the Serve America Act (April 21, 2009)
• Authorized a continuation of the US financial and banking rescue plans initiated at the end of the Bush Administration and authorized TARP funds to buy “toxic assets” from failing financial institutions (2009)
• Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that stimulated auto sales and removed old, inefficient, polluting cars from the road (2009); due to large response to program, signed Cash for Clunkers Extension (Aug 6, 2009)
• Convened a “jobs summit” to bring experts together to develop ideas for creating jobs (2009)
• Placed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires and a few other products such as pipes after China was found to be illegally “dumping” exports below cost (2009) * Note: Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan all refused to “get tough” on China’s predatory trade practices; Bush II refused four times during his presidency
• Ordered the FDIC to beef up deposit insurance (2009)
• Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses (2009) and signed a temporary extension of the Small Business Act (March 20, 2009)
• Signed Jobs for Main Street Act (Feb 24, 2010)
• Efforts to protect US firms’ trademarks, patents, and copyrights; signed Trademark Technical and Conforming Amendment Act (March 17, 2010)
• Secured authority to compensate certain furloughed federal employees (March 11, 2010)
• Signed Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (March 18, 2010)
• Signed Airport and Airway Extension Act (April 30, 2010)
• Enhanced antitrust penalties and reforms (June 9, 2010)
• Signed Small Business Investment Act (June 17, 2010)
• Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act (July 2, 2010)
• Extension of Unemployment Compensation (July 22, 2010)
• FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act (Aug 10, 2010)
• Signed US Manufacturing Enhancement Act (Aug 11, 2010)
• Signed Small Business Jobs Act (Sept 27, 2010)
• Signed Worker, Homeowner, and Business Assistance Act (Nov 6, 2010); signed
• Extended unemployment benefits for one million workers and expanded coverage for some existing homeowners who are buying again (Nov 2010)
• Called on Congress to deliver a comprehensive “Jobs bill” (2010)
• Signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits set to expire (2010)
• Signed historic Wall Street reform bill (2010) * Note: Designed to reregulate and end abusive practices and promote consumer protections
• Signed the HIRE Act to stimulate the economic recovery (2010) * Note: The bill includes: tax cuts for small businesses who hire someone unemployed for at least two months; small businesses can write off their investments in equipment this year; etc.
• National Export Initiative established to enhance federal support (technical assistance, training, trade missions, etc.) and coordination efforts to help US businesses export products and services (2010)
• Forwarded initiatives to promote a “Wireless Broadband Revolution” (2010) * Note: Among other things, broadband is finally being considered as necessary infrastructure, with efforts to expand use, access, and spectrum…
• Expanded agricultural credit to farmers during current economic crisis (2010)
• Signed US Manufacturing Enhancement Act (2010)
• Signed Single Family Housing Mortgage Insurance (2010)
• Signed Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act (Dec 17, 2010)
• Signed America Competes (Reauthorization) Act (Jan 4, 2011)
• Extension of funding for federal support of transportation programs (Sept 16, 2011; March 4, 2011…); extension of funding for airports and airways (several piecemeal increases Aug 5, 2011; June 29, 2011; May 31, 2011 March 21, 2011… because of Republican opposition to full funding of construction, expansion, and improvements)
• Announced a comprehensive jobs proposal: cut payroll taxes for working families; incentives to hire the unemployed; reform unemployment insurance; incentives for businesses to hire “returning heroes,” federal supports to states to prevent loss of thousands of teachers and essential public workers; funding for infrastructure repair and construction and school modernization and construction projects; temporary payroll tax holiday… (September 2011)

EDUCATION

• Authorized construction funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access in K-12 public schools (2009)
• Increased funding for school construction (2009)
• Increased funding available for student loans (2009)
• Expanded the national youth service program (2009)
• Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years (2009)
• Changed the rule to allow students struggling to make college loan payments to refinance their loans (2009)
• Discussions with Congress for education reform (2009-2011) * Note: Much of Obama’s education reform has been sidelined by opposition in Congress
• Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies (2009)
• Instituted a “judgment review” allowing families with student loans to petition to have their current financial status determine the loan rather than the previous year’s finances (2009)
• Launched “Educate to Innovate,” a public/private partnership making $236 million available for science, mathematics, and technology education programs (2009)
• Proposed capping the maximum amount students must pay on student loans (as percentage of their income) (2010)
• Proposed reducing student loan obligations for individuals going to work in community and public service jobs (2010)
• The federal government changed the system to offer direct student loans, cutting out the cost of private banks (“middle man”) who increase the costs in order to make a profit (2010)
• Increased investment in technologies for schools/education (2010)

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

• Removed a ruling that now allows individual states (like California) to enact automotive fuel efficiency standards above federal standards (2009)
• Offered attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles (2009)
• Overturned Bush-era rule that weakened the Endangered Species Act (2009)
• Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions (2009)
• Signed a measure requiring energy producing plants to begin producing 15% of their energy from renewable sources (2009)
• Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites (2009)
• Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s energy reform was killed by Senate Republicans
• Proposed a new refuge for wild mustangs (2009)
• Cancelled several Bush-era mountain-top removal and mining permits (2009)
• Reengaged in international treaties and agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009) * Note: Bush had withdrawn from such efforts
• Asked Congress for an energy reform and “cap and trade” bill (2009) * Note: The Congress failed to pass such a bill
• Developing plan to lease US coastal waters for wind and water-current energy production (2009-2011)
• Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protects millions of acres of scenic, historic, and recreational lands and trails (March 30, 2009)
• Signed Energy and Water Development Act (Oct 28, 2009)
• Overturned Bush-era policies that allowed uranium mining near national parks such as the Grand Canyon (2009)
• Expanded the Petrified Forest National Park (2009)
• Requiring that government buildings and facilities be retrofitted to save energy costs (2009) * Note: These green retrofits are moving very slowly
• Authorized studies in several western states to determine how to support large-scale solar installations (2009)
• Attended the Copenhagen talks and, after the talks were stalled, negotiated an international (voluntary) agreement on reducing carbon emissions and raising funds to assist developing nations in offsetting carbon emissions (2009)
• Banned importation of pythons in response to a growing population of pythons damaging the Florida Everglades (2009)
• Committing the federal government to increasing research and use of renewable, clean energy sources such as wind, biomass, etc. (2009)
• Executive orders establishing a federal initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all federal operations (2009-2011)
• Called for exploring the possibility of additional off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf, Atlantic, and off Alaska (but not in ANWR) (2010)
• Authorized use of funds for Deepwater Horizon oil spill from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (June 15, 2010)
• Signed North American Wetlands Conservation Act (March 25, 2010)
• Agreed to consider increases in nuclear energy production and requested a study on the feasibility of nuclear power plant construction (2010) * Note: Nearly all energy initiatives were defeated by Republican opposition in Congress
• Increased investment in clean energy projects (2010)
• Executive Order to develop a new strategy for and commitment to ocean and lake resources, and for scientific research on water quality (2010)
• Signed Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act (Dec 14, 2010)
• Signed Truth in Fur Labeling Act (Dec 18, 2010)
• Species protection measures for sharks and other animals (Jan 4, 2011)
• Signed Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (Jan 4, 2011)
• Measures to reduce levels of lead in drinking water (Jan 4, 2011)
• Signed Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (Jan 4, 2011)
• Executive Order for an interagency effort on domestic energy sources (July 12, 2011)