Sixty-Seven Numbers That Define the Obama Era

Health care, drone strikes, and a shrinking unemployment rate: a look at the figures that will define Obama’s legacy—for better and worse.
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Health care, drone strikes, and a shrinking unemployment rate: a look at the figures that will define Obama’s legacy—for better and worse.
President Barack Obama waves to supporters after delivering his farewell speech on January 10th, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois.

President Barack Obama waves to supporters after delivering his farewell speech on January 10th, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois.

With President Barack Obama set to transfer his executive powers to Donald Trump today, it’s worth reflecting one last time on the unusual nature of his presidency. As my colleague Seth Masket points out, Obama has been something of an “overperformer” as far as presidents go:

We’ve had presidents with pretty strong records of economic performance and legislative achievement. We’ve had presidents who have avoided major wars. We’ve had presidents who have managed to complete their terms virtually free of scandal. We’ve basically never before had someone who accomplished all of this.

Well, that’s not totally true. The Obama era, though monumental and historic in some ways, has fallen short in others. But eight years is a long time, and it’s difficult to recall every victory and failure of two terms’ worth of political maneuvering and economic uncertainty. Below, a brief rundown of the Obama era’s highs and lows, by the numbers:

  • 1,800,000: People who attended Obama’s first inaugural.
  • 7.8: The unemployment rate when Obama is sworn into office in January of 2009.
  • 4.7: The unemployment rate as of December of 2016.
  • 179,650: The number of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined when Obama becomes commander-in-chief.
  • 17,000: Additional troops authorized in a February of 2009 surge in Afghanistan.
  • 12,280: The number of American troops in both countries as of December of 2016, perNew York magazine.
  • 528: The number of drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration (at least).
  • 4,189: Persons killed by American drones abroad.
  • 474: Civilians killed, estimated.
  • 50,000: The number of military “advisers” left behind in Iraq after Obama announces the end of combat operations in August of 2010.
  • 24: Kobe Bryant’s jersey number, which is only relevant because of this unfortunate January 2014 analogy deployed by Obama on ISIS: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”
  • 275: Armed Forces personnel sent back to Iraq in June of 2014 to deal with ISIS.
  • 68,300: Territory, in square kilometers, controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as of June of 2016.
  • 242: The number of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay when Obama takes office.
  • 45: The current population of Guantanamo Bay.
  • 0: Campaign promises to close Guantanamo Bay fulfilled.
  • 77: Cents on the dollar American women made compared to men when Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, his first piece of legislation.
  • 80: Cents on the dollar American women make compared to men as of 2017.
  • 787: Dollars, in billions, authorized by Obama to stave off a major economic depression following the financial crisis of 2007–08.
  • 61: The percent stake the United States government acquired in General Motors in July of 2009 in an unprecedented auto bailout.
  • 250,000: Manufacturing jobs created by said bailout as of 2012.
  • 9,034: The Dow Jones Industrial Index when Obama took office.
  • 19,732: The Dow on January 19th, 2017.
  • 1,200,000,000,000: Student loan debt owed by Americans as of January of 2016.
  • 3: Supreme Court nominees put forth by Obama.
  • 2: The number actually confirmed by the Senate.
  • 28: Pages in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion striking down the federal government’s same-sex marriage ban.
  • 5: Words in the phrase “the Cambridge police acted stupidly,” Obama’s first national foot-in-mouth moment.
  • 2: Words in “You lie!,” Representative Joe Wilson’s retort to Obama during the president’s first address to a joint session of Congress in September of 2009.
  • 15.7: The percentage of Americans who were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.
  • 8.6: The percentage of Americans uninsured as of January of 2017.
  • 20,000: Deaths from opioid abuse in 2009.
  • 33,000: Deaths from opioid abuse in 2015.
  • 1,000,000,000: Super PAC spending since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens Unitedv. FEC in January of 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
  • 39: Minutes in “Collateral Murder,” the footage released by WikiLeaks showing a U.S. Army helicopter gunning down civilians in Iraq in 2007.
  • 35: Years in the prison sentence for Chelsea Manning for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. Obama commuted her sentence in January of 2017.
  • 1,715: Commutations granted by Obama overall, more than any other president.
  • 8: Thanksgiving turkeys pardoned.
  • 535: Millions in federal loan guarantees bestowed upon solar panel company Solyndra by the Obama administration in 2010.
  • 2011: The year Solyndra went bankrupt.
  • 130,000,000: Gallons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
  • 19: People shot by Jared Lee Loughner, including Representative Gabby Gifford, in Tucson, Arizona, in January of 2011, the first major mass shooting of the Obama era.
  • 2,000: Guns linked to the botched Fast and Furious scandal, in which Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents distributed weapons to known criminals.
  • 6: The Seal Team that took out Osama bin Laden in May of 2011.
  • 14,200,000,000,000: Value of the U.S. government’s debt ceiling, reached in May of 2011.
  • 3: Months until Obama and the Republican Congress reach a deal on the federal budget with the Budget Control Act.
  • 250: Average number of people sleeping in New York’s Zuccotti Park each night starting in September of 2011 as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement
  • 1928: As of 2013, the last time income inequality in the U.S. was so high.
  • 12,000: The number of people who showed up to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline at the White House.
  • 17: Age of Trayvon Martin when he’s shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Florida in February of 2012. Obama will wade into the issue of race and policing over the rest of his time in office.
  • 2,500,000: People deported by the Obama administration between 2009 and 2015, more than any other previous president.
  • 5: The number of Supreme Court Justices who votes to save Obamacare as a “tax” in June of 2012.
  • 51.1: Percent of the popular vote won by Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012.
  • 47.2: Popular vote won by Romney—a figure that is conspicuously close to the name of the hidden camera video that helped to sink his campaign.
  • 5,100,000: Barrels of oil a day produced by the U.S. when Obama took office.
  • 8,900,000: Barrels a day produced as of April of 2016.
  • 43: Years ago the U.S. produced that much oil.
  • 267: Casualties in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, including three fatalities.
  • 1.7: The number of documents, in millions, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden stole from the U.S. government before leaking them to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in June of 2013.
  • 4: Section of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in June of 2013.
  • 1: Fatalities during the 2014–15 Ebola epidemic that put the entire country on edge.
  • 1961: The year the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba before Obama re-established them in 2015.
  • 16: Months of formal negotiations for the U.S. and Iran to reach a compromise on nuclear weapons in July of 2015.
  • 1: Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to Obama in 2009 to encourage the president’s vow to work against nuclear proliferation.
  • 1,800,000,000: Increase in U.S. nuclear arms spending proposed by Obama in his 2017 defense budget.
  • 67: The approval rating upon taking office in January of 2009, per Gallup.
  • 57: The approval rating upon leaving office.

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