In the following post published by POLITICO, Chairman Tim Kaine reflects on the progress made by President Obama during his first two years in office.
On Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Election Day, the big story was Barack Obama’s history-making win. Today, the big story is the many historic changes that he has enacted during his first two years in office.
At the halfway point of this term, the president’s list of achievements already dwarfs that of many presidents. He has tackled bread-and-butter issues, working hard to ensure that American families have the support needed to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table in these difficult economic times. At the same time, he has encouraged congressional leaders to take the actions necessary to fulfill America’s promise — that each generation will have more opportunities than the last.
The president’s unique combination of short-term recovery measures and his long-term vision for American greatness have set our country on a new path. He has pointed to a destination — a more prosperous future in which the doors of opportunity are open to all Americans — and he has paved the way.
The president’s work began the moment he took office, when hundreds of thousands of jobs were disappearing monthly, our financial system was in shambles and our nation’s future unclear. His first priority was to stem the tide of job losses, shore up U.S. industry and set the wheels of economic growth turning again.
From his efforts came the first flagstones in the road to recovery. The Recovery Act, which put vital dollars back into the pockets of working families, pumped critical funding into high-growth industries and promoted projects that employed Americans and improved vital infrastructure. Wall Street reform aimed to put a stop to predatory lending practices, unexpected overdraft fees, unfair credit card rate increases and taxpayer-financed bailouts of Wall Street banks. And measures saved the U.S. auto industry; kept teachers, firefighters, police and others on the job; extended middle-class tax cuts and ensured full funding of unemployment benefits.
With those actions, the president eased the crisis caused by a near-decade of reckless Republican economic policies. As a result, our economy has grown throughout 2010, and more than 1.2 million hard-hit Americans have returned to work this year.
There is still much to be done — indeed, the president has said he will not rest until our economic recovery is complete. But the acute pain of the economic crisis has begun to subside.
Yet, even as the president focused on building the road to recovery, he took pains not to forget those who might be left behind or pushed off the path. Indeed, just as guardrails are essential to a functioning road, a social safety net is crucial to a functioning society. And a key element of any social safety net is a health care system that works for everyone.
When the president took office, the failing U.S. health care system topped the list of long-deferred problems. More than 31 million Americans lacked insurance, and millions more had only inadequate insurance coverage.
So the president made health insurance reform a priority — and the Affordable Care Act remains one of his proudest achievements. It ends the worst insurance industry practices and makes insurance more affordable for American families and businesses. As a result, all Americans will finally be able to get the care they need to live longer and healthier lives.
At the same time, the president has worked hard to put more Americans on the road to success — adding on-ramps for low-income students, working women and others.
He increased federal Pell Grants and loans, capped student loan payments in keeping with graduates’ incomes and passed new tax cuts to help students and their families pay for college. He gave women across the country his support in the fight to guarantee equal pay for equal work by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And he secured the repeal of the outdated and discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
While the political chattering class is consumed with who is up and who is down, the president’s accomplishments transcend such short-term political calculations. They are historic in their own right and likely to have a lasting impact on the well-being of all Americans.
Taken together, these accomplishments represent the most progressive and productive period of U.S. governance since the New Deal. The president has set a new direction, restoring our country to its true path — one that leads to a better, brighter and more prosperous future for ourselves, our children and our nation.