Despite the do nothing GOP controlled Congress since 2010, major accomplishments were made by the Obama Administration in the areas of education, health and the economy. From the first law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Affordable Care Act, Student Aid and Responsibility Act to saving the automobile industry, the first Obama Administration despite its challenges, had many successes.
President Obama’s first piece of legislation was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restoring the rights of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay and to help close the wage gap where women currently earn 78 cents for every $1 a man earns in America. Lilly Ledbetter, whom the bill was named for, worked for Goodyear from 1979 until she retired in 1998. She sued her company after she learned about the discrepancy in [her] pay after nineteen years  of working by someone leaving me an anonymous note. Lilly Ledbetter lost her law suit because it was not timely filed. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act loosens the timeliness requirements for the filing of a discrimination suit. With two daughters, President Obama knows the importance of a woman having a fair shake in the workplace. Legislative work is still needed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to tighten laws and guarantee that women are not paid less than a man. Lilly Ledbetter Act was a good start towards making the playing field more equitable.
Before President Obama took the oath of office of the presidency, the auto industry was in a deep crisis. President Obama worked tirelessly to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. Ford did not accept government funds. The auto industry was saved along with millions of jobs from automobile sales, supplies, repairs, from factory workers to secretaries and everyone in between. President Obama made the bold move to save the auto industry and it paid off. Meanwhile Mitt Romney declared that America should “let Detroit go bankrupt”. The loans have been paid back and all three auto manufacturers are thriving.
President Obama’s signature law is the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). The Affordable Care Act makes health care affordable for all Americans including 32 million uninsured Americans, prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, eliminates life time limits and extends young adults on their parents’ policies until age 26. In June, 2012, the law was upheld by the Supreme Court making this landmark law, the law of the land. Despite decades of trying to pass health care reform, it finally passed—albeit without the public option. As much as I along with many others would have preferred the public option to be a part of the ACA, that fight was lost. The fight over health care affordability is still going on with many Republicans still trying to prohibit the law form taking place along with many corporations lowering wages and hours to avoid having to take part in it. So the fight goes on.
In education, President Obama is well aware that a quality education requires extensive funds due to excessive college tuition and fees. Many students are unable to attend the college of their choice without the necessary funds. Pell grants and other college loans make it more affordable for many students. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility act made the largest investment in college aid in history—increasing Pell Grants, making college loans more affordable and strengthening community colleges.
As an African American lawyer, I applaud the President’s appointment of two women to the Supreme Court—with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. This is the first time that three women have served on the court. And with America now over 50% women, qualified women jurists to the bench are a must. And in the second Obama term, I await the appointment of the first African American woman to the Supreme Court.
There is much more work to do in the second Obama term. We must make sure that gun control is passed, the economy continues to improve and that the union is made more perfect. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.