Krauthammer was right, Obama was transformative

In a couple of interesting columns in the infancy of the Obama presidency, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, regularly featured in The Day, predicted that President Obama would seek to be a president of consequence.

“The stage is set for a young, ambitious, supremely confident president — who sees himself as a world-historical figure before even having been sworn in — to begin a restructuring of the American economy and the forging of a new relationship between government and people,” wrote Krauthammer in the days before the Inauguration.

“He intends to transform America. And he has the money, the mandate and the moxie to go for it,” wrote Krauthammer in his last sentence.

When Obama addressed a joint session of Congress a month after the Inauguration, Krauthammer was convinced he had been right.

“Some men become president to be someone, others to do something. This is what separates, say, a Bill Clinton from a Ronald Reagan. Obama, who once noted that Reagan altered the trajectory of America as Clinton had not, sees himself a Reagan.

“Reagan came to office to do something: shrink government, lower taxes, rebuild American defenses. Obama made clear Tuesday night that he intends to be equally transformative. His three goals: universal health care, universal education, and a new green energy economy highly funded and regulated by government,” wrote the conservative columnist.

Krauthammer was right. Obama has been transformative, more remarkable since he has not had a Democratic majority to work with since his first two years in office, facing Republicans dead set on fighting him for every political inch.

An economy Obama inherited on the brink of slipping into a second Great Depression today has a steady GDP growth rate of 2.3 percent. At 5.3 percent, unemployment has returned to levels before the Bush economic collapse. Wages are growing at a healthy 4.14 percent, with inflation almost too low, 0.2 percent.

As for the three goals noted by Krauthammer, Obama has done darn well.

Achieving a goal sought to various degrees by Democratic presidents dating back to Harry Truman, Obama signed a national health care law that has survived two test cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. In signing the law, Obama said he wanted to curb the rapid rise in medical costs and expand health care access.

At 2.49 percent, the health care inflation rate is at a low level not seen since the 1960s. And while universal health care access has not been achieved, the percentage of uninsured adult Americans has dropped from 18 percent to 11.4 percent during his presidency and is now in sharp decline.

Most importantly, those with existing medical conditions can get affordable insurance. It is the young and healthy who largely make up the ranks of the uninsured, a situation increasing penalties for failing to have health insurance should fix.

On education, competition for the Obama administration race-to-the-top grants persuaded most of the states to adopt stringent educational standards and set policies in place to achieve them.

As for the environment, Obama set his sights on doubling the nation’s supply of renewable energy. During his administration, energy produced by wind has tripled and solar capacity increased 16-fold. Earlier this month Obama announced new regulations on power-plant carbon emissions that call for a 32 percent emissions cut by 2030, as compared with 2005 levels.

Add in re-establishing relations with Cuba, achieving a multi-national agreement with Iran that could stall that country’s nuclear arms’ ambitions for at least a decade, and a federal deficit that is at its lowest level since 2008 — the last Bush year — and you certainly have a presidency of consequence.

And there is still more than a year to go.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

Twitter: @Paul_Choiniere

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