Last night Obama gave his final State of the Union Address. As usual, his words were inspiring, hopeful and eloquent but, as one Salon headline read this morning: “The depressing lesson of Obama’s final State of the Union Address: Everything’s still broken.”
It’s always been hard to dislike Obama. He’s smart, articulate and has a good sense of humor, and he has had some successes as President that were very hard fought against the Congressional Confederacy of Dunces. But for me, it’s as much about all of the things that Obama didn’t do as it is about his victories. The nightmarish legacy of George Bush lived on in the Obama years, even though Obama was elected on a promise to change direction.
War continues to engulf the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and we still play a major role in these conflicts. Although there are fewer boots on the ground in the region than during Bush’s tenure, we continue to stir the pot of violence with drone strikes, bombings and “advisors” pursuing American interests. As insane as it seems, we managed to pull Russia into the fray and we all teeter on the razor’s edge of a world war. This is hardly the peace and prosperity we hoped for from Obama.
The monster that Bush and Cheney built, the American Surveillance State, is alive and well on Obama’s watch. Seven years later we still live under the unconstitutional Patriot Act, and the CIA, NSA and all of the other spy shops are humming along nicely with Obama’s blessings. Not only did Obama fail to reign in Big Brother, he chose to focus his attention on prosecuting whistleblowers instead of the illegal activities of his surveillance agencies.
As for the economy yes, it has improved somewhat under Obama, but the larger economic picture in America today is very far from bright. Consider a few statistics:
- Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. At this point, 62 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and 21 percent of Americans do not have any savings at all.
- It’s estimated that 43 percent of all American households spend more money than they make each month.
- The Pew Research Center found that median wealth for middle class households dropped by an astounding 28 percent between 2001 and 2013.
- According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
- The U.S. ranks only 19th in the world when it comes to median wealth per adult.
- For each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened. Prior to 2008, this had never happened before in all of U.S. history.
- In 2007, about one in every eight children in America was on food stamps. Today, the number is one of every five.
- The top 0.1 percent of all American families have about as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of all American families combined.
There are many more depressing economic statistics that could be added to this list, but the trend is clear — while some aspects of the economy have improved since the Bush years, we are stagnating or losing ground in many very important areas and the American economy is far from healthy. No one says Obama is totally to blame for this situation, but he has failed to even attempt to take the bold steps necessary to address income inequality, tax reform and the criminal activities of Wall Street and America’s largest banks.
I predict history will be kind to Obama and his legacy. Compared to Bush, he seems like the ideal Commander in Chief, but when you look past the man and his rhetoric, you see a President leaving behind a country that has devolved from a democracy to a full-fledged oligarchy where “the people” are growing poorer by the day and have almost no say in how the country is run. With Obama’s departure, the Deep State is more powerful than ever, and our first African American President has unfortunately been merely another puppet to amuse and distract a pliable populace.