Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Consequential Man

Ta-Nahesi Coates once said - as an African American - of Barack Obama: "We never had to apologize for him."  Unlike Bill Clinton's personal faults and Jimmy Carter's policy problems, Barack Obama has not done anything that would normally heap contumely upon him.  Unless you watch Fox and then all bets are off.  I mean really.

Assessing a president's legacy during his term in office is inherently difficult.  Take George Dubya.  By an objective measure, his invasion of Iraq only looks worse over time, as it has lead to the disintegration of the Middle East into a sectarian war zone.  That is a direct consequence of his invasion of Iraq, and it makes him look worse.  Same goes for the Crash of '08.

So assessing Obama's presidency while he's still in office is inherently tricky.  But Michael Grunwald at Politico gives it a shot.  He restricts himself - wisely - to domestic policy, since foreign policy can often take years to play out properly.  Eisenhower, for instance, looks much better in foreign policy given the perspective of time.

What Grunwald chronicles is a really impressive array of policy that has dramatically shifted a great deal of American society.  Without really grappling with whether these changes are good or not - they are framed in a way to let you draw your own conclusions - there is no doubt that they are profound.

And largely invisible.

One program Grunwald cites is a regulatory change that will increase the efficiency of commercial air conditioners.  Once implemented, this measure alone will reduce US energy consumption by 1%.  Just one measure, and, yes, just 1%.  But the US is the world's largest energy consumer, so 1% is a huge deal from one small measure.

And there are many more.  Not just the big stuff like ACA or the pricing changes it has wrought in the health care industry.  Not just beginning to wrest the Supreme Court from the hands of ideologues.  Not just preventing the collapse of the global economy.  In fact, the article digs into the small aspects of the Stimulus that have made a tremendous difference in our lives since 2009, from the revitalization of the auto industry to the boom in alternative energy.

It's really an impressive and comprehensive read.

And it won't change a single mind.

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