US Economy Recovers But Obama’s Popularity Ratings Low
Barack Obama faced an extremely daunting challenge for any newly elected president when he took office as president in November 2008.
He inherited two very unpopular wars waged by his predecessor George W. Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan costing many American lives and billions of dollars while the economy was in the worst ever depression since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The 47-year-old black American – the first black American to be an American president – had no previous experience in holding public office. He was a lawyer by profession and a social service worker. To judge him as ‘the most powerful man in the world’ – as all American presidents have been described – and whether his performance has been up to expectations will be pronounced by the American people on November 4 this year.
To us, half way removed round the globe from this most powerful nation, judgement of the man can only be made through the international media.
By and large the international media has been fair by him – save from extreme rightist organisations – and Obama comes through as a world leader with humanistic values who could have done much more for the poor of the world had not the prevailing world economic crisis and the usual constraints of governance imposed on American presidents held him back.
Barack Obama’s electioneering slogan was: ‘Yes, We can’ and thousands of young Americans of all hues worked, voted and even financed him with their meagre savings but Obama could not do much to change the American or international system or even make a sizeable dent on them. Obama as a black American came as a refreshing change to most Asians, save of course the inscrutable Chinese and Indians, who were indebted to George W. Bush for helping them in their transformation from a cow dung power to a nuclear and regional power. Most Europeans too saw him as a welcome change from the Texan cowboy who shot from the hip and had them involved in his adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan which they had little interests in. Africans of course loved him considering him as one of them.
It was with the Arab world and other predominantly Islamic countries that he has fallen foul of. Obama made overtures to the Islamic world such as in his address to the Cairo University. But American presidents come up against a solid stone wall when it comes to Israel which is reviled by Islamists whereever they may be. Only President Jimmy Carter was able to make some headway in forging the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. But Anwar Sadat, one of the signatories, paid with his life for that and now with the overthrow of President Hosni Mubrak bitter sentiments are being expressed about the agreement.
The Israeli lobby is predominant in the United States wielding influence in vital areas of power such as the media and finance. Barak Obama tried hard to make the Israeli government stop from putting up illegal buildings on Palestinian owned land but the super hawk Benyamin Netanyahu stood firm and the American president did a strategic withdrawal. At the United Nations Security Council the resolution condemning Israeli settlements on the West Bank was opposed by only one member: the United States.
George Bush’s vision of making Iraq a shining example for other Arab states to follow was in shambles by the time Obama took office. The sectarian violence unleashed with the destruction of the dictatorial powers of Saddam Hussein could not be contained with outside forces such as the al Quaeda and covert Iranian influences too coming in. The only option left was to pull out the American forces rather than they be targets for various forces making a bid for power.
Foreign policy does not matter
Afghanistan too appears to be beyond control of US forces and their ally Hamid Karzai. Withdrawal of US troops by next year is on the cards leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban forces who seem to be unstoppable. The conundrum of Pakistan is too complicated to be dealt in these comments.
It is widely accepted that in the American presidential race foreign affairs does not come into play unless a very serious development takes place on the eve of the election. Obama and the American economy were in the doldrums for the greater part of his presidency fairing disastrously in the mid term elections, the Democrats losing 63 seats in the House of Representatives which put much of Obama’s plans on the hold.
However his most spectacular achievement was his Obamacare Act – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which he presented while great financial institutions were collapsing and the financial crisis raged. It had an easy passage in the Senate when Democrats had the majority but only scraped through the House of Representatives by 219 to 212 votes after the Democrats lost the mid term elections.
It showed tremendous courage of Obama with even some democrats voting against it for the expenses involved. But it would have been a matter of personal satisfaction because it brought in 30 million hitherto uninsured people – particularly poor people who did not have insurance cover.
A truly humanitarian act. Still 25 million people will be without insurance cover – mainly illegal immigrants who are estimated at 25 million. The vehement objections to this bill was because of the expenditure involved, an estimated $1.7 trillion in gross federal spending during the period 2012 and 2022.
Obma’s other courageous act was to pump in $ 787 million as a stimulus package to financial institutions to make the economy recover. There was widespread criticism in helping out failed financial institutions but the Obama financial strategies have made the economy recover. At the time he became president the economy was losing more than 700,000 jobs per month but by 2012, 4.3 million private sector jobs were created in 27 months. Statistics cited by the Obama campaign claim that 489,000 jobs were added on in the manufacturing sector.
However approvals rates of Obama have fluctuated between 47 to 49 per cent for Obama. On Tuesday (July 03) the Rasmussen Poll gave Mitt Romney an approval rating of 47 per cent and Obama 44 per cent. Four per cent preferred another candidate and while 5 per cent were undecided.