by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers
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Today marks 100 days since President Obama took office. Yesterday, The Progress Report examined how conservatives chose to spend their first 100 days. Today, we highlight the accomplishments of the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 21, 2009, with two broad mandates bestowed upon him by the American people: repair the mess that President Bush and his administration left behind after eight disastrous years in office, and enact a bold, progressive agenda that includes fixing our nation's health care system and seriously addressing global climate change. Obama went to work right away, pushing the "biggest, boldest countercyclical fiscal stimulus in American history" through Congress -- a $787 billion dollar measure that not only creates jobs but also provides investments in energy, transportation, education and health care. Obama also announced his intention to shift focus and resources away from Bush's misbegotten adventure in Iraq and refocus on Afghanistan, where the security situation is worse than it has been since the start of the U.S.-led war there in October 2001. Now, a series of recent public opinion polls shows that the American public not only overwhelmingly approves of the job Obama is doing as president, but they also believe the nation is heading in the right direction -- "the first time in years the nation has held such an optimistic view of its future." For example, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 50 percent of Americans now say the country is on the right track (48 percent say the wrong track), compared with just 13 percent who had the same feeling last October (85 percent said the U.S. was heading in the wrong direction at that time). Indeed, in his first 100 days in office, Obama has received the support of the American public to implement the progressive agenda he campaigned on.
BREAK FROM BUSH: Shortly after taking office, Obama worked quickly to repair the damage done under Bush and has, in total, issued 29 executive decisions reversing Bush administration policy. On his first day as president, Obama signed an executive order mandating the closure of the Guantanamo Bay terror detainee prison camp within one year. The next day, he ordered military leaders to establish a plan for a responsible withdrawal from Iraq,and he signed executive orders ending CIA secret prisons and ending torture by requiring that all interrogations abide by the Army Field Manual. Obama put these first actions as president in simple terms. "We intend to win this fight" against terrorists, he said. But "we are going to win it on our own terms." On the domestic front, Obama reversed Bush's restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in March, asserting that his administration would "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." In London at the G20 Summit and in other European capitals earlier this month, Obama reassured America's friends and allies that the United States would reengage the world as an equal partner. "We're starting to see some restoration of America's standing in the world," Obama said in London. " It is "very important for us to be able to forge partnerships as opposed to dictating solutions." As far as "dictating solutions," Obama also ditched Bush's "with us or against us" foreign policy mindset in dealing with America's allies and adversaries. Indicating his sincerity in reaching out to the Muslim world, Obama granted his first television interview as president to Dubai-based Al-Arabiya. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy," Obama said, adding, "We are offering a hand of friendship." Most significantly, Obama also opened the door to direct dialogue with Iran last month, sending the government and its people a "groundbreaking" "special message" on Nowruz, the start of the Persian New Year, in which he said the U.S. is seeking "engagement" with Iran "that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."
A PROGRESSIVE AGENDA: On Jan. 29, Obama signed his first major piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an equal pay law making it easier for workers -- most of whom are women -- to initiate pay discrimination lawsuits. "We are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness," Obama said at the bill's signing ceremony. Six days later, Obama signed a bill expanding publicly funded health insurance for children, known as SCHIP, legislation Bush had vetoed twice despite strong bipartisan support in Congress. The bill reduces the number of uninsured children by about half over the next four years and will "boost the number covered by the program to 11 million." "In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to trade offs or negotiation -- health care for our children is one of those obligations," Obama said. And just last week, the President signed a $5.7 billion national service bill championed by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that "triples the size of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years and expands ways for students to earn money for college."
THE NEXT 100 DAYS AND BEYOND: Obama and Congress have yet to finalize legislation that would fully accomplish health care reform and solve our climate crisis, but these two major issues remain on the front-burner and have received significant attention in the administration's first 100 days. The economic recovery bill passed earlier this year contained key health care provisions that lead the way toward reform, including $19 billion for health care information technology to implement electronic health records and an agency to "conduct and support research that would assess the benefits of competing treatments," both of which aim to reduce future overall costs. Moreover, Obama's budget creates a "reserve fund" as a down payment to reform the health care system. The stimulus bill also provided a boost to a green economy. In what The New York Times called "the biggest energy bill in history," the Recovery Act provides $91 billion for clean energy investments. In a further indication that addressing climate change is a top priority for the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed this month that greenhouse gas pollution endangers the health and welfare of the American public. The move finally complies with the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling -- ignored by Bush -- that such emissions should be regulated by the federal government under the Clean Air Act. Obama's budget contains key energy provisions that also aim to limit greenhouse gases and build a clean-energy economy, such as a mandatory cap on carbon emissions which is expected to raise hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years that will go toward clean energy development and tax credits for working Americans.