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On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama, inaugurated as 44th President of the United States, was immediately presented with the worst economic circumstance this nation has faced since the Great Depression. The previous administration more than doubled our national debt, unemployment was 7.7% nationally and spiraling upward, the stock market had lost half its value and was in a downward trend, and the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Deficit was already projected by the Congressional Budget Office to exceed $1.2 trillion dollars – another record– without considering any of incoming President Obama’s agenda. And the nation was on track to realize the lowest annual tax revenue since the Great Depression. Not since Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 has a new commander in chief faced such dire economic obstacles.
In September 2008, Congress passed and George W. Bush signed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) - the Bailout Bill (http://troubled-asset-relief-program.net). TARP, legislation I opposed, gave mega-banks and Wall Street firms considered ‘too big to fail’ capital to remain viable. But TARP did very little for Main Street, destabilized banks’ relationships with consumers and resulted in an unlevel playing field to the detriment of Main Street. President Obama, faced with rising unemployment, record foreclosures and failing small businesses all potentially resulting in a second Great Depression, proposed and pushed through Congress a stimulus bill over the strong opposition of those very legislators who handed out trillions, without strings, to their constituent financial entities. The fight was on.
In response to the President extending his hand in bipartisanship, the Republicans asserted that to defeat Obama was his “Waterloo,” and lied about “Death Panels” and “pulling the plug on grandma” rather than actually propose legislation to help their constituents. The President stood fast and pushed his agenda to help Main Street with jobs and infrastructure.
The nation survived President Obama’s freshman year in spite of the struggling economy, the Party of No’s “oppose at all costs” strategy and vicious opposition to any and all of Obama’s programs. Obama is well on his way to getting his ‘sea legs,’ he’s learned the ropes and recognizes Republicans will say anything to regain power.
The most encouraging sign came shortly after the State of the Union address, the one in which a congressman from South Carolina made a fool of himself and shouted, “You lie.” President Obama appeared at a televised House Republican retreat and, unrehearsed, took all their questions for over an hour and performed so well Republicans expressed regret the event was televised and are fearful of doing it again. With reason – the performance was spectacular, one in which the President easily fielded tough questions and revealed Republicans as partisan and without any solutions to offer. President Obama is now ready to further his agenda and fulfill the promise with which he began his administration.
(Bill Adkins is an attorney in Williamstown and is chairman of the Grant County Democratic Party.)