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Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the Daily Kos..... Obama's Nobel Speech

The Audacity To Listen
by blackwaterdog

Share this on Twitter - The Audacity To Listen Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 02:34:17 PM PST
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". (Reinhold Niebuhr).

blackwaterdog's diary :: :: It was both entertaining and sad to hear and read the reactions to Barack Obama's lecture during his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Entertaining, because sometimes it's nice to see how theories that were built on very little knowledge and a lot of hot air and prejudices - collapse within several seconds. Sad, because this was one more example to the deterioration in the quality of the political and public debate over the last decade.

The Left feels betrayed that Mr. Obama celebrated his Nobel Peace Prize with a speech of support in the concept of 'Just War'. And the Right is shocked that this weak Muslim who was born in Kenya and hates America, is actually not such a sucker. Both sides were caught with their pants down only due to various degrees of ignorance. Because the bottom line is that Mr. Obama didn't say anything new in Oslo. At least not new to those who were listening during two years of campaign - Really listening to the man, not to the slogans and the hype - and those who read his fantastic books – Both of them (Just like the Oslo speech) he wrote by himself.

Barack Obama was never a pacifist. He opposed the war in Iraq not because of some anti-war agenda. "I do not oppose all wars", he said already in 2003, "Only dumb wars". He supported the war in Afghanistan throughout, and anyone who really listened to all his big speeches and serious interviews, could never be surprised by his latest decision.

Those who really listened, knew exactly what they were getting on November 4, 2008: A complete new mutation. Hybridization of black and white, not only in the verbal sense. Combination of a Hot-Liberal-Heart, who dreams about peace, equality and justice for all, and Icy-Pragmatic-Brain, who looks at the world with realistic eyes. Idealist, but not ideologist, packed inside exceptional intellect and charisma that is impossible to buy. A man who operate almost like a computer. There are enough emotional citizens In the United States, and even more stupid ones. They need a president who is ice-cool and twice as intelligent.

Those who listened knew that he was dead serious when he said, again and again, that he's not going to let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The only thing that matters is to make progress. He abhors the 'all or nothing' attitude and have very little patience for the extreme and the absolute. Yes, universal health care is his top campaign promise, but this is something so difficult, that no president ever managed to get, so if he needs to compromise, he will without blinking, drive progressives crazy, while moving the progressive ball forward further than anyone else did in 45 years. The main point is to make progress.

This perception comes almost in entirety from a very clear philosophy. In 2000 George Bush was asked who is his fave philosopher. His answer? "Jesus, because he changed my heart". (Jesus, in response, crucified himself again).

Three years ago, in an interview with David Brooks, Obama was asked the same question and Brooks wanted to know if he ever read Reinhold Niebuhr:

Obama’s tone changed. "I love him. He’s one of my favorite philosophers."

So I asked, What do you take away from him?

"I take away," Obama answered in a rush of words, "the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away ... the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

To Andrew Sullivan he said (also more than two years ago):

"You know, reading Niebuhr, or Tillich or folks like that—those are the people that sustain me. What I believe in is overcoming - but not eliminating - doubt and questioning. I don't believe in an easy path to salvation. For myself or for the world. I think that it’s hard work, being moral. It's hard work being ethical. And I think that it requires a series of judgments and choices that we make every single day. And part of what I want to do as president is open up a conversation in which we are honestly considering our obligations - towards each other. And obligations towards the world".
Andrew Sullivan: But you don't think we're ever going to be saved on this earth do you?

Barack Obama: "No. I think it's a ... we're a constant work in progress. I think God put us here with the intention that we break a sweat trying to be a little better than we were yesterday".

And this is how he finished his speech in Oslo last week:

"We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth".

Ooops. Looks very much the same.

This is why Michael Tomasky is kicking both sides for their sudden "suprise" by Obama's speech:

The speech was classic Niebuhrian liberal internationalism. If you know anything about the kind of 1940s liberal internationalism with which Neibuhr is associated (and Arthur Schlesinger and George Kennan, say), and if you're familiar with Obama's previous speeches and remarks on these matters, he said very little in Oslo that was new or surprising.

He has always been much closer in his views to 1948 liberal foreign policy principles than 1968 ones, if you know what I mean. The surprise -- the happy surprise among conservatives, and the anger among some on the left -- says less about Obama than it does about the presumptions of listeners in both camps...

...There was nothing neoconservative about the speech. He's continuing the war that was handed to him. As he always -- always -- said he would. But there was nothing in there to suggest that he would embrace the Bush Doctrine or so-called preventive war. If conservatives want to entertain the fantasy that that was in there, that's their choice. But a "just war" quite explicitly can be fought only to redress a wrong actually perpetrated. Afghanistan, yes (to many of us anyway). Iraq, certainly not.

And by the same token, Obama said, admittedly more emphatically than previously, what he has always said but what the left has never wanted to hear. On foreign policy, he is not a 1960s or 70s liberal. He's a 1940s liberal.

So he is undertaking here nothing less than a re-centering of American foreign policy theory, forcing the defenestration of the false categories of the Bush years and trying to reintroduce into our discourse that older foreign policy liberalism, which has been largely abandoned within the architecture of both political parties -- the Republicans because they've moved so far to the right; and the Democrats not so much because they've moved so far to the left, but because on the whole Democrats just kind of stopped thinking really seriously about foreign policy after Vietnam...

Barack Obama never disseminated false hopes. He did not promise to rescue the world, he wasn't trying to walk on water. He is an amazing orator with magnetic personality, so it was easy for people to hear what they wanted to hear, and after eight years of George Bush, it's hard to blame anyone.
But what Mr. Obama did disseminate was the audacity to hope: Aspire to make the best world that we can, because there's no such thing as a perfect world, it's the horizon that none of us will ever touch, but alas if we cease to try.
And so said Niebuhr:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; there we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; there we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint.

Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."

Tags: Recommended, Barack Obama, Reinhold Niebuhr, Nobel Peace Prize, War And Peace (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Pres -- Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize

The President's Nobel acceptance speech is being raved as being historic. He upheld America's place in the world which disarmed "reasonable" Republicans. Rather than platitudes, his intellectual approach to war and peace in this era provided a clarity and respect to his Nobel audience and the world. Accepting the "peace prize" and providing a clear moral rationale for a "just war" was intellectually and poltically honest.

The amazing thing about this award are all of the questions as to whether he deserved the award? That whole debate is silly. It was the decision of the Nobel Committee to name him the awardee. Their prize is something they value. They do not take this decision lightly. Who Obama is and what he stands for IS the "peace" they were looking for. For the first time in the history of the world, a "colonized minority" was elected as the leader of the "free world." The world's history is one of white nationalism and white dominance that has been a central feature on European expansionism. Obama's election with his intelligence, competence, and his appeal for a more just world are reasons he won the Prize. His Cairo speech and outrearch to world were bases for their naming him the laureate for this year.

There were a few who suggested that he not accept it or not show up. These people must have been born under a rock but they make millions as talking heads on TV. How insulting that would have been? What an embarrassment to the United States? RGN

December 11, 2009
Accepting Peace Prize, Obama Offers ‘Hard Truth’

OSLO — President Obama used his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday to defend the idea that some wars were necessary and just, remind the world of the burden the United States had borne in the fight against oppression and appeal for greater international efforts for peace.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: we will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetimes,” Mr. Obama said, addressing the paradox of receiving an award for peace as commander in chief of a nation that is escalating the war in Afghanistan as it continues to fight in Iraq. “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

He delivered a mix of realism and idealism, implicitly criticizing both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as inadequately appreciating the dangers of the world, and President George W. Bush as too quick to set aside fundamental American values in pursuit of security. And he embraced the concept of American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States has a special role as a defender of liberty, even as he promoted multilateralism.

In that way, he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.

The address — delivered at once to a European audience that has grown skeptical about American power and to a domestic audience watching closely to see how he would handle the acceptance of an award that even he acknowledged he did not yet deserve — represented one of the broadest declarations of his foreign policy doctrine. He said that others deserved the award more, noting that his “accomplishments are slight,” but he accepted the prize with a strong endorsement of America’s place in the world.

“Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”

The Nobel lecture, a 36-minute address that the president and his aides completed on an overnight flight from Washington, carried echoes of several American presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Mr. Bush, but Mr. Obama singled out one above all: John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Obama cited Mr. Kennedy’s focus on “not a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

Mr. Obama called for more robust international sanctions against nations like Iran and North Korea that defy demands for them to curtail their nuclear programs.

Weeks after being criticized for not speaking out more publicly in defense of human rights while in China, he suggested that quiet diplomacy was sometimes the most productive path, even if it “lacks the satisfying purity of indignation.”

The ceremony was the focal point of a series of events celebrating Mr. Obama’s entry into the ranks of Nobel laureates. On Thursday night, the president and his wife, Michelle, appeared in a window of the Grand Hotel, waving to thousands of people below who had gathered for a torch-light parade.

Trumpets sounded when Mr. Obama walked down the long aisle of a soaring auditorium to deliver his address. He escorted his wife, who took her seat in the front row, before he assumed his position on the stage and faced the king and queen of Norway.

The Nobel chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, opened the ceremony by explaining how the committee came to its decision two months ago. He said Mr. Obama’s leadership had been a “call to action for all of us.” As he invoked the story of Dr. King, the winner of the prize in 1964, he turned to Mr. Obama, saying, “Dr. King’s dream has come true.”

Mr. Obama pursed his lips and nodded gently as the audience applauded loudly. When he was presented his gold medal and Nobel diploma, he received a standing ovation that stretched for more than a minute. The crowd did not rise again until the conclusion of his remarks.

Mr. Obama’s speech was sober, with his remarks only sparingly interrupted by applause. He was applauded when he renewed his pledge to ban torture and close the prison at the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend,” Mr. Obama said. “And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it is easy, but when it is hard.”

To a European audience of academics, diplomats and Nobel laureates, he said there was “a deep ambivalence about military action today,” which he said he suspected was rooted in “a reflexive suspicion of America.” But he offered a forceful defense of the United States, saying the lessons of history should ease those suspicions. And he urged his audience to envision a hopeful future.

“Let us reach for the world that ought to be,” he said, “that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.”

He did not dwell on the specifics of his announcement last week that he would send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. But that decision, which attracted scores of peaceful demonstrators here, set the framework that Mr. Obama returned to again and again as he sought to explain his policy as an extension of the post-World War II system that contained the cold war.

“A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats,” Mr. Obama said. “The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsize rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.”

Mr. Obama, who is scheduled to stay in Oslo for about 26 hours, miffed some Norwegians by not participating in some of the traditional events surrounding the peace prize ceremony, including a luncheon and a concert.

Mr. Obama, sensitive to the criticism, explained the brevity of his visit. “I only wish that my family could stay longer in this wonderful country,” he told reporters, “but I still have a lot of work to do back in Washington, D.C., before the year is done.”

The president is scheduled to return to Washington on Friday.

Walter Gibbs contributed reporting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Walters on the President and a Black Agenda

Ron Walters exposes an apparent "blind spot" when it comes to the President's economic agenda. When it comes to the severe problems facing black America, Walters points out that the President's position is that the best way to to address these problems is to help America in general. There are two recent posts on this blog that provide other perspectives on this debate. One says the President is making progress on a progressive agenda. The other says the black community faces a "depression." Evidently, making progress on a progressive agenda is not sufficient to address the dire conditions faced by the black community. Politically universalitic policies might be appealing but when such policies do not address severe problems faced by a particular community, particularly the black community, the appeals of the Congressional Black Caucus and Walters must be addressed. RGN

Obama Rejects Special Needs of the Black Community
By Ron Walters

It was somewhat painful to write the above headline, since I along with 16 million blacks who voted for Barack Obama did so, partly on the strength of the belief that he would indeed understand and take seriously the needs of the black community. Such headlines are sweeping the country depicting his response to the Congressional Black Caucus’s (CBC) challenge to his economic policies.

Last month Rep. Maxine Waters (CA) led ten of her CBC colleagues to vote against the Financial Services Bill coming out of committee. Their opposition was based on the clamor from heads of a large segment of the black economy: auto dealers, bankers, accountants, businesspersons, broadcasters and others who cannot get credit from banks and financial agencies – even those owned by the US government -- and are facing disaster. The CBC went into negotiations with Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, but little was accomplished. They then, held a press conference and announced as much, saying that broadly the White House was unresponsive and that “we have not been forceful in our efforts to protect the most vulnerable of our population,” and that the White House takes this part of its constituency for granted but is solicitous to Blue Dog Conservative Democrats. This action was taken, they explained, to educate those in the White House who do not advocate on behalf of blacks or the working class, since “we can no longer afford to have public policy defined by the world view of Wall Street.”

In an interview with Justin Hyde of the Detroit Free Press and Richard Wolfe of USA Today, President Obama was asked about the charges of the CBC and he said: “The most important thing I can do for the African American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.” Then he continued, “I think it’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we are all going to get out of this together.” I had long thought that this was his governing philosophy but here are the words of it spelled out.

But there is a gross contradiction at the heart of his statement. If it is “mistake” to think about ethnic segments of the country in his governance, then why did he sign an executive order mandating that heads of executive agencies affect consultation with Indian tribal governments, or sign an executive order mandating the increased participation of Asians and Pacific Islanders in federal programs, or say in a speech to the Hispanic Caucus this year that when their unemployment number reached over 10% that was not just a problem for Hispanics, “it was a problem for the nation.” No such statement has been made by the White House about the 15.7% rate of official black unemployment.

Indeed, if Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Clinton had felt that considering ethnicity in governance was a “mistake” what would be the character of black progress? The issue here is that these presidents did not deal with African American issues out of the goodness of their own hearts, but because there was a national crisis that called for it, or because blacks pushed them to the wall. The latter has been one of the routine answers to the question of whether President Obama would deal earnestly with problems faced by the black community, given that many whites expected that he would conduct his administration by handing out favors to them. No doubt, Obama feels he must guard against that in order to maintain white votes, but it puts blacks in a box, the only route out of which is to “make him do it.”

The integrity of black political participation and the security of the black community demand a president who is responsive to their needs in exchange for the 97%investment in his presidency. His stated governing philosophy should also mean that the celebration is over and that we must make clear to him that we will not be taken for granted and we will not willingly be subject to the spoils of a trickle-down economic strategy that will take years to rehabilitate our communities. So, I think that since none of the members of the CBC, nor black economists, nor the Black Civil Rights leaders were invited to the White House Jobs Summit that in the month of January in honor of the defiant spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Congressional Black Caucus should host one and invite the people who should be there to affect a bottom up, urgent strategy.

The President has thrown down the gauntlet; black leadership must pick it up.

Dr. Ron Walters is Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (University of Michigan Press)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Report Card on Obama's Progressive Agenda...

As the President sends more troops to Afghanistan, many progressives are deserting him, accusing him of being a continuation of Bush-Cheney. To oppose sending more troops into harms way is the correct position, however, the politics of an immediate withdrawal may have been a bit more problematic. As progressive commentator Ed Schultz argues, the complexity of the problem leads him to support the President but oppose the policy.

On the domestic front, Nathan Newman argues that Obama's progressive agenda has been moving right along. He presents evidence that the President's policies are not "a continuation of Bush policies," as has been the charge. His arguments and "data" show that the election has brought about a fundamental change in orientation from that of Bush and America's right wing. At a Congressional hearing the Obvama's Justice Department Civil Rights Division exposed the Bush reactionary practices.

Obama was a member of an anti-racist, anti-imperialist black liberation theology congregation for 21 years. He was married in that concgregation, his children were christened in that congregation. While he has not renounced the "free market," there is not much in his history to suggest that he is just another member of the capitalist class out to attack the working class.

The issue is here is whether or not "the perfect" (i.e., revolutionary) left agenda is the enemy of modest (i.e., electoral) progress for the working class? Fundamentally, the question is: Is it possible for a progressive agenda to move from protest to politics, or even more governance in the context of what is argued to be a center-right nation? RGN

Progressives (and Obama) are Doing Better Than We Think -- and We Won't Know What We've Got 'Til It's Gone
By Nathan Newman - November 30, 2009, 9:01AM

Polls show the Democratic base is unmotivated to turnout in 2010-- and it's no wonder given all the rhetoric that Obama hasn't done much with his 2008 victory. Those attacks from the rightwing are understandable from a partisan position, but many progressives seem to oddly be aping similar rhetoric-- wallowing in glass half-empty complaints of what Obama and Congress haven't delivered while failing to actually educate the public on the successes they have. We should be able to demand more while publicly praising what we do achieve -- basic political walking and chewing gum at the same time -- but a lot of progressives seem not to have mastered the skill.

Maybe it helps that I had such low expectations of Obama's administration to begin with-- but then I thought significant federal reforms would fail due to the filibuster. So the progress actually made is a pleasant surprise. And those successes are large and profound. This post will summarize those gains, and even in summary form will be quite long, reflecting the incredible victories involved. Yes, we all wish for more, but the best way to get there is to educate the public -- and especially the progressive base -- about what we got in the last year and how replacing moderates and conservatives with more real progressives could deliver even more in the future.

Quick Summary of 2009 Progressive Victories (more explanation below)

For the full article click here

Progressives (and Obama) are Doing Better Than We Think -- and We Won't Know What We've Got 'Til It's Gone

By Nathan Newman - November 30, 2009, 9:01AM

Polls show the Democratic base is unmotivated to turnout in 2010-- and it's no wonder given all the rhetoric that Obama hasn't done much with his 2008 victory. Those attacks from the rightwing are understandable from a partisan position, but many progressives seem to oddly be aping similar rhetoric-- wallowing in glass half-empty complaints of what Obama and Congress haven't delivered while failing to actually educate the public on the successes they have. We should be able to demand more while publicly praising what we do achieve -- basic political walking and chewing gum at the same time -- but a lot of progressives seem not to have mastered the skill.

Maybe it helps that I had such low expectations of Obama's administration to begin with-- but then I thought significant federal reforms would fail due to the filibuster. So the progress actually made is a pleasant surprise. And those successes are large and profound. This post will summarize those gains, and even in summary form will be quite long, reflecting the incredible victories involved. Yes, we all wish for more, but the best way to get there is to educate the public -- and especially the progressive base -- about what we got in the last year and how replacing moderates and conservatives with more real progressives could deliver even more in the future.

Quick Summary of 2009 Progressive Victories (more explanation below)

•Three major health bills (SCHIP, tobacco regulation, and stimulus funds for Medicaid, COBRA subsidies, health information technology and the National Institutes of Health) enacted even before comprehensive reform
•Stimulus contained myriad other individual policy victories, not only preventing a far worse depression but also:
◦Delivered key new funds for education
◦Expanded state energy conservation programs and new transit programs
◦Added new smart grid investments
◦Funded high-speed Internet broadband programs
◦Extended unemployment insurance for up to 99 weeks for the unemployed and modernizing state UI programs to cover more of the unemployed
◦Made large new investments in the safety net, from food stamps (SNAP) to affordable housing to child care
•Clean cars victory to take gas mileage requirements to 35mpg
•Protection of 2 million acres of land against oil and gas drilling and other development
•Executive orders protecting labor rights, from project labor agreements to protecting rights of contractor employees on federal jobs
•Stopping pay discrimination through Lilly Ledbetter and Equal Pay laws
•Making it easier for airline and railway workers to unionize, while appointing NLRB and other labor officials who will strengthen freedom to form unions
•Reversing Bush ban on funding overseas family planning clinics
•Passing hate crimes protections for gays and lesbians
•Protecting stem cell research research
•Strengthening state authority and restricting federal preemption to protect state consumer, environmental and labor laws
•Financial reforms to protect homeowners and credit card holders
•Bailing out the auto industry and protecting unionized retirees and workers

Detailed-- Let's start with health care. Even if the public option doesn't make it, we are on the verge of passing a federal reform bill that, at minimum, is projected to add health coverage for 31 million Americans in the next decade, devoting $347 billion to add 15 million people to Medicaid and CHIP programs and $447 billion to subsidize coverage for other working and middle class families.

And remember, if passed, this will be the fourth major health care bill passed in Obama's first year in office.

•The first was the passage of the Children's Health Insurance Bill , which itself will expand coverage for an additional 4 million uninsured children by 2013 on top of continuing coverage for 7 million currently enrolled in the program. And for the first time, it allowed states to cover many documented immigrant children who previously were not eligible
•And Congress passed its bill to give the government the power to regulate tobacco, something progressives had been seeking since the early 1990s.
•And then there was the stimulus money for health care, which dedicated more than $145 billion to investments and reform of health care systems,including
◦$87 billion to states in just the next couple of years to maintain Medicaid programs
◦$25 billion to help laid-off workers afford their previous employer's health care via COBRA
◦$19 billion for Health Information Technology (HIT) deployment and
◦$10 billion in additional funds for the National Institute of Health.
Really, you should count the COBRA subsidies, HIT expansion and NIH funding as three additional health care bills passed, since each in a normal year would have been considered a profound and singular legislative achievements.

The Stimulus Plan as Multiple Progressive Achievements: But that's was one problem with the stimulus bill-- it was so large that it's treated as one thing, instead of a whole array of legislative achievements pulled together to also help save the economy from depression and collapse. So let's step back and pull the recovery plan apart into it's multiple progressive achievements. The list of individual programs may seem long, but when you are talking about billions of dollars for each one handed out over a relatively short period, they are worth remembering for their individual progressive achievement and for the billions committed, especially for many programs starved for funds for decades. I'll summarize some of these below, but you can see more details in Progressive States' Implementing the Recovery Plan.

•Stimulus Saving the Economy: Before going into all the individual programs, let's talk about the overall achievement of the recovery plan in stabilizing the economy. Most progressives will agree it should have been bigger, but key economists agree it was critical to staving off an economic collapse; as Paul Krugman wrote, without the stimulus plan, "we would have had a full Great Depression experience...Deficits, in other words, saved the world." Including not only direct jobs created but the ripples of jobs created through indirect stimulus, the Economic Policy Institute confirms the stimulus' was responsible for creating or saving from 1.1 to 1.5 million jobs since its passage. A large part of this effect was in preventing catastrophic layoffs of teachers, nurses and other state and local employees by offsetting revenue losses at the state and local level. While there seems to be some kind of sexist media meme that only highway jobs, presumably manned by manly men, count as "real jobs", the stimulus however has kept hundreds of thousands of teachers and nurses and child care workers on the job-- one of the most important anti-recession government employment programs of the last half-century.
•Education Funding: This emphasizes that along with being a major health care bill, the stimulus was one of the largest federal education bills in history. It devoted $139.24 billion to education funding over a couple of years, including:
◦State Fiscal Stabilization Fund of $53.6 billion to help state and local governments avert budget cuts
◦$39.5 billion in educational block grants allocated by student and general population measures
◦$5 billion for incentive grants and other purposes.
◦$24.8 billion for School Construction Bonds
◦$11.3 billion for special education
◦$10 billion for Local Educational Agencies
◦$3 billion for School Improvement Grants.
◦Higher education funding of approximately $30 billion was distributed directly to students and their families, but an estimated $15 billion for scientific research flowed partly to universities.

•Clean Energy and Transportation Investments: Estimates on potential green energy investments in the recovery package, including upgrading our transportation infrastructure, range from $70.6 billion to $113.5 billion depending on what is included, but the bottom-line is that this package is the largest investment in energy independence in American history. These included:
◦Over $14 billion for various State Energy Conservation Programs, including $5 billion for the chronically underfunded Weatherization Assistance Program to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes.
◦$11 billion for smart grid technology aimed at improving the energy efficiency of electrical grids around the country, a key to making alternative energy production and distribution viable.
◦The recovery plan was also a key "down payment on a new transportation vision," in the words of the coalition Transportation for America, including $27.5 billion allocated to the traditional highway program, $8.4 billion for public transportation, $9.3 billion for intercity and high-speed passenger rail, and $825 million for projects that will make our streets safer for walking and biking. Significantly, the law included unprecedented flexibility in using "highway" funds on ports, transit, passenger and freight rail, or other projects.

•Broadband Investments: The recovery plan allocated $7.2 billion to promote high-speed Internet programs for rural, unserved and under-served areas and for initiatives that expand public community centers' capacity and for the development of a national broadband map.

•Unemployment Insurance Extension and Reform: While the present recession is bad, one reason many unemployed workers and their families are better off than in past recessions is that help for the unemployed has been far more extensive due to the stimulus plan.
◦First, the stimulus plan included extended federal weeks of help for the unemployed (help which was recently further extended with a new law) to up to 99 weeks of help in the worst hit states -- compared to just 26 weeks normally available before the recession-based reforms and no more than 52 weeks in recessions over the last three decades.
◦While benefits are still too meager by international standards, the stimulus, over 17.9 million Americans will receive a $25/week increase in their UI benefits.
◦As importantly, $7 billion in incentive money was provided to states to modernize their unemployment insurance systems to including low-income workers, part-time workers and workers who had to leave jobs for compelling family reasons-- workers previously completely excluded from UI help in most states. The result has been what the National Employment Law Project calls an "unprecedented wave of state reforms" to expand access to state unemployment help.
◦Add in the 65% COBRA health care subsidies mentioned above and progressives have won broader and deeper relief for the unemployed than in any past recession.

•Supporting the Safety Net: And for those already suffering in poverty -- or plunged into it because of the recession -- the stimulus bill extended additional help as well:
◦Nutrition Programs: Over $20 billion was added to the Food Stamps program (now called SNAP), WIC and other food programs, and the law lifted restrictions on how long unemployed individuals without children can receive SNAP benefits.
◦Child Care: Over $4 billion was added for child care block grants, Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
◦TANF: $5 billion was added to basic TANF welfare programs. While not repealing the 1996 welfare law, provisions did roll back rigid rules that would have denied funds to states that couldn't find work for rapidly expanding caseloads of the poor.
◦Affordable Housing Aid: Added $13.5 billion in funding for a range of affordable housing and homeless prevention programs.

•Expansion of science investments-- Notably, between the stimulus and other budget spending, no less than the Wall Street Journal calls Obama's investments in science, especially green technology, a "once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science," reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, as well as university research facilities .
So those are many of the myriad program gains from the recovery plan (there are more whose dollar amounts were less but who mattered greatly to those effected). But there have also been additional policy gains outside the stimulus on the environment, labor rights, gay and abortion rights, and financial reforms.

Environmental Victories: Two notable victories promise to have long-lasting legacies for the nation, even before climate change legislation comes to a vote in the Senate:

•Victory on clean cars mileage rules-- For literally decades, automakers blocked higher federal gas mileage rules and the Bush administration blocked state laws seeking to establish higher standards in their states. Obama engineered a new rule that by model year 2016, the average mandated fleet fuel efficiency standard will be 35.5 miles per gallon. Add in the$2 billion in stimulus cash for advanced batteries systems and the nation should see significant fuel savings in the near future.
•Landmark U.S. conservation bill - Signing a package of more than 160 bills, Obama designating roughly 2 million acres -- parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails -- in nine states as new wilderness and render them off limits to oil and gas drilling and other development.
Labor Rights: On labor rights, we haven't gotten the Employee Free Choice Act, but key Bush executive orders have been reversed, new personnel are being added to the National Labor Relations Board, and Congress has passed key new laws. These include

•Executive orders to allow use of project labor agreements on federal projects, requirements not to displace qualified (often unionized) workers when changing contractors, and require all federal contractors to notify their workers of their rights to form a union.
•Passage of the Lilly Leadbetter Law and Equal-Pay Legislation to protect workers from pay discrimination.
•The Federal Mediation Board has moved to make it far easier for rail and airline workers to form unions.
•Obama's appointees at the Labor Department and NLRB are some of the strongest labor advocates possible, most of them drawn from pro-labor organizations.
Social Issues: Progressive mades a number of advances on hot button "culture war" issues this year:

•Family Planning: Obama reversed George W. Bush's funding cutoff to overseas family planning organizations -- probably saving millions of lives.
•Hate Crimes: Congress passed a lawexpanding hate crimes protection to gays and lesbians.
•Stem cells: Obama signed an executive order removing research barriers.
Strengthening Authority of States to Build on Federal Reforms: For years, states have increasingly seen their hands tied by a federal government declaring that preemption voids state consumer, environmental and labor rights laws. The Bush administration in particular used its regulatory authority aggressively to block state law after state law. In May, the White House emphasized its new commitment to respecting state regulatory rules by issuing a broad Memorandum on Preemption to all heads of executive departments and agencies, ordering them to avoid the preemption language routinely included in Bush-era regulatory preamble statements or in codified regulations unless there is "full consideration of the legitimate prerogatives of the States and with a sufficient legal basis for preemption."

The administration's affirmation of state "clean car" authority, protection of higher state consumer health care protections, and ending Bush's war on medical marijuana in the states have all been part of this movement towards of collaborative federalism that will strengthen progressive power in the states for years into the future.

Financial Reforms: Even as more comprehensive financial reforms continue to move forward in the House, a couple of significant financial consumer reforms were passed earlier this year: •Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act -these pieces of legislation make it easier for homeowners to access financial help, established protections for renters living in foreclosed homes, and established the right of a homeowner to know who owns their mortgage, while giving the Department of Justice the ability to prosecute at virtually every step of the process from predatory lending on Main Street to the manipulation on Wall Street.
•Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (or Credit CARD Act) of 2009- limits when credit card interest rates can be increased on existing balances and allows consumers whose interest rates have been increased to reduce their annual percentage rates (APRs) to previous levels if they've been good and paid their bills on time for six months. It also limits when interest rates can be increased, bans universal default and double-cycle billing, and restricts credit cards for minors.

Auto Bailout- Saving a core industry of our economy and as many of its attendant jobs as we can should have been a no-brainer, especially as many construction and real estate jobs are inevitably disappearing forever. And the Obama rescue was done in an extremely progressive manner, liquidating the shareholders who tolerated terrible management while safeguarding retirees and preserving a strong union for workers remaining in the industry. The "cash for clunkers" plan may have been a bit of a giveaway to the industry, but then since the U.S. government owns a chunk of the industry, reviving industry profits means returning some of the money to the government itself as a shareholder..

And More to Come: Many more progressive achievements are within reach as well, moving through the meatgrinder political process too slowly for some progressives but still quite possible in the next few months. From fundamental student loan reforms to remaking banking regulations to climate change legislation to immigration reform to labor law reform, high profile progressive initiatives are still being promoted by both the administration and Congressional leaders.

Again, we should always be demanding more-- and planning electoral responses where possible against the Congressional repesentatives and Senators blocking better reforms -- but we also need to highlight what we've won, keep allies and the base of progressives excited so that they will have the energy to fight those fights.

Progressives have been winning in the last year. We just need to keep reminding ourselves and the public of how full the cup is-- and planning to fill it the rest of the way as we win more elections in the future. It's worth remembering that large parts of what we consider the New Deal were not enacted until many years into FDR's Presidency. Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act were enacted only in 1935, three years into his term, while the federal minimum wage was enacted only in 1938, in FDR's sixth year in office. But along the way, progressives won individual victories that continually fed progressive energy for the next fight. That's the challenge now for progressives, to claim existing victories and build on that energy for fights to come.