18 Months In, A Transformational, Historic Presidency

The last time any president did this much in office, booze was illegal.
That was the conclusion of Rachel Maddow in her excellent segment last night highlighting the accomplishments of President Obama in a short 18 months in office.  Taegan Goodard of CQ Politics wrote,
Now that Democrats have agreed on a Wall Street reform bill, President Obama is set to have an incredible year of accomplishments. He's already signed major health care reforms into law and is more than likely to have energy/climate change legislation on his desk later this year. Not since FDR has a president done so much to transform the country.
This is not hyperbole.  This is not an overstatement.  This is not the president's friends trying to prop him up.  This is the absolute honest truth.  Barack Obama's presidency is not going to be historic.  It is not going to be transformational.  It already is a historic, transformational presidency.  And as a proud progressive, we have much to celebrate in that.

But first, watch Rachel do a magnificent job of describing the accomplishments of this young president in less than half a term:



Let us go through some of the most important of these quickly, shall we?

Toughest Financial Reform Since Great Depression: A deal has been reached on a far reaching financial reform legislation that will be the toughest financial regulatory reform since the Great Depression.  It creates a powerful consumer protection bureau, directs the SEC to grant access to the corporate ballot for board election to shareholders, creates a warning system for troubled financial institutions, institutes the Volcker Rule, banning banks for trading for their benefit with federally insured dollars, forces derivatives to be traded on an open exchange, forces banks to spin off their derivative trading activity, and grants the government resolution authority over troubled banks.  I will have more to say in detail about these reforms later, but these are an impressive, strong set of reforms.

Historic Health Reform: Congress and the President enacted historic health reform this year, an issue that had, prior to now, remained unattainable to Presidents and Congresses for nearly a century.  Outlawing pre-existing condition exclusions, banning annual and lifetime benefit limits, setting minimum Medical Loss Ratios, expanding Medicaid, significantly investing in and expanding Community Health Centers, and setting up exchanges by 2014 that will subsidize those who need help to purchase insurance, this is meaningful health reform that progressives can be proud of and build on.  For all its faults, this reform, as Rachel said, for the first time established government responsibility for the health care of all Americans.

Unprecedented Investment in Infrastructure and Clean Energy: The American Recovery Act passed last year invested $100 billion in infrastructure - or, as Rachel Maddow put it, the largest investment in American infrastructure since President Eisenhower.  $60 billion was invested in clean energy in the form of spending and tax credits.

Student Loan Reform: This Democratic Congress and this President passed student loan reform - correcting a very stupid system of student loans in which banks were subsidized for loans that were guaranteed by the Federal government anyway.  Instead, now the federal government will make the loans directly, and use the savings to help more students.

Expansion of Children's Health Insurance: President Obama and the Democratic Congress expanded SCHIP, the state children's  covering 4 million additional children, for a total of 11 million children.

Enforceable Fair Pay for Women: In another one of the early accomplishments of this Congress and this President, they enacted the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, giving women the right to enforce their right to fair and equal pay, responding to the Supreme Court's ruling that under current law, women could not sue for wage discrimination more than 6 months after it occurs, even if they do not find out about it till years later.

Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Law: President Obama signed into law hate crimes legislation, named after Matthew Sheppard and with Matthew's mother at his side, that now protects hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and outlaws the so-called "panic defense."  For the first time ever, hatred-generated violence targeting LGBT Americans is now protected against by federal law.

Nuclear Deal with Russia: President Obama's unwavering commitment to a nuclear free world has produced a deal with Russia cutting both country's active nuclear arsenal by a third.

And here are some more accomplishments Rachel didn't even get to last night.  Here are just some of those:

$20 Billion Fund from BP to Compensate Gulf Victims: The President, almost all on his own, secured an independently administered $20 Billion fund from BP to compensate for the economic devastation caused by BP in the Gulf Coast.  The GOP thinks calling it a "shakedown" will gain them political points.  But I bet most Americans feel that if it was a shakedown, we need more of those against corporations that operate without regard to the environment and coastal economies.

Credit Card Reform: President Obama signed into law historic credit card reform legislation and a credit card bill of rights.  This law grants consumers superior protection, including a 45 day notice for rate changes, a 30 day notice for account closure, the right to reject a new credit card without affecting their credit rating, and compelling creditors to apply payments over the minimum amount to the highest interest credit first, and so much more.  Here's a video from Bloomberg explaining some of these benefits:



As you can see, the banking and lending industry was none too pleased about this reform benefiting consumers.

Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Restoring Funding for Family Planning: In early May of 2009, the President lifted the restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.  Scientists working on tomorrow's medical miracles welcomed the move with open arms.

In one of his first acts as President, Obama reversed the Global Gag Rule, restoring US funding to foreign family planning groups who respect women's right to make their own medical reproductive decisions.

COBRA Subsidy: For the first time since COBRA was enacted, the federal government subsidized the cost of COBRA for Americans who were laid off during the recession to the tune of 65%.  That made it affordable for countless Americans to retain their health insurance even after losing their jobs - as the full cost of COBRA often proves too expensive for most workers.

Extending the Dignity of Families to Same Sex Families: At the President's directive, the Department of Health  and Human Services issued a new rule stating that any hospital that accepts Medicare and Medicaid (that's nearly all hospitals in this country) must respect the advanced directives of patients with respect to visitation rights and medical decision making rights - including for same sex partners.

Just last week on Wednesday, the Department of Labor issued draft regulations applying the Family Medical Leave Act to gay couples, allowing them to take time off to care for a sick partner, a child, or a partner's child.

While full equality for same sex couples remains elusive, for the first time in history, gay and lesbian couples finally have some federal protections of our dignity when a partner is suffering in a hospital.  For the first time, under a federal law, our families are recognized as families.

Drawdown from Iraq: Drawdown from Iraq began more than a year ago under President Obama.  From a height of nearly 150,000 troops, by the end of this summer, just 50,000 will remain.

These are just some of the things Rachel didn't get to last night, on top of the myriad of transformational achievements she did mention in her fantastic piece.

Those who want to complain about this president will still do so.  Left-ideologues will probably never be satisfied.  And by no means is this a perfect progressive presidency.  But this young presidency is already reason for progressive pride if you care about actual progress, getting things done, instituting transformational, historic public policy and an activist government.  The legacy of this president is already incredible, and the legacy of Speaker Pelosi is the farthest thing from a do-nothing Congress.

President Obama said once that he would rather be a great one-term president than a mediocre two term president.  He is already a transformational president after a mere 18 months in office.  And this is why we need him to be a two-term president.