Michael Maiello's picture

    Obama's America: The Final Year

    Four years ago, The Daily assigned me my last piece -- a look back at Obama's America from the vantage of 2016.  The finished product is no longer online, but I do have a draft in my Google docs.  In a broad sense, my predictions turned out pretty well.

    I said the economy will have recovered to the point where job growth would begin to put pressure on wages and that the Affordable Care Act, which would not be repealed or majorly overhauled, would play a positive force in the recovery by freeing people from relying on employer-provided health care, should they have entrepreneurial aspirations.

    I'm not bragging because that was a pretty safe prediction.  Really, to have predicted otherwise, you'd have needed a pretty big political axe to grind.  By 2012, signs were all pointing in the direction of job and wage growth.

    I definitely got some of the specifics wrong.  The way I'd written it, you could tell I thought the Fed would have hiked rates a few times by now and that corporate borrowing costs would be higher.  But, we did have one rate hike.  So, not bad on my part (and there is a year to go).

    I was correct that the recovery would not lift all boats and that wealth and income inequality would likely worsen.  I was correct, however, that deficits have shrunk.

    I was wildly wrong in three areas, where I thought Obama would be more effective.

    On taxes, I expected capital gains rates to rise, an income tax hike in the higher brackets (we kind of got that) and a revision of rules that allow hedge fund managers to take their pay in the form of investment income.  None of that happened.

    I expected that Obama would have achieved a cap and trade system to deal with climate change and that such a system would actually be economic stimulus as a new market in carbon credits sprang to life.

    I also predicted that Obama would cut Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age by one year.  In that, I was too cynical, I suppose. I'm glad that didn't happen.

    Oddly, I wrote this:

    Hedge fund managers felt the pinch but were still richer than Croesus. America’s wealthiest grumbled but ultimately realized that they continue to live like gods amongst mortals. Donald Trump seemed most aggrieved, but as history changes slowly, Trump’s rants and complaints continued to make him money.  Though, he is now bald.

    Well, medical science saved Trump's hairline but I seemed to have an inkling that the big orange buffoon would have a major role to play in 2016.

    Also too cynically, I predicted that Obama would support the Keystone Pipeline.  He did not. However, I was correct that Obama's tepid support for fracking did allow the U.S. to achieve a degree of energy independence and that it was a huge part of the recovery. Had the very process not cratered oil prices, the Keystone proposition might have had a different outcome as it seems the products backers just had no right left at $40 a barrel.

    I made a joke about David Broder, thinking he would still be alive. I just now realize (thanks, Wiki!) that he died 8 months before my article ran.  So that's less a wrong prediction than a fact-checking error.

    I wrote that Obama would succeed in closing Gitmo.  The first seventeen detainees will be released next week.

    Here was my kicker:

    One other thing must be said for Obama: He ultimately earned the Nobel Peace Prize he’d been unjustifiably awarded when first elected, but not in the way that the Nobel committee could have predicted.  Obama’s second term, foreign policy wise, continued in the direction of his first.  With Donald Rumsfeld’s ideas, but the deft hand that Rumsfeld lacked, Obama used a combination of high technology and military Special Forces to prove himself the bane of dictators and terrorists.  He left the world a freer place and ultimately validated his peace prize through judicious use of the sword. 

    I now think the Rumsfeld shot is a little cheap -- it grants too much to Rumsfeld and allows too little credit for Obama's thoughtful foreign policy. I do think Obama will leave the world a better place than he found it and some credit for that belongs to his willingness to use the military, though I was pretty much skeptical about it in every instance.

    Overall it looks like when I was right it was when I took Obama at his word and where I was wrong it was where I imagined he had unspoken motivations (like raising the Social Security retirement age).  This is not surprising.  Obama will be appreciated, when he's out of the office, for the integrity be brought to the job.

    Wish he'd pardon Snowden, though.




    I think your analysis was spot on considering the economic instability and the intractability woven into congress. Progressives were fundamental in fighting to keep the president just to the left of center, but the Tea party pushed the Republicans so far to the right that maybe we need a new definition of centrist. Great post!

    Mike - When you're right, you're right.  It also appears that when you're wrong, you're right.  See this article on effective tax rates paid by the rich.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/upshot/thanks-obama-highest-earners-ta...

    Awww, come on, Hal... that can't be true.  If taxes were waged on the wealthy, it would have tanked the economy!  The Republicans told me so!

    Happy New Year!

    Back at ya Michael!

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