In the weeks approaching President Obama's first State of the Union address, some in the media have claimed that Obama has lacked accomplishments in his first year as president and thus, in the words of Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden, Obama has “little to show for '09.” In fact, Obama's first year in office has been marked by a series of significant achievements, including creating jobs as a result of the economic stimulus, eliminating wasteful spending, increasing government transparency, and expanding federal health insurance programs to cover millions more children.
Media baselessly claim Obama “has little to show” for first year that “amounts to a long parade of rebuffs”
Columnists attack Obama effectiveness. For instance, a January 1 Washington Times column by Pruden is headlined “Obama has little to show for '09.” In a January 26 Wall Street Journal column, Bret Stephens asserted that “Mr. Obama's first year in office amounts to a long parade of rebuffs,” adding that Obama's “personal salesmanship has failed to overcome the defects of legislation.”
Obama had numerous accomplishments in his first year
Passing stimulus, generating jobs. On February 17, 2009, Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill into law. In December 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report estimating that “in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, an additional 600,000 to 1.6 million people were employed in the United States” due to that legislation. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, CBO has increased its estimate to 800,000 to 2.4 million additional employed through the fourth quarter of that year. Moreover, a November 20, 2009, New York Times article reported that the “consensus” among “dispassionate analysts” is that “the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working,” citing nonpartisan analyses of gross domestic product and total employment figures by several companies specializing in economic forecasting. Further, a January 25 USA Today article stated that, according to its “quarterly survey of 50 economists,” "[u]nemployment would have hit 10.8% -- higher than December's 10% rate -- without Obama's $787 billion stimulus program," adding, “The difference would translate into another 1.2 million lost jobs.”
Eliminating wasteful spending. Obama was able to achieve some significant cuts to wasteful spending -- most notably, the elimination of the F-22 fighter jet program after he successfully lobbied the Senate to vote to strip out financing for more jets from a defense funding authorization bill. The Washington Times reported on January 14 that Obama won “60 percent of his proposed cuts” and also managed “to get Congress to ax several programs that had bedeviled President George W. Bush for years.”
Sotomayor nomination. On May 26, 2009, Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to replace the retiring Justice David Souter. She was confirmed by the Senate on August 6, 2009, and sworn in August 8, making her the first Hispanic justice, and only the third woman, on the court.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The first bill President Obama signed into law, on January 29, 2009, was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expands the rights of workers to sue employers over wage discrimination claims.
SCHIP expansion. On February 5, 2009, Obama signed a bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover 4 million more lower-income children.
Public lands bill. On March 30, Obama signed an omnibus public lands bill, which The New York Times reported “allows for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness... [with] more than 1,000 miles designated as scenic rivers, and adds land for national trails.”
Credit card reform. On May 21, 2009, Obama signed into law a bill providing what USA Today called the “most sweeping changes to the credit card industry in 40 years,” adding restrictions on interest rate increases and fees and restricting the marketing of credit cards to college students.
Transparency. The Washington Post reported that moves by the Obama administration to improve government transparency “included a ban on lobbyist gifts; restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists; publication of White House visitor logs and other records; and a move to bar lobbyists from serving on advisory boards.” A report by Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, and U.S. PIRG stated that: “The cumulative effect of the Administration's actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities.”
Tobacco regulation. On June 22, 2009, Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which, for the first time, gave the U.S. Food & Drug Administration the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco.
National service. On April 21, 2009, Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands the scope of AmeriCorps and provides opportunities for young people and senior citizens to join in service programs.
Stem cell research. On May 9, 2009, Obama signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research.