Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are We Better Off Now?

Four years ago after Barack Obama was elected president, I wrote about how I would measure the success of his presidency. My criteria back then is interesting to read in hindsight, and reading through them I wish I had phrased them as crisp yes or no questions.

Even so, today I'm going to try to address these questions with my opinion on their answers. I will also attempt to write my explanation for my answers.

Here goes:
  • Has the U.S. economy stabilized, and is it growing to the benefit of American citizens?
  • No. I don't believe that the economy is any more "stable" today than it was four years ago. In fact, I think it's probably about the same. I do believe it is "growing", but not at a pace that anybody is happy with.
  • Has the standard of living continued to increase, with those who want to want to and can work working, and the level at which poverty is measured rising?
  • No. I don't believe that the standard of living has increased for most people. For me, personally, as an engineer with a stable job, I saw raises at work (when I got them) at an average of 1.5% per year, despite having remarkable and undeniable success at work. In the previous four years it was 4.5%. I believe my purchasing power today is less than what it was 4 years ago. The unemployment numbers are still around 8% (above or below that line, it's still a huge number of unemployed people) and I think there are more people living in poverty today than 4 years ago.
  • Do Americans have the ability to secure for themselves appropriate health care?
  • Undecided, but probably not. I don't think that "Obamacare" has come into play yet for most Americans, though I have personally seen the cost of healthcare for my healthy family rise sharply over the past 4 years.
  • Are Americans safer within the borders of the United States, free from terrorist attacks of any kind; and largely when traveling abroad?
  • Probably not. I don't "feel" any safer today than I did four years ago. If anything, all the stuff that is happening elsewhere makes me increasingly nervous about traveling to other countries. I will not go to nearby Mexico because of all the craziness of the drug wars going on down there. I sometimes travel for work to Germany, and even there -- a "safe" country -- I take great pains to not look too much like an American and to not attract attention to myself.
  • In making Americans safer, have any rights outlined in the constitutional amendments been curtailed, particularly freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process?
  • Undecided. I don't feel that this has changed much in the last 4 years as the result of homeland security changes, but see below on my comments on the "culture wars".
  • Has the ability of Americans to have dignity in their lives been improved?
  • I don't think so. I have some very close friends, bright and intelligent men both, who have been unemployed for over a year. They feel nothing short of downtrodden.
  • Has America socially moved towards a culture of responsibility for their life choices, economically, politically, socially, morally, and spiritually?
  • Absolutely not. I think our contentious and litigious society has only gotten worse in this regards. In general, I'd say that people are more likely to look for help from without for their problems rather than working to resolve them themselves.
  • Has the concept of "minority" groups become more irrelevant?
  • No. Racism and the "culture wars" have only gotten worse. Just this week, there is a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that is about a girl who believes her admittance to the University of Texas was denied because she is white, and that others who were equally qualified but of a different race were admitted. Similarly, you can barely open a web-browser without finding some news article pronouncing more injustices being done to the gay and lesbian community by all those horrible straight people who think that marriage is between a man and a woman. "Minority" groups? Most certainly they have not become more irrelevant. I applauded when Morgan Freeman said the only way to get rid of racism is to simply stop talking about it -- make it a non-issue.
  • Has the reputation of the U.S. improved throughout the world?
  • Hah. No.
  • Are the American borders secure in such a way as to protect American lives, to secure American interests, and to ensure America's sovereignty?
  • Again, no. The interesting thing here is that there are more people leaving the United States than illegally coming in because of the horrid economy.
  • Has America stood up for and protected those who are incapable of doing so for themselves, generously giving of its means to create a better and safer world?
  • Hmm, probably not. See: Syria. See also: U.S. unwillingness to commit in Libya.
  • Is American primacy in education, particularly with regards to science, engineering, and manufacturing; been strengthened and improved?
  • Nope. You won't find the U.S. at the top of any ranking of "best" educational systems. We still hold the most "top 100" universities in the world, but the rankings for U.S. universities are slipping. That said, we're still a powerhouse for engineering and science as evidenced by the sheer number of foreign students who come to the U.S. to be educated. Now if we could only get them jobs here ...
  • Has the spirit of exploration and scientific advancement been nurtured?
  • Nope. Why is it that the Mars rover Curiosity has had so much awesome news coverage and has people so excited? I honestly think (and I'm rather cynical on this) it is because it's the only game in town. Despite this, the fact that so many people are interested does show that there is a yearning for this kind of stuff, but there are so few like-programs for people to be excited about. Consider also that the Space Shuttle was retired and that the U.S. currently has no home-grown means of moving people to the Space Station, a facility largely bought and paid for by the U.S. I understand there are things in the works, but when? When?! It's an embarrassment.
  • Has America found a more appropriate balance of independence and globalization with regards to foreign, energy, and economic policies?
  • No. I think it has become more isolationist, our energy policies are confused (at best), and the growth of the economy is stalled.

So, let's count: 9 firm "no", 4 "probably not", and 1 "undecided". I don't think I'll be voting for Obama. My take is that when somebody isn't doing the job, you don't give 'em more time to not do it.

1 comment:

kamiel verwer said...

What do you think of his environmental policy? It seems the one most important thing in our era of rapid environmental degradation and climate change?

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