Last year as we began the school year, the nation was in a frenzy over the upcoming election. Some people wanted McCain, some Obama, and others were just happy to be getting rid of Bush. But now, that time seems like long ago. Obama has been in office for over seven months now, and the country is already a very different place than it was when Bush left.
In the last weeks of the Bush presidency, the bottom fell out of the US economy, just in time for George Bush to pass most of the problem on to Obama. Obama launched his well-known stimulus package soon after taking office and claims that it is working. However, he has come under harsh criticism from conservatives who say that in reality, he plan has done little to ease the crisis. As I write this, the Dow Jones is up for the day and is just over 9500. The NASDAQ is also up and is at 2050. These are good signs. However, the employment statistics from the month of August are not very promising. True, there were fewer layoffs than expected, a sign that job losses are slowing. But that still leaves the problem of what is going to happen to people who lost their jobs months ago.
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 216,000 jobs were lost in August, bringing the total loss since December ’07 to just under 7 million. And while some sectors seem to be recovering, others are still cutting jobs. Transportation, leisure, hospitality, and retail jobs remained mostly flat, while health care jobs posted slight gains. But manufacturing and financial sector jobs continued to decline. The biggest loser continues to be construction, losing 65,000 jobs in August.
Of course, Obama has had more success in other areas. He has made efforts to reach out to the Arab world, and no matter what right-wing conservatives say, most people are happy to see Guantanamo Bay closing down and a real plan drawn up to get out of Iraq. Obama has made a real effort to be a different kind of president. That’s what people wanted during the election, remember?
This week, Obama gave a speech to ninth graders who recently began their school year. Obama did not talk to the kids about his policies or attempt to indoctrinate them like many of his opponents feared he would. Instead, he kept politics out of the speech and appeared truly genuine and personal-something few politicians know how to do.
It’s true that Obama has not magically changed our country in the last few months. It is also true that the enthusiasm over his election has waned since he took office, and perhaps this is due to the intensely high hopes that people had for him. But it has only been seven months, and real change will take time. We won’t just wake up one day and realize that Obama has made the recession go away and secured victory in Iraq. But with a good plan and good execution, many Obama policies have a real chance to make a lasting, positive change.