by Jennie S. Bev, Santa Clara
In my opinion piece “Obama’s campaign promises and us” (The Jakarta Post, Sept. 17, 2008), I predicted that Barack Obama was likely “underestimating” the magnitude of the state of the mess he inherited when he assumed office.
I wrote, “in terms of economy, he would need to fight really hard to make Wall Street and Main Street equal counterparts by not succumbing to special interests. This, of course, would require more than strong tenacity, but economic prowess and sophistication. And, apparently, he is inexperienced in this area. Despite his conviction that experience has nothing to do with future performance, his promise of economic justice is the one that hits home the hardest to US voters.”
It seems like this prediction came true, unfortunately. Of course, it would be heartless to “blame” him only, because it involves the whole system and the people who work for the system to make or break.
Now, he is campaigning for a second term.
Have I tasted Obama’s failure? I sure have. He was late in solving the foreclosure crisis that has been going on since 2007 until this very day, resulting in 13.5 million of empty homes, one of which was mine.
He is still late in solving the employment, because well — what do you expect. According to Arthur Okun’s law, for every 2.2 percent of real growth in GNP, unemployment falls by 1 percent. The national unemployment rate is currently 8.1 percent, higher than the 7.8 percent he inherited.
There is some good news on unemployment. Approximately 900,000 more jobs in professional services and 1 million more jobs in healthcare have been filled compared to when he took office and three million more jobs were filled for college graduates, although there were 2 million fewer jobs for high-school graduates. Still, these numbers aren’t good enough.
How about deficits? He promised to cut it from US$1.3 trillion he inherited in 2009. Yet, for four years in a row, including this year, the deficit has been $1.3 trillion. Combine them all, we get $4.2 trillion, which he speaks of cutting over the course of 10 years. Today, the national debt has reached $16 trillion.
Such high unemployment rates and ongoing deficits are enough to create a gloomy picture for the next four years, whoever is in office. The challenges are more than those lousy numbers. The lowered morale of Americans who have been out of work for too long is likely to affect the overall mental health of the society. We can also expect to see more homeless on the streets.
The overall American high standard of lifestyle is deteriorating, despite certain enclaves of upbeat and unconventional intellectual, financial and artistic hubs, such as Silicon Valley, Manhattan and Los Angeles. People work harder and longer hours than four years ago. And Obama’s performance hasn’t helped.
Whether we vote Obama or Mitt Romney, we should always remind ourselves that voters want the same thing: a good and secure life. Paying taxes shouldn’t be a pain, as long as the economy supports for personal economic growth.
In this bad economy, where cheap assets are everywhere, it is expected that the one-percenters are likely to enjoy acquiring them and making more profits in the future. Obamanomics’ bottom-up concept should be supported by a strong middle class, which is disappearing rapidly. Do we want to see US as a “pariah” country where homelessness is rampant?
It might happen, but we must not lose hope. America shall prevail again, because of these reasons.
First, the American ideology of democracy is the envy of the world. We can’t imagine China with its communism becoming the poster child of world ideology.
Second, the US is still the largest economy in the world, with a nominal GDP of $15 trillion, while China’s GDP is $7 trillion and the Eurozone’s GDP is $17 trillion. US GDP per capita is $48,400 for a population of 314 million.
Third, history shows that the US has experienced economic downturns in the past and always prevailed, emerging better and stronger. The bad economic situation in the 1890s, 1930s and 1970s were all accompanied by recoveries.
Fourth, US hard power and soft power are still the strongest in the world. US multinational corporations with favorite brands still lead the worldwide corporate competition.
Fifth, rival countries have many issues hindering economic growth and soft power influence. China and India, for instance, have many internal issues to resolve before they can pull themselves up again to achieve global influence.
Sixth, the American style of industriousness, tenacity, and influence have always been the winning fighting spirit that distinguishes the US from other nations.
Indonesia is now enjoying rapid economic growth, while the US is struggling to stand up again. The least Indonesia can do is learn from the US’ failures and be ready for the US to rise again, which comes with enormous opportunities for Indonesia, with or without Obama in the next four years.
The Jakarta Post, October 11, 2012