President Obama's Report Card: One Year Later
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

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RobertSmithRobert C. Smith, Professor of Political Science, San Francisco State University

What is the administration’s overall achievement?

The overall or overarching achievement of the Obama administration is its sharp break with the domestic and foreign policy approaches of the last eight years. In domestic policy, this involves reordering the taxing and spending priorities of the government, away from the ‘trickle down’ tax cuts for the wealthy approach of the Bush administration toward a more ‘bottoms-up’ program of spending on health, education and infrastructure. In foreign policy although there has been no fundamental break with Bush policies, the President has set a more congenial, non-confrontational tone.

What was the Obama administration’s biggest win and loss?

The administration’s biggest win was passage of the stimulus package the first of last year. The biggest loss –a partial loss — is the compromised healthcare bill. This, however, is also a big win because even the compromised bill, if it eventually passes, constitutes a historic achievement – the first legislation that gives promise of comprehensive health care to most Americans.

What is your assessment of Obama’s first year on the job?

I would give the President an overall grade of C+. Of his four major goals this year — economic stimulus/recovery, health reform, energy/climate change and regulatory reform of the financial sector — he has had unambiguous legislative success on only one – the stimulus package – and it is unclear whether it will result in substantial economic recovery.

What’s ahead for the president?

The Republicans will make fairly good gains in the midterm elections in both the House and the Senate, and this will effectively mean the end of the president’s domestic agenda for his first term. That is, the new Congress will be more conservative and likely block or seriously compromise the President’s domestic agenda (including immigration reform). In the last two years of his administration, therefore, Obama is likely to turn more to foreign policy where he has more power to act independently of Congress.

On a scale of A to F, grade Obama on the following topics:

Jobs: C

Healthcare reform: Incomplete/B-

Economy: C+

Wall Street: C-

Small business development: Incomplete

Housing: Incomplete

National security: B

Overall: C+

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