President Obama will deliver his farewell address from Chicago next Tuesday. Here’s what he would say if the Observer’s editorial board wrote his speech:
My fellow Americans,
Eight years ago, you elected me with the expectation that I would deliver hope and change. Today, I prepare to leave the White House disappointed at the tenor of our national discourse but heartened by the incredible progress we have made as a country on so many fronts. I would like to reflect on some of this nation’s accomplishments under my administration, a few of my regrets and where this great country goes from here.
When I took office, we were in a historic financial mess. We are now significantly better off on one economic measure after another. The stock market is at an all-time high. The unemployment rate has dropped dramatically (though participation in the labor market has also). Federal spending the past couple of years has been about the same as it was in the years before I took office. Inflation is down, exports are up and job growth is steady.
And look at what has happened to the deficit. It has dropped by two-thirds. President Bush’s 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion was almost half the total budget. The deficit in 2015 was $438 billion, or 12.5 percent of the total budget. Consumer debt, on things like credit cards, mortgages and car loans, has fallen almost every quarter since I took office.
I’m proud of the common-sense regulations we helped put on Wall Street. The Dodd Frank law addressed some of the core causes of the Great Recession, and my Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has put $12 billion back in consumers’ pockets.
Presidents have been trying to get health care reform passed for generations. We got it done. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 20 million formerly uninsured people now have health insurance. Insurers can’t reject you for having a pre-existing condition. And parents can keep their children on their insurance until age 26. Republicans want to dismantle Obamacare, but regular folks like you want to keep its core benefits.
I’m proud that we helped save the U.S. auto industry. In 2009, with Detroit on the verge of collapse, we invested $62 billion into the industry. That money has already been repaid and millions of jobs were saved.
Now, I admit that I was a bit slow to be fully on board with gay rights. But I eventually got there. I repealed the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and I supported LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage. I’m proud of how far we’ve come on equality.
Despite the good folks in Norway giving me the Nobel Peace Prize, I did have a mixed record on foreign policy. Osama bin Laden is dead, and most of our troops have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. But Syria haunts me daily, and I could have done more early on to lessen the pain there. I have appeared weak on the Middle East, emboldening Putin and Russia.
Overall, though, I am proud that I have led the nation with dignity and character, and that there has never been a whiff of corruption in my administration during my eight years.
Donald Trump takes office at a time of great peril domestically and abroad. I pray that he will be motivated by nothing but love for this country, and that the American people will always hold dear the ideals upon which this nation was founded.