The Presidency of Barack Obama

First African American President Barack Obama, the first multiracial president, the first non-white president, and the firstborn in Hawaii. Barack Obama’s presidency began on January 20, 2009, with his first inauguration, and ended on January 20, 2017. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, was elected president after defeating Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama was re-elected four years later in the 2012 presidential election, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Obama managed to succeed by Republican Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016. 

Economic Policies

From the beginning of 2009 to 2016, the economy improved noticeably under former President Barack Obama. In the face of the prospect of another Great Depression in the winter of 2009, President Barack Obama enacted a series of policies that helped the economy avoid that fate. By the second half of 2009, the economy had recovered, and jobs had followed suit by early 2010. Economic growth accelerated for the remainder of President Obama’s presidency, and job growth reached its longest expansion on record by early 2017, dating back to 1939. Employment opportunities improved, the unemployment rate fell, wages eventually rose, and household debt fell dramatically.

Economic growth accelerated over time

While President Obama took office in the first quarter of 2009, the US economy was contracting. But at the end of his presidency, the economy had grown at about 2% in inflation-adjusted terms. President Obama’s second-term economic growth per person was higher than that of several previous presidents, including President George W. Bush during each of his times, President George H.W. Bush during his term, Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford during their combined term, President Nixon during his first term, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his second term.

Job growth logged its longest winning streak

Once President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. The economy lost nearly 800,000 jobs. By early 2010, the job market had begun to expand. And it consistently added jobs from October 2010 to January 2017, when President Obama left office, and it continued to do so during President Trump’s first months in office. Since 1939, there has not been a continuous job market expansion that has lasted longer than the current 79-month expansion.

Employment opportunities expanded

As the economy added new jobs, the proportion of people working increased. That is, job growth outpaced population growth—a vital indicator of a healthy job market expansion. In comparison, President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Seventy-seven percent of people between 25 and 54 were employed. Following the Great Recession, this share fell to 74.8 percent by December 2009, before rising to 78.2 percent in January 2017, when President Obama left office.

Foreign Policies Credentials

As president, Obama has undertaken several major foreign-policy initiatives, including a renewed troop surge in Afghanistan, negotiations with Russia on the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, NATO intervention in Libya, withdrawal from Iraq, ongoing trade negotiations with China, and, of course, the assassination of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Today, Barack Obama is a very different candidate than in 2008 when he was a senator who distinguished himself by opposing the “dumb war.” In many ways, Obama appears to have pursued a fairly conventional, at times hawkish, foreign policy. Obama has had some notable successes, including the bin Laden raid and the withdrawal from Iraq this year, albeit on a timetable negotiated by his predecessor, and the successful overthrow of Muammar al-Qaddafi. Nonetheless, Republican candidates have already referenced an unfortunate description of Obama’s diplomatic strategy by a White House staffer. Left-wing critics have chastised Barack Obama for his sometimes contradictory approach to international law in counter-terrorism operations.

However, with a significant economic recovery looking unlikely and fewer domestic accomplishments to point to than he might have expected, combined with his opponents’ international inexperience, Obama may make foreign-policy victories the centerpiece of his reelection strategy.

Domestic Policies Financial Troubles and Recovery

Obama, like Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 and Ronald Reagan in 1981, had to deal with a significant economic crisis as soon as he took office on January 20, 2009. The nation’s central banks and other financial institutions were in grave danger of failing. The economy had stalled and was losing jobs, with the unemployment rate approaching 10%. Housing prices were in free fall, resulting in a large number of foreclosures.

Before taking the oath of office, Obama supported President George W. Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion initiative to save its central banks by lending enough money to keep them solvent. In addition to the $20 billion authorized by President George W. Bush for this purpose, Obama directed $60 billion in TARP funds to General Motors and Chrysler and their suppliers as president to keep the American automobile industry from going bankrupt. TARP worked: the automakers, which had to reform their corporate operations in exchange for funding, as well as all of the central banks, survived. By the end of 2009, these institutions had already paid back more than $600 billion to the government. Despite this, many voters saw the program as a bailout for wealthy bankers and corporate executives.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama’s first significant new recommendation to Congress, was an $800 billion economic stimulus package. One-third of the funds went to state governments to keep them from laying off public employees or reducing unemployment benefits; one-third went to middle-class tax cuts, bridges, highways, sewage treatment facilities, and other infrastructure projects. Who allocated tens of billions of dollars in the latter category to promote research and development of alternative energy sources, especially wind and solar. These industries grew in the years that followed, eventually accounting for a sizable portion of the nation’s total energy consumption. Although Obama hoped for bipartisan support for the Recovery Act, not a single Republican House member and only three Republican senators voted to favor it. However, Democratic control of Congress was sufficient to ensure its passage, and President Obama signed the act into law on February 17, 2009.

The president’s economic policies were successful by many measures, and the economy was strong when he left office in 2017. The policies averted a possible, if not inevitable, free fall into another Great Depression. During the remaining portion of his presidency, he created a net 11.3 million new jobs, reduced the unemployment rate from 10% to less than 5%, kept interest rates low, prominent, significant indexes more than increased, and reduced the yearly federal deficit from $1.4 trillion to less than $600 billion. Wages, which had previously been a lagging component of the economic recovery, began to grow faster than inflation in 2015, with middle-class (by 5%) and lower-income (by 8%) workers earning more than any year after the Census Bureau began tracking the figures in 1967. Nonetheless, the annual economic growth rate did not exceed 2% at any point during Obama’s presidency, and the trend toward increasing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the population continued, fueling widespread political discontent among voters.