With President Obama about to close the books on the historic administration that marked the first African-American president, it could be his achievements in the economic realm that will be most remembered in the long term despite efforts on a range of social issues.
That’s because he became president in 2009 in the throes of the Great Recession, causing him to take action to save the economy.
Here, a look at the Obama era.
The Great Recession and Economic Recovery
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, initiated and signed in February 2009, was aimed at stimulating the economy through individual and corporate tax cuts, leniency in unemployment benefits, increased domestic spending and increased social welfare funding.
The plan amounted to $787 billion in government spending. It also set in motion 73 straight months of private sector job growth through October.
Outlook: The prospect for infrastructure investments in the new Trump administration, which seems to have bipartisan support, bodes well for the economy and job creation.
Made in America
The Obama administration helped spur a revival of U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing and exporting thought to be left for dead. This included government grants and a program called Select USA meant to encourage foreign investment. Much of the sourcing paradigm shift was rooted in financial incentives, such as low energy prices and the quick-turn culture of retailing. U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel totaled $27.75 billion in 2015, up 38 percent from 2009.
Outlook: The textile industry seems to have reestablished itself, particularly in the more automated yarn and knitwear sectors. Trump appears committed to Made in America and advanced manufacturing, so the revival is poised to continue.
In his State of the Union address in January 2015, Obama said, “Nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages….To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.” Since 2013, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have moved to raise their minimum wage.
Outlook: Trump hasn’t been clear on a minimum-wage hike, but surely the blue-collar workers who supported him in the election would benefit by it. Andy Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary, has said he opposed a minimum-wage increase.
In 2015, the White House issued the American Business Act on Climate Pledge that includes many fashion firms. The program is an effort to enlist the help of the business community to reduce its carbon footprint and stave off climate change. More than 150 companies have signed the pledge.
Outlook: In a word: bleak. Trump has pledged to roll back EPA regulations and pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate change accord, although last month he said he now has “an open mind” toward it. Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and Trump’s pick to head the agency, has questioned the science behind the impact of climate change and has sued the EPA over regulations.
Gay Marriage and LGBT Rights
Obama came out in support of gay marriage, an issue of importance to the fashion community, early in his presidency, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. Since taking office, Obama and his administration have made historic strides to expand opportunities and advance equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, including major legislative achievements.
Outlook: Trump has said same-sex marriage “is the law of the land,” seeming to put the issue to bed. His picks for vice president and attorney general, though, have each taken positions against same-sex marriage, so there is concern over Trump’s true position. Time will tell.