January 22, 2010 | Commentary on Economic Freedom, Political Thought

President Obama's 2009 Congressional Effectiveness Grade F+

President Barack Obama walked into the White House with good will and loads of political capital to use in dealing with Congress. In this past year, The President’s approval ratings have slipped to below average. For a President that walked into office with soaring approval ratings and rhetoric, it all has crashed to the ground with 10% unemployment and so many of the President’s promises broken.

Obama’s report card for his use of Congress to implement his agenda will earn him an F+. Don’t get me wrong, he has been very effective in convincing Congress to march down a very unpopular path, yet he gets poor grades for allowing Congress to hijack his Stimulus idea and the fact he seems reluctant to challenge Congress’ appetite for overspending.

President Obama kicked off the year with a bang. He asked Congress to write a “Stimulus Plan” to help the economy out of 7.8% unemployment, create 3 million new jobs and the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” was born. Congressional appropriators abused the president’s trust and wrote a $787 billion plan full of earmarks and waste.
Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) put out a study on the waste, fraud and abuse in the Stimulus. They found $1 million for a private dinner cruise company to buy alarms and surveillance systems, $54 million was given to relocate the Napa Wine Train, and $21,000 to purchase Bobber the Safety Dog costumes to promote the importance of wearing life vests. These are three of 100 wasteful projects highlighted to prove the point that Obama’s signature piece of economic recovery was an earmark and grant bonanza of government funded waste. Allowing Congress to write the Stimulus earned President Obama an F on his first quarter report card.

Early in the year, the President signed an Omnibus spending bill, the bill that completed the Bush era appropriations bills containing 9,287 earmarks and $20 billion in extra spending. In April, the President signed a $5.7 billion national service bill that pays volunteers and will crowd out private sector charitable efforts. This was followed by the President’s Auto Task Force exiling the CEO of General Motors, then nationalizing the company.

Over the summer, the President signed a $3 billion bill to give cash to individuals who buy fuel efficient cars (Cash for Clunkers), a bill to regulate the credit card industry and a law to further regulate tobacco use. As an adherent to free market economics I give President an F for his disrespect and lack of faith in free markets.

President Obama submitted his first budget, a $3.6 trillion blueprint, to Congress that increased spending by $1 trillion over the next decade. The year ended with about a $1.4 trillion deficit and a $12 trillion in total national debt. Obama gets a flat F for the fact that this administration has done nothing to lower government spending that was too high during the Bush years and seemed to accelerate month by month with the new administration.

Obama nominated and the Senate confirmed Harold Koh to be Legal Advisor to the State Department even though he advocated for global gun control and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court even though she does not believe that the Second Amendment right to self defense exists in the Constitution.

The President’s Attorney General Eric Holder decided to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohamed to New York City for a trial that many fear will endanger New Yorkers and become a forum for KSM and his co-defendants to incite more jihadist hate.

Obama further supported a health care initiative with an unconstitutional mandate that all Americans buy health care or pay a tax. On adherence to the Constitution, this Administration again gets low grades.

The President started the year with an apology tour of the world where he confessed to American “arrogance” in an effort to change the American image around the world. Now, instead of other nations looking to the United States as the land of the free and the home of the brave, Obama would have Americans look to Europe and other nations for examples to follow. Late in the year after months of dithering, the President announced that he had a strategy for a “successful conclusion” to the war in Afghanistan. The President gets a D for his foreign policy initiatives, yet conservatives are rooting for the President to have a better 2010, because our nation can’t afford our Commander-in-Chief to conduct a failing foreign policy.

On the upside, the President gets good grades from conservatives for being the best organizer of right leaning activists since Ronald Reagan. From his lack of transparency during Obamacare negotiations to the proliferation of Czars, the conservative movement has been energized to the point of the formation of a new movement – the Tea Parties.

Obama gets and A+ for helping to do what so many conservative leaders have failed to do over the past 20 years, organize a divergent movement around the idea of limited government, a balanced budget, no more bailouts, we the people being allowed to participate in government, low taxes and a respect for free market capitalism. Sadly, this President has proven not to be much of a leader in his first year and his grades reflect this sad fact.
Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First Appeared in Human Events