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Change We Can Believe In – Does Anyone Still Believe?

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Tanya Padgaonkar

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 The Taj Mahal. A glorious building set in India’s capital of New Delhi. One that includes over 570 rooms and is typically flooded with visitors from around the globe. One that Obama’s personal security staff booked for three entire days, clearing out the entire hotel. One that is so close to the Indian Ocean that U.S. naval ships and Indian Navy vessels circulated the surrounding area within 330 kilometers from shore to protect the president from a freak missile attack. This extravagance, paid for on the taxpayer’s dime, of course, all occurred in early November and was broadcast on every cable news network.

From excessive spending to luxurious trips to Asia, it seems dubious that president, elected in 2008, has actually gotten anything done in the past two years. Or so the media may have us think.

Despite the faltering economy, Obama has managed to conduct significant reform in the economy, public education and foreign relations. After struggling for his entire term, Obama finally passed the $940 billion health care bill and, at last, was able to establish universal health care for the nation. This landmark reform bill serves to provide baseline medical coverage and insurance to 32 million Americans who were previously not insured. Democrats across the nation rallied in support of the bill and even people from other party lines showed their support for Obama’s plan.

Education reform has also been a priority for the Oval Office, and the White House staff now provides a $2500 tax credit for lower income families to help pay off bills incurred from a college education. Treasury officials state that this tax credit will save about 5 million families a collective $9 billion.

Obama’s Department of Transportation has also approved 2,500 highway projects, providing $9.3 billion in stimulus money for cities throughout the country. These projects also ensure the production of new jobs, and at least 260,000 construction jobs are expected to complete the entire project.

While many citizens have vehemently been criticizing Obama’s efforts in foreign relations, his interactions with the Muslim world have so far been effective and appreciated by Middle Eastern governments. His proclamation during an international press conference that “America is not at war with Islam” served to alleviate the fears of many around the world.

But regardless of all this hard work, Obama has had to live up to the public’s lofty expectations. After experiencing a severe economic downturn on top of foreign conflicts and national crises, the public rightly rallied for change in the federal government. Cries of “yes we can!” were bellowed throughout the country, and a nation full of disillusioned Americans turned their eyes to Obama for guidance, comfort and reform.

And to be fair, Obama certainly promised Americans a lot. Most noticeably, Obama promised the immediate removal of Iraqi troops, stating that he would remove two combat brigades per month for 16 months by which time all of them would be taken out of Iraq.

It is this failed ability to fulfill the goals he promised that has detracted from the public’s original regard for Obama. While his extensive legislation should seem to hold weight in the public’s eyes, public opinion polls from RealClear Politics report differently. It seems that political bashing and media bad-mouthing of the executive branch has served to effectively eradicate all of the good that Obama has done from the public’s memory.

Beginning in January of 2009, approximately a year after Obama’s inauguration into office, Obama’s approval rating began to plummet—just as unemployment rates began to skyrocket. As the negative effects of the economic recession took further root into the households of most Americans across the nation, the president’s approval ratings continued to drop, sinking to nearly 53.2 percent in July 2009, only seven months after their initial tank.

Throughout 2010, Obama’s approval and disapproval ratings have been fighting for dominance, with disapproval ratings taking the lead for the majority of the year. The most recent polls find that a whopping 48.4 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance thus far.

It seems that regardless of what Obama actually does, his situation just lends itself to further public disapproval. In fact, some challenges are simply inherent to the office of presidency.

While Obama does no doubt desire change and progress for the country, his ability to pitch controversial and radical legislation for Congressional approval is slowly dwindling as his first term comes to an end. With every intention of running for reelection, Obama now has the added worry of trying not to anger the public to garner more support for the 2012 presidential election, and to not lose the support he already has. This term limitation ensures that next year will become the year of wishy-washy legislation, and the year after, the last of his first term, will become an endless campaign.

And let’s face facts—a Republican Congress is simply not a good addition to the cabinet of a Democratic President—and the same could be said about a Democratic Congress with a Republican President. With this opposition from those who provide the most distinguishable check against the executive branch, will Obama truly get anything done?

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