“What will be the President’s legacy?” As President Obama enters his second term in office, that question was the topic on many of the talk shows recently. From his second inaugural address, one may gather that the President’s legacy will be the advancement of a number of liberal causes, from gay rights to climate change. (It used to be called global warming but we had a couple of cold winters, so the advocates had to come up with a new name for their agenda.) But what will really be President Obama’s legacy?
The word legacy is defined as “something that has come from an ancestor or predecessor or the past.” It is the actions in the present that affect and then are judged by future generations. So how will future generations look back and evaluate President Barack Obama?
President Obama will and should be given credit for being the first African-American President. This is important and should never be overlooked. Being the first to break down any barrier takes courage and determination. It is a significant achievement. But, to me, it has become even more significant that for most Americans, he is not our African-American president, he’s our president. We support or disagree with him based on his policies and actions, not the color of his skin.
But ultimately, it will be those actions and policies, and how they affect future generations, that will determine his legacy. While the controversial aspects of his inaugural address may be important to some people, the one area that was barely mentioned may ultimately define Barak Obama’s presidency. As a former president once said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And Bill Clinton was right, what President Obama does now concerning the economy, and more specifically our national debt, will play a huge role in defining his legacy in the future.
The national debt is now over sixteen trillion dollars. That’s how much the U.S. government owes its creditors. Since the U.S. government is you and me; that comes out to over $51,000.00 owed by each U.S. citizen, and that’s you, me, our kids and grandkids. If things don’t change, we’ll add over a trillion dollars a year to the debt; and we’ll be well over twenty trillion dollars in debt as a country at the end of Obama’s second term. No economy can stand that amount of debt versus its gross domestic product for a long period of time. Recently, on TV, I heard business leaders, and several were Obama supporters, state that we had around ten years to clean up our country’s debt situation. They stated that if we didn’t start acting on it immediately, it would be too late to avoid a drastic economic downturn. They know the math doesn’t lie.
Everyone in Washington knows this. Why aren’t politicians acting in a responsible way in dealing with the national debt? It’s really very simple. For the majority of the people in Washington, (along with the majority of Americans) the present is more important than the future. If the politicians vote for a tax increase, Grover Norquist and the Tea Party crowd will have a candidate and money ready to run against them. If they vote to curb spending in entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security, AARP will send out a scare letter the next day. Remember those “Don’t touch my Social Security!” campaign ads from the last election? They were very effective. So don’t expect many Washington politicians to vote for difficult changes now, inorder to avoid severe economic difficulty ten or fifteen years down the road. They’re more concerned about getting reelected next year. Most don’t care what people in the future will think of them; only if you will like them at the next election. We can hope, as the reality of our economic future becomes even more evident to everyone, that attitude will change.
But there’s really only one person in Washington who has a major concern as to his legacy. Presidents are very concerned about how they are viewed by the history books, because ultimately they will receive the credit, or the blame, for what happens under their watch, whether they deserve it or not. Also, there’s really only one person in Washington who has the popularity, power and position to change the dialogue and initiate real change concerning our looming national debt crisis. Finally, there’s really only one person in Washington that doesn’t have to worry about running for elected office ever again. That person is our President, Barack Obama.
Instead of ignoring the situation, or just complaining about our leaders, we have another option. That option is prayer. Proverbs 21:1, in the Bible states, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” The best option may be our last option.