President Barack Obama gave his farewell address on Tuesday evening in Chicago where his political career was first launched with only nine days left before inauguration day and looming questions on the horizon about how the next presidency will develop American policy in critical areas such as healthcare, the economy, the environment, and foreign policy.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was one of President Obama’s key signature achievements enacted in March 2010 that expanded healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans but came under fierce attack from Republicans and remains one of their first targets after Trump becomes inaugurated on January 20th.
During his farewell speech, President Obama defended the healthcare changes that he ushered in 2010 but admitted he would be open to supporting another healthcare model that covers as many people at less cost.
“Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. And I’ve said, and I mean it, anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it” Obama said.
Eight years ago, President Obama inherited an American economy that was heading into recession with large job cuts and a housing crash that threatened to bankrupt Americans and seriously harm the U.S. financial and auto sectors.
President Obama acknowledged some of those major obstacles he faced as he entered the White House while also recalling some of the key changes he achieved during his 2 terms as U.S. President.
“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history — if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-11 — if I had told you that we would win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — if I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high” Obama said.
President Obama admitted that inequality is “corrosive to our democratic idea” and said that with the 1 percent getting richer, “too many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties have been left behind” while sympathetically acknowledging the laid off factory worker or waitress who struggles to make ends meet.
“Convinced that the game is fixed against them. That their government only serves the interest of the powerful. That’s a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics” Obama said.
President elect Donald Trump benefited during the election and picked up votes from the same type of Americans President Obama referenced in his speech; namely, struggling older white middle class Americans in the Rust Belt areas of the Midwest that are laid off from a factory job and are angry with Washington D.C. politics.
Over the summer at his rallies, Trump reached out to this population and spoke about how he wants to tear up free trade agreements with other countries, lower taxes, and end regulations to help growth the U.S. economy.
During his farewell address on Tuesday, President Obama didn’t criticize Trump’s economic plans by name but he subtly pointed out some of the shortfalls that could result to the American economy if we fail to create opportunities for all.
“For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come” Obama said.
Upholding Democratic economic principles, President Obama spoke about giving workers more power by unionizing for better wages, updating the safety net, and reforming the tax code so corporations and the individuals who benefit from this new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their very success possible.
President Obama addressed his political record with energy and the environment which are at serious risk of being compromised under an nascent Trump administration which is more interested in supporting the fossil fuel industry over renewables.
Trump has nominated a climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt is considered to be radical in his resistance to government regulations over protecting the environment.
Pruitt sued the EPA and opposes the Clean Air Act which protects communities from the health impact of air pollution.
President Obama said that under his past leadership, America halved their dependence on foreign oil, doubled their renewable energy, and helped lead the world community to make climate change reforms through the Paris Agreement to save the planet.
Towards the end of his speech, President Obama spoke about ending discrimination, and establishing an order based on the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech, and an independent press.