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Question #92803 posted on 01/15/2020 4:36 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Is there any way for me to see exactly what President Trump and President Obama have done and have tried to do in office? Like, I'd love to just have a list of policies each of them has done or has tried to push through congress. I hear about what they supposedly have wanted to do, and the horrible things they both supposedly have done, and the terrible things they wanted to but were stopped by congress or red tape, etc. But I know that so much of what happens during someone's time as president, whether good or bad, often has a lot to do with the presidents and policies before them. And I feel like a good way to get to know a president is to see what they've actually DONE.

So of course a neat list with every major policy they personally supported or tried to push through, complete with links to relevant source material, would be ideal. But since that might not be reasonable, whatever is the next closest thing would still be very helpful.

Thank you!

-Trying to be more informed


Dear informed, 

Good for you! It's important to be an informed civic participant. Regardless of whether you take a side or land in the middle, intentional research about policy is crucial, and admirable. 

This question has been held over far longer than it deserved to, so I hope by now you have perhaps done a bit of your own looking and found some information to suit your fancy. However, I also did some looking. Unfortunately, like you predicted there are not a lot of super clean cut, line by line comparisons because.... well, it would take a lot of work. Which is why I didn't create one here either. 

I did find some decent websites. I tried my best to read some that took a non-partisan approach, and the best one I found was this article from The Balance. It mostly covers their economic policy, and I think it does a decent job of pointing out what direction both Trump and Obama took things. What is important to understand about the budget, of course, is that technically the president doesn't control it. Congress does. It's also important to keep context in mind, which this article does. Obama had to work under the pressure of a recession, Trump does not. 

Josefina also included this link to a New York Times interactive article. Personally, I thought it was pretty good. At the end of the interactive bit, it includes comparison by showing some key policies that Trump has reversed since the Obama era. 

This Washington Post article does a good job of showing nuance and pointing out context that may influence trends as well. It doesn't cover a vast expanse of policies, but certainly includes enough... and shows some of the outcomes of various policies that Trump in particular has advocated for. I should note that this one mentions that less families are on Food Stamps under Trump, but doesn't explain that that largely has to do with cutting social safety net programs. (i.e., if you make it harder to get Food Stamps, of COURSE the number of people on Food Stamps goes down.) 

The other thing that article points out that I think is incredibly important to think about is that while presidents do have some sway on outcomes, they don't control the world. Despite what it seems, life continues before, after, and through different presidential terms. Trends continue, and while they can certainly be shaped by presidential policies, are not dictated by them. Electing someone for the next 4 years is not going to drastically change the way things work. The economy dictates the way the president responds, the president doesn't control the economy. Democratic OR republican, we spend in deficit and are all trying to lower things like unemployment and poverty. And every president from either party has mixed success in every aspect. 

The best way to really get to know Trump and Obama and their policies by comparison is to read news articles yourself and make judgements about what you think is effective and not effective. Reading summaries, while helpful, allows other people to do your thinking for you. I hope what I provided here can help you just a little bit on your road to being more informed. For now, it will have to do because I think you deserve an answer, rather than waiting till the next election to get anything.