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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Americans were perilously close to losing their right to health care when the Supreme Court offered a reprieve. Few were more grateful than the conservative politicians who had been railing against the Affordable Care Act while praying they would not have to face the political consequences of its collapse.

For progressives, guaranteed health coverage is a political triumph, the greatest addition to the social safety net in decades. And Obamacare would not have happened without the man it was named after.

All this makes the current left-wing revolt against President Obama so hard to fathom as well as so unfair. Many on the left are now branding Obama as a toady of big business interests uninterested in the struggles of working Americans. Their stated reason? His support of a trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries.

This is the president who led the country out of the most frightening economic crisis since the Great Depression. He saved the American auto industry — and by extension the industrial Midwest — from collapse. And he did it against an impenetrable wall of right-wing opposition. For several terrifying months, a government bailout of Detroit was by no means a certainty.

But that was five minutes ago. What has he done for us lately?

Obama’s political skills are notoriously weak. He has not been a great reacher-outer to egos on either the left or the right. Wish it were otherwise, but backslapping is never going to be part of the Obama package.

Foes of a Trans-Pacific Partnership argue that it would ignore environmental and labor standards. Actually, it would impose rules that did not exist before. They say it would let companies sue governments. Actually, they already can (though it almost never happens).

And they portray this accord as hastening the loss of American blue-collar jobs to low-wage countries, such as China. Actually, the purpose is to help its 12 members compete with China.

Fast-track authority to negotiate this deal was eventually passed, thanks to Republican votes. But the mutiny against Obama by his erstwhile allies has left him a diminished presence on the world stage.

No magic wand will bring back the 1960s, when American factories could employ huge numbers at handsome wages. Global competition and computerized manufacturing are here to stay.

The fairest way to address today’s reality is to have the economic winners help those not winning. That means programs preparing Americans for the good jobs there are. It means enhanced economic security for those experiencing job loss or stagnant wages (Obamacare again).

Does anyone — other than Obama’s sternest Republican critics — recall his success in raising taxes on the well to do? Under Obama, the average federal tax rate on households in the top 1 percent has gone up over 6 percentage points. The rich are paying higher taxes on investment income and for Medicare. And the top income tax rate is now 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent.

Yet some on the left now engage in the kind of Obama conspiracy-against-us talk that has characterized the right.

“The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement,” liberal crusader Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes in her blog. “It’s top secret.”

Oh? Every word will be revealed for congressional approval or rejection.

Compare that with the recent statement by a blond yakker out of the Fox News factory that Obamacare had been “negotiated in secret.” The Affordable Care Act had fewer secrets than Kim Kardashian.

Obama now looks gaunter and grayer than the youthful senator elected in 2008. That tends to happen to presidents after years of political battle. For Obama, though, the road to the finish line has been especially lonely.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at 

Photo: oregonmildep via Flickr

  • charleo1

    Two things. Millions of Americans are extremely fond, and proud of President Obama. They remember, and appreciate his stewardship of the Country thru the dark days of the deepest recession in 80 years. And, millions more of the formally uninsured, formally without regular doctors, security, or the peace of mind that comes with having that, are grateful to President Obama for that. And also to those Democratic Congressman, and especially the former ones. Who in a corporately owned Congress, stuck their political necks way out to help this President achieve that illusive goal towards healthcare for all. That Presidents on both sides of the isle have been dreaming about, since Truman.

    So we get that. We also get, that this fundraising Congress, of which one Party, the Republican Party, as former Congressman Antony Weiner so correctly put it, “Is a totally owned subsidiary of Corporate U.S.A.” Are now , is in the process of committing this singular, never before witnessed act of supporting this President, on this one single issue of gargantuan import. On which, the vast majority of our Democrats, as well as some Conservatives, in both the House, and Senate, either outright oppose, or have serious reservations about. It’s why the Republicans invented what some argue, unconstitutional “Fast Track,” tactic. Which serves in this case to further weakens the minority Left, and therefore, all the interests they represent. And in my opinion, bum rushes, without proper debate, and deliberation, this huge trade bill. That will directly effect generations of American workers for decades. This is not personal against President Obama. It’s bigger than that. It’s our children’s, and our grandchildren’s future at stake.

  • Jim Thomas

    Obama chose to sell the people down the river in favor of the pharmaceutical and insurance companies rather than universal health care via Medicare For All. As a result a huge portion of our “health care dollars” will continue to go into the pockets of those companies and their shareholders and vastly overpaid executives. He also chose to reward the thieves who crashed the economy rather than put them in jail where they belong. Obama is not a friend of the people. He is, and has always been, on the side of the 1%.

    • Carolyn1520

      What choice did he have in terms of the health care? Please tell me how that could have been accomplished ?
      I’d also like to know exactly which thieves crashed the economy. In order to prosecute people successfully, there has to be clear cut evidence that they are
      responsible for an identifiable crime. Then there’s the lengthy time frame and costs that have to be weighed in determining if the outcome is worth the effort.
      All the while, the problem still needs to be fixed.
      The far left wing nuts are as rigid in their thinking as the far right.
      I know people on the far left , who within a year of Obama taking office, had already written him off because they didn’t have their wish lists met, and everyone had a different wish list.
      Many wanted Bush/Cheney prosecuted for war crimes. That wasn’t happening.
      There’s a bigger picture to consider.
      As I see it there’s what should happen in a perfect world and there’s reality.

      • S.J. Jolly

        Political leadership Is making “What should happen in a perfect world” into reality. I.e., health insurance for all Americans. You can’t make such moves if you don’t try, which is where the Left faults much of Obama’s policies..

    • johninPCFL

      You mean he actually chose to sign a bill passed by Congress into law? Wow.
      See, most people understand that the president is not a dictator and couldn’t implement “universal health care”, that’s Congress’ job.
      Could the president arrest the presidents of the various banks that brought down the economy? Well, no. That’s not his job either.
      You seem confused as to what the president actually does. Stop watching Fox “News” and go back to civics class.

    • S.J. Jolly

      Obama’s policies can be best described as traditional Republican. The sort that the Tea Party Republicans denounce as “RINO.”

    • drdroad

      Really JIM?? That would be GREAT, but do you think there is any way in the world Universal Healthcare could have possibly passed through Congress?? Even with a Democratic Majority?? No way. If that had been attempted, we’d still have the same old shitty healthcare system we were stuck with before Obama.

      • Jim Thomas

        How do you know that? Obama did not try. He did not even advocate for it. There is no reason to think that he even wanted it. He is a skilled liar and has convinced some with his rhetoric that he is on the people’s side. All of his policies indicate otherwise. The principal problem, of course, is that our entire political/electoral system is completely corrupt. The 1% owns the politicians. So, yes, passing universal health care would have been a real challenge. The way a President can succeed with such a challenge is to take the fight directly to the people, thereby putting enormous pressure on the corrupt Congress. But that does not work when the President is just as corrupt as the Congress. Obama is, and always has been, firmly in the pockets of Wall Street and the other elites (such as the pharmaceutical and insurance companies). Hillary Clinton is made of the same cloth. If she is the Democratic candidate in 2016 I doubt that i will even bother to vote since I live in a backward state (Oklahoma) where it is almost impossible for a third party to get on the ballot. Bottom Line: We have no functioning democracy in this Country, as the recent Princeton study confirms.

        • Robert Kowalke

          I will tell you for sure that universal health care would have been dead upon arrival. Count the votes.

          • Jim Thomas

            Nope, you cannot tell me anything of the kind. An overwhelming majority of the people favored it. Had there been any leadership supporting it there is a very good chance that it would have passed. Your “vote count” is based on a set of facts that never occurred.

  • Dominick Vila

    President Obama’s problems are the direct result of his successes, who he is, and what he represents to a small, but very vocal segment of our population. Like everyone else, he is far from perfect, has made mistakes, and his willingness to seek compromise to advance his social agenda has often elicited the ire, or disappointment, of some of his supporters.
    His leadership skills and determination were a critical component in our ability to avert the economic collapse announced by his predecessor in 2008, and served as a foundation for the economic recovery and job creation records we are now seeing. To accomplish this, he caved in on deeply rooted beliefs, including the need to help save Wall Street, as evident in his support to Bush’s TARP, which he is now blamed for and charged with adding almost $1B to the national debt. He bailed out the U.S. auto industry, and in addition to saving tens of thousands of jobs, he insisted in the establishment of regulations and sound management practices that contributed to the recovery of that critical business sector. I would have preferred Universal Healthcare, not only because it would have been more accessible to everyone, but because it would have been more cost effective and would have forced desperately needed cost controls on the pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing sectors; but I understand and accept the fact that major shifts in paradigm can only be accomplished incrementally. His efforts to reduce the financial schism between the top 2% of our population, who already owns 2/3 of our national wealth, and the rest of us, must not be forgotten, and neither should we forget his role in the promotion of gender equality policies, his efforts to reduce gun violence in America, or his determination to increase political awareness and voting by making it easier for people to exercise one of our most important rights.
    On the foreign policy front he reduced our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, dramatically reducing our casualties in those countries, while remaining engaged to help the puppet governments his predecessor put in place. He put an end to torture, and proposed closing the Gitmo concentration camp. He proposed bringing the most dangerous, bonafide, terrorists to the USA for trial and imprisonment, if found guilty. And while engaging in endeavors consistent with our purported values, he remained focused on apprehending or killing those who harmed us. The result of his policies, and the courageous decisions he took, resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, the apprehension of Al Libby, the presumed terrorist leader of the Benghazi tragedy, and drone attacks that killed numerous dangerous Al Qaeda and ISIS leaders. His willingness to reduce our military presence in countries where we are not welcome, and where our presence serves as a catalyst to violence, helped restore our credibility worldwide. Instead of U.S. Presidents being forced to stay at home for fear of being apprehended and tried for crimes against humanity, President Obama is welcomed worldwide and praised for his efforts.
    Perhaps not surprisingly, his successes are the target of those whose visions of domestic and foreign policy are more in line with those of the Romans and the Spanish empires. Mercifully, President Obama has managed to stay the course, avoid the temptation of taking the easy way out by not avoiding controversial decisions, and by so doing he managed to avoid the mistakes made by previous super powers.
    Much remains to be done, ranging from investment in infrastructure and modernization, to investment in education, immigration law reform, tackling the financial schism between the have and have not, to salary stagnation, to the decline in the purchasing power of the middle class, to the need to eliminate deficit spending in its entirety, reduce the national debt, and reduce the amount of unfunded liabilities. Unfortunately, he does not have enough time left to solve all of the remaining challenges that must be addressed, especially when we consider the level of obstructionism proudly presented by those whose idea of progress is regression.

  • johninPCFL

    How is it that the lie about the GOP and the ACA still persists? There were over 800 amendments made to the original bill, 168 from the GOP Senators involved in WRITING THE BILL!! It was one of six competing bills all progressing through Congress at the same time, and ultimately instead of going through a conference committee, it was carried through the House as well.

  • latebloomingrandma

    I have been trying to learn the pros and cons of TPP, and admit that I still don’t understand it well. I suspect that the former Sen. Obama would probably vote against it. One thing that I did understand is that Presidents are almost in favor of trade deals. Presidents have to have a different perspective on our country’s relationship to the rest of the world. Pres. Obama is a principled decision maker. I hope this is one of those times.

  • S.J. Jolly

    “… his success in raising taxes on the well to do” Didn’t that consist of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire?

    • johninPCFL

      Yes, the only way to raise taxes in a GOP-dominated Congress.

      • Louis Allen

        Hee, hee. What an ignorant comment.
        What about 2008 to 2010?
        As always, you are an Obama/Cling-on unconditional.

        • johninPCFL

          Yes, the Congress where the GOP filibuster peaked, when the word ‘the’ was filibustered.
          Go back to Faux News.

          • Louis Allen

            Yes John, the same Congress and Senate that passed the so-called “Affordable Care Act” – Obamacare, with NOT EVEN A SINGLE Republican vote !!
            Go back to MSLSD “News”, you nincompoop.

    • dtgraham

      Most of them didn’t expire. While the top rate may have gone to 39.6% and the capital gains rate to 20%, that was just for families earning over $450,000 per year. For anyone under that, the Bush tax cuts are still in effect. It’s estimated that the cost to the United States’ treasury over the next 10 years from the remaining Bush rates will be 3.3 trillion dollars.

      They’re a tremendous driver of budget deficits. They’re the gift that keeps on taking.

  • dpaano

    What ever happened to the good ol’ days when Democratic senators & congressmen/women supported their president 100%. Today, politicians are rude, condescending, and I could go on! Instead of backing their president, they join with the idiotic republicans and fight his every chance at helping the American people. It’s no wonder that most Americans are frustrated with our government……we have a Republican Congress and House that will do ANYTHING possible to block anything our president puts forth to help the middle class; and we have Democratic politicians who refuse to support him and even side with the “other” side! If you aren’t prepared to support our president and be a REAL Democrat…..then you need to go over to the Republican side of the fence and quit trying to fool the American public as to where your politics lie! We, who elected you (by the way), expect you to do the job we asked you to do!!!