Obamanation: Crash Course US History #47


Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse
U.S. history and we’ve finally done it, we’ve reached the end of history! Ahh. Stan, says that history never ends but
whatever we’ve reached the part that Me From the Present is in.
So we aren’t going to cover the astonishing results of the 2016 presidential election.
What we are going to do is try to talk about historical events that are also current events.
Future John Green here to tell you that in a stunning turn of events the 2020 presidential
election will be won by – Harry Styles. I know that he’s English and under 35 but
we’re going to change the constitution to make it possible. Because… that’s how
much we love Harry Styles in 2020. Intro
So when we last left George W Bush, his approval rating was dropping to the lowest number in
President of the United States approval rating history.
And the U.S. was facing what turned out to be the 2nd worst economic crises in the past
150 years. A crisis that remains unnamed because we’re kind of still in it.
But I’d like to propose a couple names: the Wall Street Wamboozle, the Financial Fartstorm.
However, knowing historians they will inevitably call it like The Major Recession of 2008 – 2012.
Booooo! So what caused the Financial Fartstorm that
began in late 2008? Well, it was a mixture of public and private activities that tilted
towards short-term economic thinking, speculation and irresponsible spending.
First, there are the Federal Reserve’s policies of keeping interest rates freakishly low in
response to the 2001-2002 recession. Now, this worked, but the recession ended and interest
rates stayed low. And this, combined with unscrupulous mortgage
lenders, encouraged people to buy houses that they could not afford.
In the early 2000s, many millions of Americans, including certain Crash Course US History
hosts, bought real estate assuming that its value would increase rapidly and forever,
so that when you were unable to make payments, you’d just sell it, pay off the mortgage,
and make a tidy profit. It turns out this was essentially a pyramid
scheme and, my friends, I was not at the top of the pyramid.
So back then you could buy a house with a so-called NINJA loan which sadly this did
not involve mutant ninja turtles or pizza. Ninja stands for No Income, No Job, and No
Assets. Traditionally, people in this situation can’t
borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in the early 2000’s, these loans were giving
the benign sounding designation “subprime.” So it’s important to understand that it
wasn’t just like big Wall Street banks financing huge deals with debt, regular people were
doing it – like me. All this created a classic housing bubble,
which was doomed to burst. Also, with the interest on government Treasury Bills effectively
zero, investors had to look elsewhere for better returns, which led to the idea of issuing
securities – these bond-like instruments that were backed by mortgages.
The thinking was that the interest people paid on their mortgages would supply the underlying
value of the security, the way that like tax revenues are the source of value of a government
bond. Now of course there’d be a minority of people
who’d fail to pay off their securitised mortgages, but most people would pay because,
you know, they’d want to keep their houses. But it turns out that if you haven’t paid
any money to own your house, you don’t feel all that invested in it.
Now there are even more reasons why these securities were terrible ideas, but the important
thing is that when the mortgages turned bad, these securities became toxic assets.
Basically, the people who held them suddenly didn’t know what they were worth if anything
and banks overreacted to this uncertainty as banks like to do by not lending out any
money. And that’s called a credit freeze, which
is very bad. So that’s how a housing bubble turned into a full-fledged financial crisis.
Alright Let’s go to the ThoughtBubble. When banks stop lending, business can’t
function. So the stock market collapsed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping
from above 14,000 to around 8,000 which wiped out about $7trillion of shareholder wealth.
And a majority of Americans had money invested in the stock market, much of it in the form
of retirement funds. With it being harder to borrow money, Americans
finally cut back on their spending, which resulted in many businesses failing and by
the end of 2008, 2.5 million jobs had been lost, many of which were in manufacturing
and construction. And because those were both male-dominated
fields, it led to another change, by mid-2009 more women than men held paying jobs for the
first time in American history. In the last three months of 2008 and the first
three months of 2009 our GDP dropped 6%. And World Trade cratered and that led to unemployment
and misery worldwide. The event that triggered the chaos was the
failure of the investment bank Lehman Brothers in September, just 2 months before the presidential
election. The Bush Administration tried to stop the damage by getting Congress to pass
the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, which was basically a $700 billion bailout
for banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, insurance companies like AIG and mortgage
insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Regular individuals also received tarps, but
they had to buy them and they weren’t as cool.
Anyway, these bailouts were probably necessary to stop a complete failure of the financial
system but they were very unpopular. Most of the banks that received a rescue from the
taxpayers didn’t help the homeowners facing foreclosure, and despite receiving millions
of federal dollars, AIG continued to pay huge bonuses to its top executives. Thanks, Thoughtbubble.
So, the end of the Bush years looked a lot like the end of the Hoover years. After a
decade of Americans spending more than they had, government taking a back seat to business
interests and deregulation of industries going hand in hand with increasing corruption, Barack
Obama was faced with America’s biggest economic challenge since the Great Depression.
Oh, by the way, we got a new president, Barack Obama, who 50 years before his election couldn’t
have sat in the front of a bus in Alabama. So I know all the green parts of not-America
are mad at us for causing the great financial meltdown and whatever, and fair enough, but
we do make some progress now and again Barack Obama was young, he was relatively
new on the national scene, and represented change. He appealed to young people and minorities,
and he harnessed the power of social media to communicate with supporters, and get out
the vote, and also raise TONS of money. Also, he was on the cover of US Weekly. You
didn’t see Martin Van Buren on the cover of US Weekly. What’s that? It didn’t exist?
Of course it existed! In 2008 Obama’s election At the time Obama’s
election seemed a political watershed and not just because he was the first African
American president. He appeared to break Republicans’ solid hold on the south, he won Virginia,
and North Carolina and Florida, and his supporters represented a coalition of African Americans,
and Hispanics, white liberals and, especially, young people.
Oh, it’s time for the mystery document? I hope it’s from that US Weekly profile.
The rules here are simple – he said for the final time.
I’ll tell you one thing that’s going to change here at Crash Course, no more shock
pens. I guess the author of the Mystery Document, if I’m wrong I get shocked.
Alright, let’s see what we got here today. “For everywhere we look, there is work to
be done. The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift. And we will act, not
only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads
and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.
We’ll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise
health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and
the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges
and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will
do.” Speaking of things that we will do, I will
get this right it’s Barack Obama’s first inaugural! Ba-bam!
No more shocks. The getting shocked part of my life has come to an end.
Hopefully in Crash Course Literature when I get things right I’ll get a puppy and
when I get things wrong I’ll get a rainbow! Stan says that my only reward is not being
punished. So Obama promised to change the culture of
Washington. He would end partisan squabbling…. sorry I couldn’t even get through that sentence.
To be fair, he did end the squabbling, it became full blown yelling.
He also wanted a foreign policy based on diplomacy, he wanted to reduce inequality and increase
access to health care, he wanted to curb “greed and irresponsibility” that had helped bring
on the economic crisis, and he wanted to end the Bush tax cuts. He also wanted to end the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as critics mocked, reverse global warming. That’s a
tall order So how has he done? Not bad. Well, some would
say not great either. For instance he launched diplomatic outreach
to the Muslim world, but a lot of this was more rhetoric than action, as in his verbal
support for the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
And he did keep some of his campaign promises, for instance he signed into law the Lily Ledbetter
Fair Pay Act, which made it easier for women to sue when they had been systemically underpaid
and he also reversed an earlier executive order that limited women’s reproductive
rights. And speaking of women he appointed two of
them to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic
melmber. He also followed through on his promise to
end the war in Iraq, although to be fair the Bush administration had really set him up
for success there. And he increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of a
longer term plan to end the war there, which has sort of worked?
He also authorized a successful military operation that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
I was in Amsterdam at the time, and the Dutch media came to my house to ask me how Americans
felt about this and I said, “Good!” On the other hand Obama has been criticized
internationally for backing off his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp,
and he has largely followed the Bush administration’s policies with the war on terror.
But the Obama administration has deployed far more unmanned drones to kill suspected
militants around the world. Despite provoking outrage on the left and
the right, Americans generally appear to support the use of drones and extra-legal assassination
of accused terrorists. Obama also kept in place Bush’s executive power and in fact
expanded it in some ways with NSA’s PRISM program.
What about that financial mess he inherited? Well, Obama was fortunate to have a Democratic
Congress for his first term in office, so he could push through a lot of legislation.
This included a sweeping stimulus package with nearly $800 Billion in new spending,
most of it on infrastructure, that was signed into law on February 17, 2009, just 28 days
into Obama’s presidency. In the end, the recovery act cost $787 billion
– more than the government had spent on a package of programs ever. More than the Great
Society. More than the New Deal. Did it work,? Well it depends on who you ask.
Among 9 large studies, 6 found that the stimulus did have a positive effect on growth and employment,
3 found that it had little or no effect, and economists are equally divided.
The stimulus is estimated to have saved about 3 million jobs, but it also increased the
deficit quite a bit. So Liberal economists see America’s current
7% unemployment rate as evidence that the stimulus’ Keynesian policies should have
gone further, while conservatives say that the stimulus exploded the federal deficit
and debt. Regardless, the recovery for the past few
years has been steady, but quite slow. Lastly, let’s turn to Obama’s signature
policy proposal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act is arguably the most significant piece of social legislation since
Medicare. And it seeks to move the United States into the ranks of countries with universal
health care. A list that includes every industrialized
nation on Earth. We’re number one among countries that don’t have universal health
care. So Obamacare aims to reduce the number of
Americans without health insurance by making it easier and less expensive for the uninsured
to buy it privately. It’s not a government insurance plan and the government will subsidize
those who can’t afford insurance. That’s going to be expensive, but fortunately
our health care system is so astonishly inefficient that there are lots of places to save money
and the Congressional Budget Office at least thinks it’s going to be a wash.
But controversially, the acts insurance mandate means that if you don’t have insurance from
your employer you MUST buy it or else you have to pay a penalty.
In 2012 the core of the law was upheld by the Supreme Court when they ruled that thiants
was a constitutional use of the government’s taxing power.
As for Obama’s success at ending partisan politics, not one Congressional Republican
voted for Obamacare, and many used it to campaign against Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections.
And while the success of the Affordable Care Act won’t be able to be determined for many
years there was a huge backlash against both Obama and his policies, on Facebook, and Twitter,
and also the mysterious world of non-the-Internet One of these responses was The Tea Party,
a reference to the Boston Tea Party and an acronym for Taxed Enough Already.
For the record, I just want to say that the vast majority of American’s taxes are lower
now than they have been at any point in the last one hundred years.
But the Tea Party is also very concerned that deficits are out of control and that rising
government spending is going to ruin America. Bolstered by 80 or so new Tea Party congresspeople,
the Republicans took control of the House in 2010 and John, it’s pronounced, Boehner
became the Speaker of The House. All these Tea Party freshmen took their mandate
to cut taxes and reduce spending very seriously, and that made it difficult for Boehner to
compromise with the Obama administration. Over in the Senate, Democrats held a slim
majority, but because of the filibuster needed 60 votes to do anything, which made them look
very dysfunctional In fact, the 111th congress was one of the
least productive in American history. Obama was re-elected president in 2012, the
Republicans continued to control The House, the Democrats continued to have slim majority
in the Senate, and now America is facing something of a political crisis.
Unwillingness to compromise precipitated a series of mini-fiscal crises over things like
the budget and raising the debt ceiling. Things that Congress used to be able to hash out
back when their business was governing not ideological rigidity.
Meanwhile, the economy has slowly added jobs and looks halfway decent at the moment mostly
because Europe looks so bad. Yay? That qualified questioning yay is about the
last word I have to say on American history. The particular brands of ideological certainty
that we see today may seem new but if you look at American history you realize that
this has been going on for a long time. The Tea Party is right that the founding fathers
would be astonished by the extend of the American government and the extent to which it’s
involved in the lives of Americans. And progressives are right that people around
the world have benefited from government investment in healthcare and infrastructure and transportation.
We have to ask ourselves again, “What does freedom really mean?”
Can you be free when you live in poverty or when you’re one injury away from bankruptcy?
Can you be free when the government can go to a secret court to read your text messages?
We know that you can’t be free if you’re dead, so is the government’s job to protect
you not only by having a standing army but also making you wear your seat belt?
Those are ultimately ideological questions, but we have to grapple with them in a real
practical way. And the great story of American governance is compromise.
But that is also often been the tragedy of American governance as when the Constitutional
Convention compromised over whether African American people were people.
So if you’ve learned anything this year, I hope its been that the American story that
we find ourselves in now isn’t entirely novel.
And I think we have much to learn from those who came before us, both from their successes
and their many, many failures. Thank you so much for watching Crash Course
US History next we will be discussing literature. Your first reading assignment The Odyssey.
It’s a great book, I promise, you’re gonna like it. Thanks again for watching. I’ll
see ya then. Crash Course US History is made with the help
of all of these nice people and it exists because of your continuing support through
Subbable.com. There is a link right there that you can click to voluntarily subscribe
and keep this show, you know, rolling. Thank you, so much, to everyone that has watched
and supported this show over the last two years. I’m wearing the same shirt that I
wore on the 1st episode of Crash Course World History to celebrate two successful years
of teaching history! This has been one of the great professional
joys of my life and I’m so grateful to everyone that has helped make the show and everyone
who has watched it. You can find a full list of your reading for Crash Course Literature
in the doobly-doo. Thank you again for watching, and as we say in my hometown, “Don’t forget
to be awesome

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