Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Musings on America at the start of the New Year - 2014

The past decade was a wild ride.  At the end of the Bush administration, we found ourselves engaged in two wars and were facing a massive meltdown of our economy. We all knew whoever became President was going to have quite a job on their hands. We also knew it was going to take years to 'fix' things and get us out of the deep hole we had dug for ourselves as a country.

Six years into President Obama's administration we are finally climbing out of the hole and things are looking up. The President has presided over the long and painful recovery from the massive financial crisis he inherited, now referred to as "The Great Recession".  The economy is back on track, unemployment is down below 7%, and the trillion dollar deficits that were run up to pay the bills that had come due from the war years and the collapse of the financial sector have been dramatically cut and are back under control.

The war in Iraq is over and our troops are entering the final phase of withdrawal from Afghanistan. Despite the urging by political 'war hawks' that wanted to get our country more actively involved in Libya, Syria, and Iran – the President has successfully managed to walk through  these mine fields and keep us out of another costly war. His reputation has been tarnished, but he has handled these major international challenges fairly well.

In the meantime, the President has overseen our country's move towards energy independence, pursuing a balanced approach that allowed for more drilling for oil and natural gas, while also encouraging the growth of alternative energy industries, e.g. wind, solar.  The country also is in the process of implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also derisively labeled Obamacare by his opponents.  This is a uniquely American version of universal health care – a market-based universal health insurance program for all citizens.

The President has also pushed forward with a number of other significant initiatives that will bear fruit over the coming decade. These include the Open Government and Open Data initiatives that are giving rise to many new 'Big Data' and Data Analytics companies. The Health Information Technology (HITech) Act is going to have a major impact on health care delivery and patient care across the U.S. as the country makes an unprecedented investment in health IT solutions, e.g. Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and Health Information Exchange (HIE) networks.

Despite the many hysterical and ridiculous claims by many of the President's critics, his administration did not take away our guns. He did not move to enslave white people. He did not destroy the free market or capitalism. Despite continued claims that he is not an American, that he was born in Kenya, is a believer in Islam, …  Reasonable and sane people know he is in fact an American, was born in the state of Hawaii, and is a practicing Christian – and has been shown to have great family values.

Despite the supportive tone of this blog, the President deserves some criticism for a number of major shortcomings or failures.  Like many, I disagree with his policies allowing the National Security Administration (NSA) to have almost unlimited authority to collect data on the activities of all U.S. citizens. I think our country's policy of using of drones to kill people in whatever countries we choose is extremely unwise and will come back to haunt us. We still don't have Immigration Reform and many changes to our education system are needed to lower costs and improve our country's ability to compete in the 21st century.

But when it's all said and done, this President and his administration has been good for the country.  We know the Tea Party activists and many citizens across the South will never stop speaking out opposing him and his policies no matter what – and that's alright – that's America. 

My hope – and the hope of most American – is that our next elected President will continue to build on the foundation that has been laid. Both Congress and the next President need to work better together to further strengthen and unify this country as we continue to complete the transition from the 'Industrial Age' of the 20th century to the 'Information Age' of the 21st century.

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