By Jeff Bergner
One year ago, Barack Obama’s presidency came to an end. His election as the nation’s first black president was a major accomplishment for him and for the nation. Time will never erase that achievement.
But as time passes, this may be just about his only lasting political accomplishment; his legislative, regulatory and policy initiatives are disappearing rapidly.
On domestic policy:
– Energy: The Keystone XL Pipeline has been approved. The Dakota Access Pipeline has been approved and is operational. U.S. energy production is up, and gas prices are down. Deep Obama administration reductions in offshore drilling leases are in the process of being reversed.
– Education: The Obama Education Department’s Title IX “guidance” to colleges and universities mandating how to treat sexual assault cases has been rescinded. Numerous Education Department programs begun in the Obama administration are being terminated.
– Environment: The Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, the implementation of which was already blocked by the Supreme Court, has been rescinded.
– Labor: The Obama-controlled National Labor Relations Board rule treating franchise chains as single employers for the purpose of collective bargaining has been repealed.
– National parks: Obama’s vast additions to U.S. national monuments in Utah have been rescinded.
– Internet: Net neutrality has been repealed.
– Immigration: The Obama executive order on Deferred Action Against Parents of Americans, which was blocked by a federal court, has been rescinded. His executive order on Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals has been rescinded, awaiting potential congressional action.
– Health care: Obamacare has been significantly modified by regulations to allow new, less costly forms of health insurance and by the repeal of the individual mandate. Additional regulatory changes are coming this year. As the health exchanges continue to shrink, the principal impact of Obamacare will be the expansion of Medicaid enrollment.
– Consumer protection: The structure of the Obama-era Consumer Financial Protection Agency has been ruled unconstitutional by the District of Columbia Circuit Court because it is unanswerable to any elected government official. The CFPB is facing additional legal and legislative challenges.
– Economy: The economic recovery beginning in 2009 produced historically slow economic growth, a declining labor participation rate, stagnant wages and increasing food stamp usage. Today’s economy is growing more rapidly, the labor participation rate is up, wages are beginning to rise, and food stamp usage is down.
On foreign policy:
– Military: Reductions in military spending and U.S. troop levels are being reversed.– ISIS: Changes to the Obama rules of engagement for using military force led to the rapid defeat of ISIS.
– Environment: The United States has announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
– Trade: The United States declined to join the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.
– Iran nuclear deal: The president has declined to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, which the Obama administration negotiated, setting the stage for withdrawal or modification.
– Syria: The president has used military force to enforce Obama’s “red line” against Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
– Ukraine: U.S. policy toward Ukraine is changing; the U.S. will now send lethal weapons to assist Ukraine in resisting Russian aggression.
– Cuba: Obama’s opening to Cuba has been put on hold.
– Israel: The United States and Israel have restored their historically close relationship.
– Egypt: The flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been replaced by U.S. support for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Overall, with the exception of a shrinking Obamacare and the CFPB, no significant initiative of the Obama administration remains in place. The near doubling of the federal debt during his eight-year presidency – from $10 trillion to $19 trillion – seems like a very high price to pay for such ephemeral results.
The Obama presidency is vanishing before our eyes. In only 12 short months, the legacy of Obama’s presidency is best captured by the motto of a well-known disaster restoration company: “like it never even happened.”
Jeff Bergner served in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. He lives in Norfolk, Va., and wrote this for the Virginian-Pilot.