Antique Map of Europe 1595

Antique Map of Europe 1595

This is partly the post I would have done yesterday but did not have time. What is most disturbing about President Obama’s poll numbers – which are about where they should be considering the economic legacy left by conservatives and the difficulty in undoing that damage – is that many Democrats see the Obama presidency as half empty rather than half full. For me  the problem in trying to dissuade either is they both have good points. ‘THE LAST TIME ANY PRESIDENT DID THIS MUCH IN OFFICE, BOOZE WAS ILLEGAL’….

Take Rachel Maddow, for instance.

If you missed “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Friday, you missed a similar assessment, considering the Obama presidency in this larger context.

The clip is worth watching in its entirety, but Rachel’s recitation of some of Obama’s greatest hits revealed a pretty impressive list.

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“Even before today’s historic Wall Street reform agreement, President Obama, of course, did what politicians have been trying to do for more than 60 years. He passed health reform, which, for the first time, establishes government responsibility for the health care of American citizens. Consider also the stimulus bill. It didn’t just throw a lasso around our entire economy and yank and yank it back from the brink, it also pumped about $100 billion into the crumbling embarrassment of our national infrastructure and transportation system. It was the largest investment in infrastructure since Ike. For solving our country’s energy problems, something Obama has compared to man walking on the moon, it contained about $60 billion in spending and tax incentives for renewable and clean energy, also a historic investment. It also included an unheralded but giant investment in science and tech, amping up the budgets at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and an experimental energy research agency that was created under President George W. Bush, but never funded until now.

“President Obama also expanded state kids’ health insurance to cover another four million kids. He signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act amending the 1964 civil rights act for equal pay for equal work. He signed a nuclear arms deal with Russia that would reduce both countries’ arsenals by a third. He created a new global nonproliferation initiative to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. He set forth an international way forward on that radical left-wing proposition of Ronald Reagan, a world without nuclear weapons.

“Then there are the legislative and policy achievements that don’t just build on previously-set precedents, but set new ones. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. It had languished in Congress for years. The Food and Drug Administration permitted for the first time to regulate tobacco. Better late than never, he dismantled the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service, broke it into three parts so that the folks who collect money from oil leases aren’t the same ones regulating the industry. And now, it will actually investigate the industry that it was busy schtupping and doing drugs with during the last administration. Obama fired two wartime commanding generals in little over a year.

“He overhauled the astonishing stupidity of the student loan system in which banks were being subsidized to give loans that were guaranteed by the government anyway, a license to print money. That was ended in the savings put toward actual aid to students. He canceled a weapons program that was bloated, unnecessary and totally irrelevant to either of our current wars, the F-22. Why even mention the cancellation of a single weapons system? Because that never happens. Weapons systems never get canceled. The F-22 did, which is itself a miracle.”

Maddow somewhat makes up for that awful, nearly fact free, rant she did on the Gulf spill. Most Democrats probably agree the health care reform bill was not all that we wanted it to be. I think about everyday when I listen to the news and reports about jobless benefits and how Wall St executives are still making bundles of unearned income. That said it is also true that under the circumstances it was probably the best reform we could have gotten. Had reform died, we likely would not have had any reform at all for another 12 to 15 years. And yes the bill was practically written by the health care industry and insurance companies – typical of the kind of triangulation conservative DNCers have been doing since the Bill Clinton years. Though millions of working class Americans and their children caught a rare break. Obama’s Unbelievable Winning Streak

Truth is, Obama has exceeded in 18 months what Clinton and Carter achieved in a combined 12 years.

I know this is supposed to be Barack Obama’s summer of discontent. The oil spill is still gushing; the economy is still floundering; the Afghan war is deteriorating; Americans don’t find him so charming anymore. But have you noticed that when it comes to actual policy, he keeps racking up the wins? This week it was financial-regulatory reform. One can argue about whether the bill the Senate passed will truly change the way Wall Street operates, but off the top of your head, can you name a more significant piece of progressive legislation signed by either of the last two Democratic presidents? Neither can I. And that goes for Obama’s stimulus package and his health-care reform as well. All of which means that, legislatively at least, Obama has exceeded in 18 months what Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter achieved in a combined 12 years. By summer’s end, he’ll also have shepherded two young liberal justices on to the Supreme Court.

Even as Republicans claim political momentum, the country is in the midst of a major shift leftward when it comes to the role of government.

Even on the foreign-policy front, Obama has been meeting with success. He’s gotten Beijing to revalue its currency, which has been a goal of America’s China policy hands for several administrations now.

Financial reform, if we get it at all, is likely to be a replay of health-care reform. There is still hope for stronger derivatives reform and a new Glass-Steagall Act ( which would separate large financial investment firms and banks), but it is a dim hope at best – Feingold a No on FinReg

Senator Feingold was one of eight senators to oppose the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. Senator Feingold also opposed the Wall Street bail-out in 2008. During consideration of the financial regulatory reform bill, Feingold cosponsored a number of key amendments to ensure that banks are no longer too big to fail, and that depression-era reforms to create a firewall between Wall Street and Main Street are restored, among other critical issues.  None of these amendments were included in the final bill, which is why it failed Feingold’s test for real reform.  Amendments Feingold cosponsored included:

* Cantwell-McCain-Feingold amendment to restore the Glass-Steagall firewall between Wall Street and Main Street
* Senator Dorgan’s “too big to fail” amendment, which requires that no financial entity be permitted to become so large that its failure threatens the financial stability of the U.S.
* Brown-Kaufman amendment proposing strict limits on the size of financial institutions
* Dorgan amendment to ban so-called naked credit default swaps, speculative bets that played a role in the economic crisis
* Merkley-Levin amendment to prohibit any bank with government insured deposits from engaging in high-risk finance, like investing in hedge funds or private equity funds

That means Democrats’ next best option will be to win the vote of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who did not vote for the original version either.

Feingold seems determined not to compromise to get the strongest possible bill. Opposing health care reform is turning out however slowly to have been a losing proposition for Republicans as the benefits kick in and people start to understand how much it helps the average American, it is becoming increasingly popular. Opposition played well with the tea nuts who could distort what the bill actually did into conspiracy laden scheme to get grand ma before a death panel some death panel scheme. Finance reform is not playing that way. Conservatives opposed look like just what they are – opposing new play fair rules that would help investors and consumers. Democrats could well call conservatives like Scott Brown’s (R-Mass) bluff and push for the strongest legislation possible. In what looks like a another nod to the glass half empty Democrats Obama had secretly agreed to Brown’s loophole for banks –  Obama Administration Sided With Scott Brown On Wall Street Bill Loophole . Which makes no sense in terms of the politics or policy. Republicans and a few ConservoDems are holding the economy hostage for a few lobbyist and special interests for wrecking protection for Main Street America. It’s almost as though the White House does not want to be bothered with negotiating. Andrew Leonard tries to see the bright side – The Dodd-Frank bank reform bill: A deeply flawed success – In a world where incremental progress is all but impossible to achieve, this is what a triumph looks like

Before getting into the details, it’s probably safe to say that one’s position on the bill’s worth largely depends on one’s starting point. If you are a progressive who believes that the only real solution to Wall Street’s disproportionate ability to screw up the economy is to break up the big banks, then you will be disappointed, and scathing in your criticism. If you are a conservative who, despite the evidence of the last few years, still believes that regulation, ipso facto, is bad, bad, bad, you will also be critical. Every single Republican from the House and the Senate serving on the conference committee voted against the final deal.

The good news,

* There is a reasonably independent consumer financial protection agency. Yes, it was shamefully gutted by a carveout insulating auto dealers from oversight, but it is still an improvement on what existed before. Put consumer advocate crusader Elizabeth Warren in charge, and watch the financial industry quail!
* The ability of credit card companies to gouge merchants with “swipe fees” every time a customer used a debit card is significantly restricted. This was a surprise — few people predicted that the bank reform bill would take a swing at this long festering problem.
* There are new limitations on the amount of proprietary trading banks can do on their own behalf — the so-called Volcker rule.
* There is increased federal oversight of derivatives regulation, and the big banks face new prohibitions on some forms of derivatives trading.

Once again there are some vote issues in the age of compromise. If the stronger version of Finreg only needed a solid majority of 55 votes in the Senate, Obama would be signing the bill now. America is at the mercy of a 60 vote majority. Very fundamental legislation, that protects the country against another great recession and more bail-outs is utterly opposed by conservatives and President Obama seems more interested in getting some kind of finreg passed than a good finreg bill. In this environment Obama and Democrats can keep racking up legislative victories, but the legacy of this administration and this Congress will be a little more hollow because that legislation did not go far enough. This is the time for Obama to put away the easy-going urge to compromise and go straight to the public. He made a special address to the nation to explain the Gulf spill and its implications. Finreg is important enough, with the consequences of a weak bill to be felt for generations, that he should be taking an emergency response approach to reigning in the worse excesses of a financial sector that still has the country by the throat. Really, are Democrats and this White House going to run in 2012 on, as nice as it is, a new consumer protection agency whose enforcement will be somewhat dependent on the personnel that staff it – ala Bush’s Securities Exchange Commission.