My sense is that President Obama wanted his administration to be the capstone of a century-long, progressive project.

He wanted to consolidate the federal government’s control over key aspects of our lives and prove, once and for all, that the country would be better off. Just look at what he said.

Only eight months after taking office, he took his focus off the economy and put it on what he hoped would be his single biggest domestic achievement: healthcare reform. He came before Congress and said, specifically, “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.”

It’s clear he saw himself as the latest in a long line of progressive leaders. This certainly explains the sheer breadth of issues he tried to take on, whether it was cap-and-trade or immigration or gun control. He wanted to lock in progressivism’s gains. But his ultimate legacy will be showing the country that progressivism in practice just doesn’t work.

Start with the healthcare bill. When he was running for office, Obama promised that it would cover every American and cut the typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year. Despite the American people’s clear disapproval, he rammed the bill through a Democrat-led Congress.

Six years later, there are still 33 million people without insurance, and the average family’s premium has risen by almost $5,000 since 2008. Millions of people’s insurance plans were canceled, forcing them to change coverage, and there’s been a pronounced consolidation in the industry as hospital chains gobble up small clinics and doctor’s offices.

It’s not just healthcare. We’ve also seen consolidation in the banking industry. Since Dodd-Frank became law, our country has lost on average one community financial institution per day. There are now fewer than 6,500 banks in total, the lowest level since the Great Depression.

And Dodd-Frank’s regulations have not helped the American people. Before Dodd-Frank, 75 percent of banks offered free checking. Two years after it passed, only 39 percent did. A study by Javelin Strategy and Research suggests that Dodd-Frank regulations fueled a 21 percent surge in checking fees between 2006-12.

But this consolidation is all part of the progressive vision. Free enterprise and local communities are just too messy and unreliable to solve problems. Instead, you need a big government to control big business, both of which must be run by a small, select elite — or as we call them today, “the experts.”

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This vision is very impatient with the checks and balances of the Constitution. If the experts have settled on the right idea, what’s a 200-year-old document to stop them? This more than explains why the president has routinely run around Congress and tried to enforce his policies through executive orders. And perhaps this is the most troubling aspect of his legacy: the slow, steady erosion of self-government.

There are plenty more examples, which we’ve been highlighting as part of our “Real Obama Liberal Legacy” project on But what do we have to show for all this?

The president likes to brag that “we’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history.” But what he doesn’t mention is that this recovery has also been historically weak. He can point to a low unemployment rate, but it doesn’t include the near-record high of 94 million people out of the work force. For all the tax hikes and reckless spending and red tape, America is not better off.

In more and more areas of American life, President Obama has given government the starring role and pushed the people into the wings. He might consider this a success, but here’s the true measure of progressivism: After eight years of it, the vast majority of Americans say we’re on the wrong track.

Rep. Paul Ryan is speaker of the House of Representatives. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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