Significant National Events: 2010-2019
President Barak Obama (2009-2017) was the U.S. President through most of this decade. His administration's initial focus was guiding the Nation’s recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Immediately in 2009, it worked with Congress to pass an extensive financial stimulus package. The Dodd-Frank bill establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was passed in 2010. The Unemployment Rate dropped to 5% in 2015, the same as it was immediately prior to the start of the Great Recession.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known as ACA or Obama Care) became law in 2010. The ACA was designed to provide medical insurance to 95% of Americans; however, many states chose not to participate. By the end of the decade, 36 states including Montana had accepted ACA Medicaid coverage.
The Republican Party opposed the ACA from the time it was proposed in Congress. Republican politicians made dozens of administrative, judicial, and legislative attempts to repeal, defund, delay, or otherwise subvert the ACA. The intensity of their attempts increased after the ACA was judged constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. During the 2016 campaign, Republican Candidate Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace the ACA. In 2017, the Republican-controlled House and Senate voted on multiple bills to repeal or seriously hamper the ACA, but none succeeded in both chambers. After congressional attempts failed, President Trump systematically introduced administrative barriers to the execution of the ACA.
The effects of the ACA and of Trump’s barriers are evident in the data. In 2013, the year before the major provisions of the ACA went into effect, more than 44.4 million Americans (specifically, non-elderly adults) lacked health insurance coverage. Under the ACA, the number uninsured steadily dropped to 26.7 million by 2016. The trend reversed under President Trump; in 2018, 27.9 million had no health insurance coverage.3 Nevertheless, in spite of concerted Republican opposition, the ACA presently (2019) provides health insurance coverage to millions of Americans!
In the 2012 election, incumbent President Barack Obama was re-elected, defeating Republican challenger W. Mitt Romney. The U.S., assisted by a multinational coalition, sent military advisers, and later troops, to Iraq to help thwart a heavily armed militant group known as the Islamic State. The United States scaled back combat operations in Afghanistan, with the goal of leaving a small residual force in the country until 2016.
President Obama announced new sanctions targeting Russia's banking and energy sectors because of Russia's continued aggression in the Ukraine and Crimea. The U.S. resumed normal relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961. A coalition including the U.S. and the European Union agreed to lift the UN sanctions against Iran in exchange for the reduction of Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium by about 98 percent for the next 15 years.
In the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump (2017-present) was elected President, defeating the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million to Clinton, who was the first women ever nominated by a major party, but he won in the Electoral College. Throughout its first year, the Trump White House advisers and staff experienced numerous firings, resignations, and scandals.
Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Economists predicted correctly that those tax cuts would add trillions to the budget deficit and disproportionately benefit wealthy families and big corporations. In 2018, Trump withdrew the U.S. from several international organizations and international agreements that had been negotiated by the Obama administration. Trump began tariff wars with selected nations, including some long-time U.S. allies.
In 2018, President J. Trump nominated Ronny Jackson, his White House physician, to replace the departing Veterans Affairs Secretary. As the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Montana Senator Jon Tester held a press conference to list evidence that had been submitted to him indicating that Jackson would not be an acceptable VA administrator. In response, Trump demanded that Montana Senator Tester resign his Senate seat. The outcome was that Jackson withdrew from consideration as Secretary and also resigned as the White House physician. Tester did not resign. Although Trump vowed to prevent him from another term in the Senate, Tester was re-elected in 2018.
Retaliatory tariffs against agriculture products negatively affected Montana farmers in 2018. A partial shutdown of the federal government began in December and ended 35 days later in January, 2019. The shutdown was due to Trump’s demand for a legislated budget that included funds ($5.7 billion) to build a wall along the border with Mexico, a symbol of the administration’s “zero-tolerance” anti-immigration policy.
As 2019 ended, President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives which cited two articles charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors. The first article charged him with abuse of power for withholding Congressionally-designated military assistance from Ukraine to force that country to investigate one of Trump’s rivals for the Presidency. The second article charged him with obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. The U.S. Senate will hold an impeachment trial in 2020. (Update: In February, 2020, the U.S. Senate acquitted President Trump of both articles.)
In the Citizens United case that originated in Montana, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled (5 to 4) in 2010 that governments cannot restrict independent political expenditures by corporations, associations, and unions; as a result, “dark money” became overwhelmingly influential in the Nation’s politics. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA by a 5 to 4 decision. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that naturally occurring human genes may not be patented.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Defense of Marriage Rule that prohibited legally married gay couples from receiving federal benefits and privileges. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right in the United States, that voters can be required to present photo identification to cast a ballot, and elected judges can be banned from soliciting contributions for their own campaigns.
Beginning in March, 2016, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked any consideration of President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
In news about the environment, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 killing 11 and spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. In 2011, ExxonMobil workers attempted to contain 60,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River near Laurel, MT, contaminating an 85 mile stretch. Four years later, a pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline LLC split at a weld and 30,000 gallons of oil spilled into the ice-covered Yellowstone River just upstream from Glendive, MT. The oil contaminated Glendive's water supply with benzene, a carcinogen.
In 2013, President Obama announced standards on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. Scientists reported in 2015 that atmospheric carbon dioxide had increased to levels not seen in hundreds of thousands of years. A 2017 report by 13 federal agencies concluded that global warming is "extremely likely" (with 95 to 100% certainty) to be human-caused, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels. These and the reports by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contradict President Trump’s pronouncements on climate change.6
The Trump administration dropped climate change from its list of national security threats and it also banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using such words as “evidence-based” and “science-based” in any official budget documents. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2017 was the costliest year on record for climate and weather-related disasters in the U.S. Three powerful hurricanes - Harvey, Irma, and Maria - slammed into different parts of the U.S. in 2017, causing $265 billion damage in four weeks. Earth's glaciers shrank by about 3,500 billion metric tons during this era and the corresponding sea level rise caused flooding and coastal erosion.
The 2018 wildfire season in Californian was the worst ever. In all, 3000 sq. miles were burned, resulting in 100 deaths, many injured civilians and firefighters, and more than 23,000 structures destroyed. The damages totaled more than $3.5 billion. Smoke from the California fires, as well as fires in the Northwest U.S. and in western Canada, produced very poor air quality in Bozeman.
In January, 2017, the "Women's March" in opposition to the inauguration of Donald Trump had 4.6 million participants, including 10,000 in Helena, Montana; it was the largest single day demonstration in U.S. history. In response to the Trump administration’s overt hostility to science-based knowledge and preference for ideological-based policy justification, a "March for Science" was held on Earth Day in April, 2017. Hundreds of thousands took part across the country and involved hundreds of people in each of several Montana cities, including Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Helena, and Missoula.
The National Center for Health Statistics reported that U.S. life expectancy fell in 2016 for the second year running, probably due to the epidemic of opioid addiction. The “Me Too” movement arose in late 2017. It encouraged victims to expose sexual harassment and give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem, especially in the workplace. Tens of thousands of people, mainly women but also men, replied with #MeToo (the Twitter hashtag) stories from all aspects of social life. The scope of the problem elicited tremendous support as well as millions of dollars to assist in promoting awareness, counseling, and reform.
There were many technological challenges during the 2010s. There were many incidents of computer malware attacks on personal computers and personal digital devices. There also were large scale hacking attacks on digital information repositories, especially those maintained by government, political, or corporate entities. Many of the attacks were attributed to foreign governments and corporations. The web site WikiLeaks released to the press classified U.S. federal documents that had been stolen by computer hackers.
The U. S. Federal Election Commission was hacked by China during the October 2013 federal government shutdown. An “analytics” company was found to have used Facebook data, bribes, honey traps, fake news campaigns, and operations with ex-spies to influence elections around the world, including the 2016 U.S. election.
In January, 2017, a U.S. intelligence agency reported that Russia carried out a massive cyber operation in 2016 on orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to influence the election in favor of Trump. The Russians carried out a multi-pronged attack consisting of hacking the Democratic National Committee, use of social media and Internet trolls to spread misinformation, and open propaganda on Russian state media outlets. The U.S. Justice Department named former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia. In 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller of the U.S. Department of Justice charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking U.S. computers to affect the 2016 election. Mueller refused to tell Congress his conclusion about allegations that the Trump team conspired with Russia during the election.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers began to allow internet domain names to be any “dot-suffix.” The magazine Newsweek moved to an online-only format as print media in general struggled to compete with digital outlets. The FCC repealed net neutrality. The U.S. Bureau of the Census, following its policy for providing earlier census data to the public, released the 1940 Census data that included information on 132 million people. The first licenses for autonomous (self-driving) cars in the U.S. were granted in Nevada to Google.
In 2013, the first prototype of a large-format, affordable 3D printer (called Gigabot) was created. A few years later, Oak Ridge National Laboratory unveiled the world's most powerful computer, with a peak performance of 2⨯1017 floating-point operations per second.
US Airways merged with the bankrupt American Airlines, making American Airlines the world's largest air carrier. Following a notification period of 7 years, the government banned sale of 40-to-60 watt incandescent light bulbs. Initially compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) replacement bulbs were popular, but later light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs became the standard. For the first time, the FDA approved a gene therapy for an inherited condition.
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Last revised: 2021-04-19