WASHINGTON, January 5, 2015 — What can we expect from the 114th U.S. Congress? How much influence will President Obama have in Washington during the next two years? The past six years may be a guide.
The American public felt deceived by the President and soundly rejected his policies in November, electing the largest Republican majority to the House of Representatives in 80 years, and giving the Republicans control of the Senate. Obama and his policies were the driving force behind Democratic losses.
Obama’s deceptions crop up all over the place. Operation Fast and Furious, corruption in the IRS, the clear deception regarding the Affordable Care Act, the Benghazi scandal, the promise to degrade and destroy ISIS, and the veteran’s Administration fiasco all involved the President telling the public things that were simply not true.
Now when the President speaks about what he has done and what he intends to do, people are skeptical. “Is the President deceiving us yet again,” Americans often ask.
On issues where leadership could have closed divisions among different groups, the President failed. Instead of uniting people, his rhetoric and actions served to widen divisions. This is true in a number of areas.
When campaigning for the presidency, Obama promised to reduce income equality, primarily by taking income from those who have earned it to give it to those who have not. He often said we should “share the wealth.”
In the last six years, exactly the opposite has happened; income inequality has worsened. Lower income people have seen less opportunity and have been unable to increase their earnings. Much of this problem is a result of the Affordable Care Act, which is forcing employers to reduce the work week from 40 hours to something less than 30 hours.
Monetary policy has kept interest rates near zero and caused investors to put money into the stock market, pushing stock prices to record levels. The result is that the rich have gotten much richer, while the poor have gotten poorer, exactly opposite to what Obama promised. He has used rhetoric that blames the problems of the poor on the higher income earners, deepening the division between the classes.
Prior to Obama’s election, most people felt that race relations were improving. While they were far from perfect, Americans had become blind enough to race to elect a person of color to the highest office in the land. Since Obama’s election, most people believe race relations have worsened and the President’s rhetoric may be a large part of the reason. This too divides the country.
The President or a member of Congress suggests new legislation. Before a law is drafted, there should be discussion within the party, between parties, and with the White House to gauge opposition and support. Because there are different points of view, the bill is modified so that it will be acceptable to a majority of members of Congress and the President. Thus the bill is more likely to become a law.
Unfortunately the government has not operated like that since Obama became President and pushed through the disastrous Affordable Care Act. He did it without one vote from the opposing party. That created a deep rift within Congress, partly because of the deceptions of the ACA. Except when he was backed into a corner, Obama’s message was that he wanted things done his way, or they would not be done at all.
President Obama has two years left in office. He now faces a Congress controlled by Republicans. He will be unable to push through legislation unless he learns to compromise. To do this, he must eliminate the deception that he has used in the past and truly become transparent and forthright. He must also learn to bridge divisions rather than deepen them.
It is unlikely that he will do either, and instead will try to divide his Republican opposition. For the next two years he will be a lame duck President. He may even become known as “President no” if he vetoes legislation passed by both houses of Congress. His chance to transform America as a uniter has been lied into ash.