With the passage of financial reform today, I think it is time to step back and appreciate all this Congress and the Obama administration have accomplished in the last 19 months. While there is still a lot to do, it is important to remember why we worked so hard for the 2008 election and why we need to work just as hard for the 2010 election.
Below is a brief summary of the major accomplishments of the Obama Administration and this Congress.
Financial Reform Bill "represents the most profound restructuring of financial regulation since the Great Depression". Below is a brief outline of the bill:
Creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be housed in the Fed.
The new agency will have the power to write and enforce new rules governing mortgages and other financial products and Banks with more than $10 billion in assets would be subject to examination.
The government will be given the power to seize and close down large failing firms.
Shareholders and unsecured creditors would bear losses, and management would be removed. Nearly all derivatives deals will have to be conducted through central clearinghouses, so investors can be confident about settling their bets, and firms will have to raise money to cover any unexpected losses.
Most derivatives would be traded on public exchanges, not in private side deals.
Large Wall Street banks will have to spin off some of their trading of derivatives.
The Fed, FDIC and Office the Comptroller of the Currency would each have jurisdiction over different types of banks, with the FDIC, for instance, regulating state banks while the OCC would be responsible for national ones.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a sweeping piece of legislation that will allow 32 million Americans access to health care coverage. The key changes are outlined below (note these changes will take place between 2010 – 2014).
Extension of private insurance coverage for young people through age 26 on parents’ insurance.
Increase funding for Community Health Centers to allow for nearly a doubling of the number of patients seen by the centers over the next 5 years.
Free preventive care under Medicare and new private plans.
Bans lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on coverage on coverage.
Small business tax credits
Slowly closes the donut hole.
Expands Medicaid eligibility to 133% of federal poverty level and requires states to offer Medicaid to childless adults.
Eliminates pre-existing condition in private insurance.
Insurance companies can no longer charge higher rates due to health status or gender. Premiums can vary only on age (no more than 3:1), geography, family size, and tobacco use.
Also, included in the bill was provisions that ended fees paid to banks for student loans. That money was instead used to increase the amount of loans provided to students directly.
The American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009(commonly known as the Stimulus Bill) was the largest spending bill in U.S. History. Below is a breakdown of the progressive spending allocated in this bill:
Education - Total: $90.9 billion
* $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants from $4,731 to $5,350
* $13 billion for low-income public schoolchildren
* $12.2 billion for IDEA special education
* $2.1 billion for Head Start
* $2 billion for childcare services
* $300 million for increased teacher salaries
* $70 million for the education of homeless children
Aid to low income workers, unemployed and retirees - Total: $82.5 billion
* $20.3 billion for food (Food Stamp Program, refill food banks, lunch programs for children and seniors)
* $14.2 billion to give one-time $250 payments to Social Security recipients, people on Supplemental Security Income, and veterans receiving disability and pensions.
* $3 billion in temporary welfare payments
* $500 million for vocational training for the disabled
* $120 million for subsidized community service jobs for older Americans
Infrastructure Investment - Total: $80.9 billion
* $17.8 billion for public transportation projects
* $6 billion for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure
Energy - Total: $61.3 billion
* $15.5 billion funding for an electric smart grid
* $10.8 billion investments in increasing energy efficiency
* $7.3 billion for environmental clean-up
This bill was originally introduced into Congress in 2001. With its passage, the 1969 U.S. federal hate crime law is expanded to include crimes motivated by victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This act is the first federal law to extend legal protections to transgender persons.
This bill contains much needed funding for women veterans and provided funding to allow caregivers to stay home with veterans to help in their recovery.
Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (contains Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act)
Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
New rules raising fuel standard requirements.
New rules to regulate coal air pollution, which may result in utilities shutting down smaller, dirtier plants.
New sulfur dioxide emissions limits, which is the first change in 40 years.
New rules to limit water pollution from mining.
The plan to bail out General Motors has been a success and they are already starting to pay the U.S. back. In May, General Motors reported 1st quarterly profits in 3 years.
Executive order reversing stem cell ban.
Memo directing HHS to draft rule to prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to same-sex partners.
Reversed the "Mexico City Policy" banning funding international family planning groups that provide abortions.
PolitiFact has been tracking President Obama's ability to deliver on candidate Obama's promises. Here's the tally (not including Financial Reform):
Total Promises - 505
Promises Kept - 119 (24%)
Promises Compromised 37 (7%)
Promises Broken 19 (4%)
Promises Stalled 82 (16%)
Promises in the Works 245 (49%)
Promises Not Yet Rated 3 (1%)
Pretty impressive for the first 19 months in office. Fufilling the rest of those promises is going to be difficult. It may be impossible with a Republican-controlled Congress. So, let's get to work on GOTV for the 2010 midterms. If you are looking for a way to help, OFA has events going on right now and throughout the summer.
Closing with this quote from Van Jones at the 2010 Campus Progress National Conference:
You are the generation in 2008 that put this country on your back and carried it out of an 8 year hell of despair. And you got us across that finish line because you were willing to take a chance and believe that change was possible. And so you took us from despair to hope – which was hard. But now you’ve got to take us from hope to change. And that’s harder...But if you don’t stand for real change now, if you don’t stand as a generation and say, "No, we meant it when we said we were voting for change," we will never have change in this country.
And as long as you don’t go back to despair and cynicism and all the sort of stuff that people want to pull you back to now because we didn’t get everything done in 18 months – as long as you don’t go back to despair, you keep the hope alive and change is still possible.
We need real change. And we won’t have it unless you stand for it.
Edited to add: Student loan changes in health care bill and the Lilly Ledbetter Act by popular demand. Thanks for the great comments everyone.