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While Obama was President I signed up to receive the White House Memo, a daily emailed news bulletin on items about President Obama’s activities and stances. I still get it now that Trump is President.  The other day, there was this little bit in it.

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“Today’s announcement of his “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce” returns the Federal government to its primary purpose, to provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. “

So, Trump considers one of the primary purposes of the Federal government is to “promote the general Welfare”.

Wow, can’t tell that by his actions.

However, I am going to take him at his words and accept that he believes that what he is promoting is for the general welfare of the American people.  Hey, what can I say, I am just that sort of guy.

So, being that sort of guy, what does taking Trump at his word tell me about Trump.

Well, looking just at his budget proposals, it tells me that Trump’s idea of promoting the general welfare of the American people consists of just one primary metric – money.  What is worse, it is a short sighted, immediate measure of money.  He has no concept of investing in the future, or of what the future costs of an action might be.  He only looks at the monetary bottom line right now, right at this moment in time.

Wow, no wonder he had so many bankruptcies.

Looking at his budget, you see several examples of this sort of thinking (and during his campaign it cropped up constantly, such as in his initial evaluation of NATO – although now, thanks to Trump of course, NATO has been made current and relevant).   For example, his budget regarding medical research and public health.  Trump proposes cutting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by 20%.  Further, the Obamacare repeal, which Trump has taken up again, would reduce the CDC by 12%, and his budget rejiggers how it’s money is used in a way that will lower the amount again.

These organizations deal with such national issues as bioterrorism and large disease outbreaks. They also though deal with a host of both national local health issues in communities across the US, from diabetes and heart disease, to cancer and arthritis.

Diabetes, to mention just one area, is expected to affect about 1/3 of the US population by 2050.  That will be a huge cost on people and on businesses.  Cutting the research for ways to prevent and better treat or cure diabetes will save us money now, but cost us much much more in a few years.

Or maybe not even within a few years.  According to a 2016 study the NIH alone sends funds to over 2,600 institutions within the United States.  This creates more than 313,000 full and part time jobs.

So, what do you think is going to happen to those jobs if these organizations lose a significant piece of their funding?  Even worse, this money is used to buy equipment and supplies from various businesses.  What do you imagine is going to happen to jobs in those industries if these cuts go through?

How does Trump propose to make up those lost jobs?

How does Trump overlook that these programs are a direct benefit to the welfare of the American people?

Part of the answer is that Trump is not concerned with any impact other than money being spent right now.  What cutting these items will mean in the future, even near term future, is no concern of his.  What these cuts will to the lives  and health of millions of Americans is of no concern to him.  The money right now is all that he focuses on.

The same holds true with is actions in regards to our environment and to climate change.  A new study came out about the negative health effects that climate change is having on us in the United States already.  And this doesn’t even address the problems cities and coastal communities are having with the rising sea levels caused largely by climate change.

The same sort of thinking is seen throughout his budget and his actions.  Yes, there can be cuts, and keeping jobs should not be the primary interest in determining budgets.  But it should be a significant concern.  And there needs to be carefully thought out justifications for those cuts and an appreciation of the ramifications of those cuts, all of the ramifications and not just the money.  However, thinking is not one of Trump’s strengths.

But, there is more .

It is important to remember that the United States consists of over 318 million people.  So, which group of American’s welfare are we going to take care of?  With 318 million people, welfares are going to conflict.  Whose welfare a President chooses and how they go about it says a great deal about that President.

So, what about Trump then?  Whose welfares does he look after first?  And how does he fit priority with all the other welfares in this nation of ours?

I think Trump’s budget proposals start to give an idea of that.  But, just to build up the suspense, I am going to allow a little white space to accumulate while you think and ponder on this question – whose welfare is Trump going to look after above all others.  A hint:  it involves money…again.

OK, enough white space. In case you haven’t guessed, consider Trump’s executive order  halting the implementation of a rule that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients.  Currently financial advisers do not have to, and often do not, act in the best interests of their clients.  Instead they often promote investments that will help them out whether those investments are best for their client or not.

So, it seems that Trump is most concerned with the welfare not of the common people, not the everyday citizen, not with those struggling, but, instead, with big business and investors.  The money people.

A look at his cabinet also reveals this to be true. This impression is further supported by a look at his cabinet and advisors.  With a few exceptions, business people with ties to the biggest businesses, and the wealthy seem to be his primary consideration in picking them, not their qualifications and knowledge of whatever they have been put in charge of, or of government and of how it works.

So, yes, Trump is concerned with the welfare of the American people.  But, his view of what the welfare consists of is a limited view, a pinched view focused solely on money and in the moment. It is almost a Scroogian sort of view, if Scrooge (pre-spirits of course) had also been an egotistical narcissist.  It is also a concern mainly with that population of the American people who are big businesses and who have money.

The rest of us can just go get screwed, which is what is happening right now,

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When President Obama was first sworn in eight years ago, I watched with mixed feelings.  I fully felt and shared the feelings and emotions of the crowd attending in feeling that history had reached a watershed moment, that a group whose members had been despised and put down had one of their own in the most powerful office of the land.  I fully supported what Obama the candidate had said and the positions he took.  And he spoke inspiringly well.  But, being the first black president of the United States put him under a huge burden, under the intense scrutiny of all.  I worried about how this man, Barak Hussein Obama, would do. Could he live up to this moment?

Many of those asking this question along with me would be more likely to hold him to a much higher standard and more quickly and easily criticize him than they would a white person due to unconscious bias.  Some of us, too many no matter their numbers, looked at him with hatred due to openly held and argued racism.  And then there were those whose ideology and political beliefs would not allow them to support President Obama, no matter how well he would do the job.

Added to this was that Obama was taking over a country suffering under the worst recession since the Great Depression.  A country that was bleeding from wars in the Middle East and in whom most of the world had little respect.  Given these challenges, the chances of failure were great, the burden of Presidency even heavier.  As the years passed though, President Barack Hussein Obama proved more than equal to these challenges and these burdens.

Through all these last eight years President Obama has presided with grace, dignity and poise.  While some may blow this off as just style over substance, the style is important.  It sets the tone of our nation.  It sets the impressions that those outside of the US see.  It can open or close doors to communication and understanding.

 

However, President Obama was much more than just style.   His presidency was one of substance too.  These are just a few of the many accomplishments of his administration.

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He managed our economy so that it came out of the recession more quickly and in better shape than almost any other industrial country in the world.  Yes, it was not perfect, but it was well done, and the best that could be done.  And it is still improving even at the end of his eight years:  unemployment down, pay checks rising, the stock market more than doubling, and record number of months with increased job creation.

In addition, he pushed for and signed into law stronger financial regulations that would help prevent another great recession such as the one he guided us out of; the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

President Obama also managed to pass massive healthcare reform, something that many presidents, both Republican and Democrat, had tried to do, and failed.   It is not perfect and it has flaws.  But, it is good, it is a step in the right direction, and it has provided millions and millions of Americans needed health care.  Lives have been saved; lives have been improved and made better, because of the Affordable Care Act.  It forms and could, if allowed, continue to form the basis of something much better.

President Obama made great strides towards providing equal rights towards gays.  Before President Obama gays had to serve secretly in the military and could not wed.  Now, they can proudly serve the US as themselves.  Now, they can wed the person they love, and openly love that person.

He improved our international standing through the use of diplomacy and new policies.  He ended the Iraq war and reduced our presence in Afghanistan.  He denounced and prohibited the use of torture.  He managed a new nuclear deal with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenal.  He found and killed bin Laden.  He increased sanctions on Iran that led to a treaty on Iran’s nuclear program.

His administration has expanded opportunities for women in our country.

He has brought much needed light and discussion to racial issues still in existence in our country, including working to find ways to improve policing.

In regards to the environment, his administration not only helped craft and signed the Climate agreement in Paris, but has worked to reduce our carbon emissions, increase alternative energy use, improved our water and land usage, and increased our national parks.

President Obama has had no scandals in his administration or within his family – a first for a Presidential administration and family in a long, long time.

As I said, this is only a partial and incomplete listing of his accomplishments.

President Obama, like all Presidents, was not able to achieve all that he wished.  However, politics is the art of the possible.  Perfection, besides being beyond human ability, is also not possible in politics with so many differing, discordant, and conflicting views on what should and should not be done.

In regards to immigration, he was unable to get Congress to pass immigration reform.  But, he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.

In regards to Guantanamo, he was unable to close it.  But, he was able to reduce its population from a peak of 700 prisoners to around 40 when he leaves office.

Like any President, he has had his failures.  Some of them large.  He has had policies and practices that I disagreed with, sometimes strongly.

However, through all of this he has handled successes and failures, progress and setbacks, with a calm dignity.  In addition he has handled the relentless insults and slanders and abuse directed at him with humor and aplomb, from the birther nonsense, to being called a liar by a Congressman during Obama’s speech to Congress, to portrayals of his wife as an ape and worse.

In fact, it was not only President Obama who has exhibited class and dignity, and an ability to communicate with Americans, but his whole family:  Michelle, Sasha, and Malia.   They have been one of the most positive family models in the White House in a long time.

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JFK’s presidency has often been referred to as Camelot, from an interview with Jacqueline Kennedy in which she stated that “There will be great presidents again.  But there will never be another Camelot.”    This was in reference to the musical Camelot, which had these lines at the end, as King Arthur goes out to fight his final battle, his kingdom in rack and ruin.

While President Obama’s presidency is far from lying in rack and ruin, I think the line that inspired this is appropriate.

“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”

It is not only his accomplishments, but his manner, his demeanor and that of his family that will last and continue to influence us for years to come.

History consists of a great many moments, some shining, some dark and ugly.  President Barack Hussein Obama’s election and time as our President was one of those shining moments.

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