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Obama's 'Big Deal'

Associated Press

In presidential history, we've seen the New Deal, the Square Deal, and the Fair Deal, but as President Obama's second term begins in earnest, Paul Krugman looks back at his first term and calls it the Big Deal.

I think it's fair to say Krugman has been critical of the president on more than a few occasions since Obama took office four years ago, but today, drawing particular attention to health care financial regulatory reform, the columnist believes the president's record is laudatory.

In fact, I'd suggest using this phrase to describe the Obama administration as a whole. F.D.R. had his New Deal; well, Mr. Obama has his Big Deal. He hasn't delivered everything his supporters wanted, and at times the survival of his achievements seemed very much in doubt. But if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they'll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction. [...]

All in all, then, the Big Deal has been, well, a pretty big deal.

That certainly seems fair. Indeed, while Krugman focused primarily on health care and Wall Street, a long look at Obama's first term shows a four-year period as ambitious and successful as any president in at least a generation. In addition to the accomplishments Krugman noted, Obama also rescued the economy from collapse, rescued the American auto industry, ended the war in Iraq, decimated al Qaeda and killed bin Laden, reformed the student loan system, ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," vastly improved fuel efficiency standards, helped topple the Gaddafi regime, negotiated the New START treaty, improved food safety protections, cracked down on credit card company abuses, expanded stem-cell research, and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Can we expect a similar breadth of success in a second term? Well, no, probably not.

Second terms historically offer fewer opportunities for these kinds of sweeping and historic accomplishments, and given Republican control of the House, it seems likely Obama will spend much of the next four years preserving his gains, not advancing them.

But that doesn't mean the president won't have an agenda to present, and ideas that will warrant serious consideration. We heard about some of Obama's goals in his second inaugural, but he also highlighted his second-term agenda in an OFA video released a few weeks ago.

What should we expect to see from the next phase of the Big Deal? Ending the war in Afghanistan, immigration reform, reducing gun violence, combating climate change, and additional reforms to the education system.

I suspect election reforms will be part of the agenda, as well.

That said, at the end of one term and the beginning of another, it's worthwhile to pause and appreciate what's already happened. As Krugman concluded, "[T]he story is far from over. Still, maybe progressives -- an ever-worried group -- might want to take a brief break from anxiety and savor their real, if limited, victories."