Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States and is running for his second term in office.
The former Senator from Illinois was elected president in 2008.
Perhaps the issue that will make or break his re-election campaign is the economy and his handling of what many call the Great Recession. Hammered by Republicans who say that he is steering the country in the wrong direction and that his policies haven’t worked, Obama made a series of reforms to crack down on Wall Street practices and instituted programs to help small-business owners and consumers. His stimulus plan, which temporarily helped boost the economy, has failed to significantly drop the record-high unemployment rate of 9.1%. Obama, who came into office facing the fiscal crisis, says economic recovery will need years to fully kick in. That’s why, his campaign says, he needs to be re-elected.
When the history books are written, health care reform will be at the top of the list of Obama’s accomplishments.
Despite facing heavy opposition by congressional Republicans, Democrats were able to pass the Affordable Health Care Act in March 2010 — a sweeping set of reforms aimed to help more Americans get insured.
Perhaps Obama’s biggest victory and biggest future challenge in the election came when the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was constitutional, not as a penalty, but a tax.
President Obama has said repeatedly he does not want to raise taxes on the middle class, but would raise taxes on the wealthy. The Buffet Rule, named for billionaire Warren Buffet that says millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than middle income earners, encapsulates much of Obama’s approach to taxes.
Most millionaires today already pay a higher percentage of their income in federal taxes than the vast majority of all Americans. But roughly 25 percent of them end up with a lower effective tax rate than 10 percent of middle-income households, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Recently, Obama announced he would seek to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $200,000 individually and $250,000 if married. Obama’s plan drew criticism from his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney who said that the plan would hurt small business owners – many of whom fall within the $250,000 and above range. Obama has yet to address what he would do on the payroll tax extension he signed into law in February 2012, come the end of the year when it expires. When the tax break expires, it will be tantamount to a tax increase. Obama came under fire from Democrats for extending the payroll tax cuts.
Obama also unveiled a plan in February 2012 to reform the corporate tax code. The main reform would slash the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent and pay for the reduction by eliminating “dozens” of business tax breaks. There are currently more than 130 such tax breaks on the books.
However, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007, Obama wrote in an Op-Ed in the Quad City Times that not only should the payroll tax extension exist, but that “we could eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall,” if the tax was increased to 12.4% for all citizens making more than $97,000. In extending the tax cuts in February, Obama did the opposite of what he said could help fix Social Security.
President Obama has been widely criticized by both the right and the left for not addressing immigration reform when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate during his first two years.
In mid-June, just before the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona’s controversial immigration law, President Obama announced a Department of Homeland Security directive halting deportation for young undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who obtained a high school diploma or equivalent and/or served in the military. Obama said it allowed the government to “focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”
The directive drew heavy fire from the right with Republican congressional members claiming Obama was trying to circumvent the democratic process that had already rejected the DREAM act, legislation that would have guaranteed similar rights as the DHS directive. The current Congress has not revisited the DREAM act, even though Obama has asked them to consider the legislation.
Over the past four years, the Obama administration has worked to craft a signature education reform policy that builds on provisions in the No Child Left Behind law while scuttling requirements that some states have deemed too cumbersome. Early on, many states were given waivers to allow more flexibility in meeting some of the standards of the law that requires that every child be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The signature of the president’s efforts is the competitive “Race to the Top” program, which has awarded states more than $4.35 billion in competitive grants in exchange for crafting “innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement.” “Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids,” Obama said during the 2011 State of the Union address.