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The Presidency of Barack Obama
In 2004, Barack Obama’s landslide victory in the Illinois Senate Election made him a very popular figure in the Democratic Party. That year, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama gave the keynote speech and his popularity increased. History was made, in 2008, when the Democrats nominated Obama as the first African American to run as a Presidential candidate in a major political party. Joe Biden, a Senator from Pennsylvania, became his Vice Presidential running mate. George W. Bush, a Republican, had completed two terms and could not run again. The Republicans nominated John McCain, a Senator from Arizona. McCain had a long political career and was a war hero. He was a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War for six years. As his running mate, John McCain chose Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. Obama won the Election of 2008 and became the first African American President in the history of the USA.
By 2008, Before Obama took office, the economy took a drastic downturn and entered into the Great Recession. Many people lost their homes and banking firms faced bankruptcy. By January of 2009, unemployment topped 7.2%. The highest unemployment rate during this era reached around 10%. Before leaving office, George W. Bush, going against traditional Republican economic policy, supported using taxpayer money to bail out various banks. Obama continued Bush’s policy and also supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund infrastructure, education, and other programs. By 2015, unemployment had fallen to 5.7%. Yet, other economic traits of the USA were still criticized by many, such as the growing national debt.
Before Obama, the USA’s medical field used a great deal of capitalism. By in large, people had to purchase insurance or achieve jobs that provided it, if they wanted to use it. There were some government structured programs like Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. Yet, most did not qualify for these. President Obama asserted the government should play a greater role in how insurance operated to ensure more Americans had access to healthcare. He asserted the past system left too many uninsured. In order to get the government more involved in managing how insurance operated, Obama supported the passing of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, dubbed Obamacare by the media. The law required insurance companies to cover all applicants with a set of minimum standards and to offer the same prices, regardless of gender and even if the applicant had a preexisting condition concerning a past health problem or illness. It also mandated that citizens buy insurance or face a tax penalty. Many Liberals praised these efforts for offering insurance to those who did not have it. Many Conservatives argued the government was creating an expensive, massive bureaucracy that would damage the high quality of medical services present in the USA. The national debt had topped $10 Trillion under George W. Bush and, by 2015, had topped $16 Trillion under Obama. Within the Republican Party, many expressed concern about Obama’s actions. They asserted Obamacare and other measures increased government spending and grew the national debt. A similar Conservative movement, called The Tea Party, sought to reduce the size of the government by cutting government funded programs and reducing taxes.
A common question in politics is this: Should the government reduce taxes to encourage citizens to spend more money on goods and services or increase taxes to fund and manage various social programs? In this era, many protestors took to the streets of various cities in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protestors camped out and refused to leave various areas. Unlike the Tea Party movement, they were protesting against income inequality between big businesses and the common people. Many in this group believed the rich were not paying their fair share of taxes. They claimed 99% of people struggled economically, while 1% were very wealthy. Many protestors occupied areas around the nation, such as New York’s financial district.
When running for President, Obama asserted that he would reduce the USA’s presence in Iraq and focus the military on Afghanistan, while also seeking to reduce the USA’s presence there as well, when the Afghanis were trained to defend themselves. On May 2nd, 2011, Obama ordered a group of Navy Seals to enter into Pakistan, where Bin Laden had been located, to capture or kill the mastermind of the terror attacks of 9/11/2001. While one helicopter crashed, all the Navy Seals survived and Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed by the Navy Seal team. In 2011, Obama initiated a full pull out from Iraq by the USA Military. The USA kept a small presence there of those that trained locals. By 2014, the USA ended operations in Afghanistan as well, except for a small remaining force. Some asserted it was good for the USA to cease the conflict in Iraq because the war had cost thousands of American lives and was massively expensive. Others asserted that the USA leaving Iraq would create a vacuum in which terrorists would try to take over Iraq. Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the Election of 2012. His policies, including Obamacare and his military strategies, moved forward.
In the midst of the Civil War in Syria during 2013, the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began to gain a strong hold. The group invaded Iraq and began to claim territory. They asserted that their group formed an Islamic Caliphate, with their leader being the self-declared ruler of the Islamic world. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Amir al-Mu'minin, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim, claimed to be this Caliphate. Leaders in the USA government, including Obama, asserted ISIS in no way represented the authentic religion of Islam. ISIS pursued horrific atrocities of murder, torture, beheadings, and crucifixions as they gained ground in Syria and Iraq. The USA initiated air strikes against ISIS and Obama asserted that ISIS would be defeated and their spree of terrorism would end.
By 2014, the USA had experienced massive immigration from Mexico and other areas. Political leaders debated how the USA should address the legal status of these individuals. Obama wanted Congress to reform immigration policies to give legal status to many of these immigrants. After Congress failed to pass a reform bill, Obama issued an executive order to give assistance to many of these immigrants, such as parents of US citizens, to stay in the USA without being deported. Over three million immigrants qualified for the deferrals that Obama issued with his executive order.