thirsting for change: obama’s first 100 days

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It is difficult to evaluate an administration after only 100 days. George W. Bush, who ended his two terms with one of the lowest grades of any U.S. president, received quite positive evaluations after his first three months in office. The Obama team is still bringing people on board and identifying its priorities. Still, the crises facing the United States and the world require immediate and comprehensive action. And, as no less an authority as Aristotle once put it, well begun is half done.

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  • ThirsTing for change Obamas First 100 Days

    I PS -DC.ORG

  • InstItute for PolIcy studIes (iPs-DC.Org) strengthens social movements with

    independent research, visionary thinking, and links to the grassroots, scholars and elected officials. Since 1963

    it has empowered people to build healthy and democratic societies in communities, the United States, and the

    world.

    Mandate for change (manDate4Change.Org) aims to strengthen the Obama

    administration at a time when the need for progressive policies and appointing progressive people to lead

    such efforts is most urgent.

    I PS -DC.ORG

    about the authorsChester Hartman is an associate fellow at IPS

    and the founding Executive Director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

    John Feffer is the codirector of the Foreign Policy In Focus project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

    acknowledgMentsErik Leaver for editing and coordinating the report.

    Nate Kerksick for design and layout.

    Devin West, Mary Tharin, and Alex LaBue for assistance.

    Financial support: Wallace Global Fund

    Contact: Institute for Policy Studies

    Tel: 202 234 9382 x 227

    Email: info@ips-dc.org

    1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600

    Washington, DC 20036

    http://www.ips-dc.org

  • contents

    I. IntroductIon ................................................................................................ 3

    inaugural aDDress ........................................................................................5

    Climate ................................................................................................................5

    health Care ....................................................................................................8

    eDuCatiOn ....................................................................................................... 10

    II. doMestIc PolIcy rePort ....................................................................... 13

    POverty ................................................................................................................... 18

    hOmelessness ...................................................................................................20

    Drugs ........................................................................................................................ 22

    inequality ............................................................................................................24

    tax POliCy ............................................................................................................ 26

    raCe ........................................................................................................................... 28

    WOmens rights ...............................................................................................30

    agriCulture ....................................................................................................... 32

    labOr ........................................................................................................................34

    OPen gOvernment ........................................................................................36

    lOCal DemOCraCy .........................................................................................38

    III. foreIgn PolIcy rePort ........................................................................41

    aFghanistan ......................................................................................................46

    iraq .............................................................................................................................48

    COunterterrOrism ......................................................................................50

    nuClear .................................................................................................................. 52

    military sPenDing .........................................................................................54

    traDe anD glObalizatiOn .....................................................................56

    human rights .................................................................................................... 58

    glObal envirOnment .................................................................................60

    aFriCa .......................................................................................................................62

    asia .............................................................................................................................64

    miDDle east .........................................................................................................66

    latin ameriCa ....................................................................................................68

    IV. author bIos ...............................................................................................71

  • -

  • IntroductIon

    3

    the world cheered his victory. The new president

    takes office with a mandate for change. But has the

    new U.S. president offered the change necessary to

    confront the multiple new threats that assail America

    and the globe? Or has he only addressed the tip of

    the iceberg?

    It is difficult to evaluate an administration after only

    100 days. George W. Bush, who ended his two terms

    with one of the lowest grades of any U.S. president,

    received quite positive evaluations after his first three

    months in office. The Obama team is still bringing

    people on board and identifying its priorities. Still,

    the crises facing the United States and the world

    require immediate and comprehensive action. And,

    as no less an authority as Aristotle once put it, well

    begun is half done.

    In our book Mandate for Change, we lay out a de-

    tailed, progressive agenda for repairing the damage

    of the last decade and rebuilding Americas capabili-

    The United States is facing the largest economic

    crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Un-

    employment rates are soaring, people are losing their

    houses, and the social safety net is too weak to catch

    everyone from slipping into poverty. Meanwhile, on

    the global front, the United States faces the threat of

    climate change, nuclear proliferation, and diminish-

    ing sources of energy to fuel the economy. We are

    bogged down in wars abroad and losing the war on

    poverty at home.

    Anyone who wants to lead the United States at such

    a time must be either crazy or very, very confident.

    Barack Obama, who comes into office at this peril-

    ous moment for his country and for the world,

    certainly falls into the second category. During

    the presidential campaign, he promised sweeping

    changes. Since taking office in January, he has

    quickly assembled his administrative team, given

    several authoritative addresses to the nation, and

    acted very decisively on several fronts. Rolling back

    many of the policies of the Bush administration,

    the new president has embraced a nuclear abolition

    agenda, changed U.S. approach to counterterror-

    ism, announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq,

    introduced several large domestic spending packages,

    and promised a great deal more.

    Many U.S. progressives worked hard to get Barack

    Obama elected. And many progressives around

    manDate FOr Change gradIng the fIrst 100 days

    IntroductIon by John feffer

    oVerall

    7 Obama scores high on rhetoric; on action, the

    review is mixed.

  • thirsting FOr Change: obaMas fIrst 100 days

    4

    The president scored high marks for his rhetoric.

    At the level of action, however, the record so far

    is mixed. In general, the Obama administration

    has acted cautiously in its foreign policy even as it

    has moved quickly to institute some far-reaching

    changes at home.

    In our overall evaluation of the first 100 days, we

    gave the administration a score of 7. In other words,

    President Obama has certainly raised the level of

    U.S. foreign and domestic policy. But honestly it

    wouldnt have taken much to improve on the legacy

    left by the previous administration. Were still a long

    way off from reaching the top and earning a whole-

    hearted cheers from our Change Index contributors.

    ties at home and reputation abroad. Beginning with

    this report on the first 100 days, we will track the

    administrations progress in meeting this ambitious

    agenda.

    This report will inaugurate our Change Index. Every

    administration promises great change and must

    deal with the messes created by its predecessor. Our

    Change Index represents the administrations record

    as a glass of water. It starts out with the water level at

    halfway. Whether the glass is half full or half empty

    depends on your perspective. We have asked 35 con-

    tributors to evaluate the administration on several

    dozen issues according to a variety of indicators in-

    cluding appointments, executive orders, legislation,

    budgetary actions, and so forth. They scored the

    administrations policies on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5

    representing no change.

  • IntroductIon

    5

    Inaugural hIghlIghts

    clIMateby betsy taylor, 1sky

    The Bush White House placed its

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