12/12/2013 10:01 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Obama and the Harsh Reality Check

You want the good news, or the wincingly bleak news that makes you shudder and sigh and wish you didn't have such sad dreams? You want a bit of both? You should probably hear a bit of both.

Because here's the thing: He did more or less what he said he was going to do -- so far, anyway -- which was to end Bush's devastatingly stupid war(s), re-establish America as a respectable force in world affairs, orate in complete sentences so as not embarrass the nation on the international stage at every turn, shift the race discussion to the next level, enact at least some modest education reform, protect women's rights, defend the middle class, slap back the GOP's toxic plot to rule American politics for the next 75 years and usher in an impossibly variegated, increasingly messy era of barely controlled, women-empowered, multicultural chaos in which old, fear-soaked white men no longer control every election, industry, media, cultural discussion, power source and hunk of propaganda in the nation.

And what of Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act? So horribly mismanaged, watered down, blocked, lied about and spit upon that it's almost impossible to tell that it's a pretty good law overall, one that will reverberate for years and benefit millions, despite the raging lies and laughable rhetoric of the right. Word.   

Oh, yes ­-- one more thing:­ When Obama took office, the Dow was a desolate, gut-wrenching 800 points and plummeting like a suicidal eagle. Every pundit from the Wall Street Journal to the Economist declared that America's unprecedented combination of a failed war, brutal housing crisis, recession, auto industry collapse and manufacturing exodus was a perfect storm of economic cataclysm that would take at least 20 years to fix, if that. Obama said he'd do most of it in four. Maybe five.

Behold. Both the Dow and S&P 500 reached record highs just last week. In just five short years, the economy, while maybe not exactly "booming," has more than fully recovered in nearly every category. The auto industry is flourishing anew. There's also 1.5 million new jobs, and unemployment has steadily dropped to a slightly more reasonable seven percent (jobs always lag behind growth).

In short, the guy accomplished the unimaginable. We are now is as stable and strong as can be for a fractured, deeply corrupt, post-9/11 nation on the verge of perpetual economic and environmental apocalypse. Miraculous? Damn straight.

Of course, that doesn't tell quite the whole story, does it? For lo, the woes and problems, snags and disappointments are plethoric, ugly and barbed like everyday hate speech on Fox News.


Oh, the missed opportunities, the failings, the ugly choices that make you despise politics all over again, and realize it's all just an insidious shell game, and you're not even rich enough to be the pea.

Radical overhaul of Wall Street corruption and runaway greed when Obama had the chance? Didn't happen, won't happen. Cartoonish CEOs still gorging on salary bloat, many making as much as 1,000 times the pay rate of their average employee? No end in sight. We now live in a country where wealth inequality is so violently lopsided as to be laughable, if it weren't so disgusting. The kicker? The ratios are probably a lot worse than you think.

Despite all the good Obama has done, from housing reform, defending gay rights, killing DADT/DOMA and enacting college loan reform, et al, the dominant system is more brutally rigged for the over-class than ever, and Obama is more enmeshed in that framework than even the most moderate Democrats imagined. He has also repeatedly upheld the Patriot Act, increased military spending, increased domestic oil production, championed drone warfare, and done almost nothing to curtail the NSA or America's rabid gun fetishism. Benghazi? Iran? Guantanamo? What else you got?

I will never be so cynical to say it doesn't matter which party is in office (God forbid we were in a McCain or Romney presidency right now), but...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the new Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...