November 7, 2012
“Forward” was one of the major slogans of Obama’s presidential campaign. This term is etymologically filled with hope, prosperity, solidarity, and, needless to say, a feeling that “we can win”. Obama has always been a popular icon, with strong communication skills – and to these features he mainly owns his first election.
During his second rally, Obama put more emphasis on his deeds on domestic policy -with reference to his great achievement, the health care reform- and less to his unparalleled communication skills and his ease with media handling. In addition to that, in proper time during the second debate he smited Republican candidate Romney in foreign affairs issues, showing that he is well-informed on topics of power politics. After all, and with the effective managing of tycoon “Sandy” side-effects, he is now re-elected and ready to assume his second term in office.
I have to admit that I have a personal sympathy for Obama for reasons that are not literally political, but I firmly believe that his agenda lacks improvision in two fundamental -and globally concerned- issues: in his plan of addressing the financial crunch and in foreign policy.
Regarding the first one, Obama has proposed a budget deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases in order to reduce public deficit by $3.8 trillion over a decade. To achieve this, he was clear during his campaign that weight should be put to high-earned US citizens (with income over $250.000 a year) in order to avoid cuts from Medicare and the Social Security establishment, and keep securing his first-term achievements. In this respect, he is also planning to expand his health insurance program, which I personally believe, is definitely a critical decision in order to solidify social solidarity and to widen the social safety net.
Unlike his domestic economic policy intention, Obama’s agenda entails no specific declaration or plan that can address global financial crisis, whether this could be a broader policy to combat austerity politics or a similar plan to establish a global system of tax-imposing transactions aimed to revitalize investment policy and deal with poverty and unemployment, especially to the most vulnerable parts of the society.
Regarding austerity politics in Eurozone, it was clear these two months that both the European Union and the leadership of the International Monetary Fund were waiting the US elections and their outcome in order to shape a certain policy. Now that US has its President and things can get underway, I am really wondering what can change and what Eurozone can expect from Obama’s second term. Are conditions and policies going to change towards more solidarity and growth or should we be looking over Obama’s domestic economic policy to translate his intentions globally?
If we look upon his program on domestic economics, we come to the conlcusion that Obama is intended to appease austerity by relocating the burden of tax increases from the less privileged to the wealthiest. But wasn’t this the policy of Hollande, Monti, and Rajoy in the European Union these last months? I regret to say but if this is the plan -i.e. more taxes for the wealthiest- we should expect nothing more than what we are already experiencing these two years now: recession, recession, and recession. We should all agree that imposing further taxes to millionaires will lead to nowhere, as tax evasion will inevitably increase.
Regarding his foreign policy agenda, Obama’s strategic doctrine is still putting emphasis on the maintainance of US troops in geopolitically sensitive areas (i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa), proving that power politics still designate the agenda. Recostruction and development has never been achieved in areas of military intervention, but in the contrary political conditions have been worsened.
In addition to that, there is no plan on how global order can be shaped other than through the military intervention of NATO. The civil war in Syria is underway, with thousands of casualties and people being deported, but all analysis is focused on when and how NATO will intervene. The UN Security Council has been transformed into a forum of long-lasting discussions and a sanctionary body, as it is scorned into a field of vague and empty diplomatic relations.
Moreover, there is no plan on how climate change agenda can be further developed and implemented in order to bring both specific results and press China and other non-abiding states to control environmentally-damaging energy policies. Environmental policy has been for years now institutionalized in multilateral level but there are constant and deep concerns dealing with the priority level that this field of policy has in global agenda.
Therefore, I come to the conclusion that Obama’s political work in his second term should not only focus on broadening or improving its deeds, but mainly it should be put on a more radical and effective way when addressing all these crucial topics. I do not doubt about his intentions, but considering the pace of his first term I hope he will not be in position to demand a third term, as he cannot simply have it.Dimitris Rapidis