The Quiet Competence of Barack Obama

If you listen to the media mostly on the right, but some on the left, by this point in the administration of President Barack Obama, we should be in a Road Warrior-like hellscape of crushing debt, death panels sending us off to concentration camp ovens and calling it “medicine,” riots in the streets over the confiscation of guns, surveillance nano-drones entering our rectums in order to hear what our brains are thinking, undocumented Mexicans with Ebola or terrorist ties or huge calf muscles torturing cops all along the border before suicide bombing our malls and infecting our babies, and Christians being whipped in their homes by ululating Muslims who force them to kiss the Koran or face being beheaded, all while our Negro dictator and his transgender wife laugh with their Negro cabal and Wall Street cronies about the misery of everyone who fraudulently voted for them.  And that’s without getting deep into Crazyville with conspiracy theories of a rogue regime engaged in constant false flag operations in order to impose greater control over the population (how ya doin’, Naomi Wolf?) or whatever the hell Alex Jones or Dinesh D’Souza are spewing about today.

Any of those things could be happening.  Except they’re not.  There are bad things going on in the United States – poverty, violence against African Americans (not exclusively, but especially pronounced right now), stagnant wages, limits on abortion rights, an environment in imminent collapse – really awful stuff, stuff that needs to be addressed.  And the Rude Pundit has been critical of the Obama administration’s failures and excesses, like not prosecuting Wall Street criminals and torture enablers or expanding the reach of government spying and the unchecked use of drone murder missiles.  Those problems and criticisms still stand.

There’s this sense out there that everything is falling to pieces, between the overhyped rise of ISIS (al-Qaeda with a better marketing department), the constant calls for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed, the unending stream of people telling us that the president is out of touch or has given up or is aloof or doesn’t love them like they always wanted a father to love them, on and on and on and on.

But so much of this is media world, or, perhaps internet world, not real world.  ‘Cause, see, in the real world there are real numbers.  And, as Paul Krugman and others point out, when it comes to those, well, sorry, but things seem to be progressing in a positive way.  Whether we like it or not, Barack Obama has competently led the nation, and we’re so ready for battle that we fail to recognize it.

Where do you wanna go?  Millions of people have health insurance who didn’t have it before (and, by the way, if you really gave a rat’s ass about the spread of diseases like Ebola, you’d have national health care in a second so people in every state would want to go to their doctors and not wait until they’re bad enough to go to emergency rooms).  The unemployment rate is below 6%, down from 10% in 2009.  The deficit has shrunk to just 3% of GDP, down from 9.8% in 2009.  If you’re a rich puke, you’ve become way, way richer (and it’s gut-churningly hilarious when conservatives complain about this).  Corporate profits are up.  Oil imports are down.  Alternative energy sources are finally growing exponentially.  The crime rate is at a 20-year low, so low that Obama wants to try to roll back some of the ludicrous sentencing laws from the Clinton era.  And how many states are we up to on same-sex marriage?  And how many terrorist attacks in the United States since Obama’s inauguration?

Now, certainly, lots of people reading this are thinking about caveat statistics and reminders of some of the things mentioned further up here.  You’re right (well, unless you’re wrong).  But numbers are numbers, good people.  And good numbers are good numbers.   And those good numbers stem, in large measure, from things done by the president.

What everyone seems to forget is where we started.  For that, ya gotta go back to 2001, when George W. Bush came into office.  For the first time in decades, the United States was in a position financially to do great things for its citizens, to rebuild infrastructure, invest in schools, promote scientific achievement, help other nations out of the poverty that leads them to embrace radical religious belief.  Instead, it was squandered on tax cuts for everyone (remember your $300?) and two utterly useless wars.  It was like we won a small lottery and, rather than pay the bills and fix up the house, we just went to Disney World.  In 2009, then, we really were on the precipice of that dystopian nightmare.

The Rude Pundit is still reserving judgment on Barack Obama.  There’s a hundred ways that he’s been bitterly disappointed by the president.  But let’s at least pause to say that things are a hell of a lot better than they could have been.  And if it doesn’t bear saying that all this was done in the wake of the disastrous Bush presidency, it is worth noting that it was done in the face of unprecedented opposition from Republicans in Congress, who demand that the country must be run by GOP dictatorship or not at all.

It’s hard to believe, yes, but we may have to accept that, in the face of noise about whatever it is this week – Colombian prostitutes from Benghazi or something, the Obama administration has operated with subdued competence.  And it continues to do so despite the braying asses of the right, especially, saying it’s all falling apart.  That nation doesn’t exist except in the fevered mind of people trying to attract hits or ratings.  The one in the real world that chugs along is filled with citizens hoping one day to drive home on good roads from a full-time job to their decently-educated kids in their safe neighborhoods.

(Yes, this has left out a lot of discussion about foreign policy because, frankly, the things that really matter, like trade policy, get lost in the noise over who we’re bombing today.)


Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on October 9, 2014, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.

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