Now that we’re rearing up on the end of Barack Obama’s second year as president, it seems like a good time to really start judging how he’s been doing so far. Most of his major victories have been in ways that will take a while to spider their way into fruition, so all of the boo-hooing and naysaying that happened within weeks after various bills passed was just stupid to begin with.
So let’s take the stimulus package. Verdict? Yes.
For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.
The stimulus really is starting to change Washington — and not just the buildings. Every contract and lobbying contact is posted at Recovery.gov, with quarterly data detailing where the money went. A Recovery Board was created to scrutinize every dollar, with help from every major agency’s independent watchdog. And Biden has promised state and local officials answers to all stimulus questions within 24 hours. It’s a test-drive for a new approach to government: more transparent, more focused on results than compliance, not just bigger but better. Biden himself always saw the Recovery Act as a test — not only of the new Administration but of federal spending itself.
Sometimes it’s important to realize that many of us had absolutely astronomical expectations for Barack Obama. Yes, he promised us the moon and most people realized it was unrealistic to expect even a few acres of that, but at the same time even the most “realistic” liberals figured that Obama could storm the barn and do everything all at once.
Obama took possibly the smartest strategy there is: put all of his chips into more long-term investments that would benefit the country immensely when they finally flowered, not only giving a more idealistic bonus to Americans at large, but situating himself in a fantastic spot come 2012. After all, what will his opponent be able to say when Obama points out that his stimulus plan was a success on all fronts, despite what the haters were crying early on?