By Qaisar Sultan
The midterm elections in the USA changed the political landscape for next two years. The Republican Party got the majority in the congress and closed the gap in the senate. The pendulum has swung back towards more conservative mode; smaller government and lower taxes. It is not a complete defeat of liberalism; but it is a short setback. The majority of working class in America feels that they should have decent life style; there should be high paying jobs, good housing, good health programs and education. These social programs require money that is mainly acquired through taxation on American people. The Democratic Party usually goes to that route, high spending and high taxes. President Obama is a liberal idealist. Obama, after the biggest lost in recent history in the congress, suggested that Americans do not have fixed political ideology. That is true. There are independent, conservative, liberal and moderate voters. In various elections the conservatives voted for Democratic Party and liberals for the Republican Party. President Obama is also a pragmatist. He implemented one of greatest stimulus programs to save and boost the economy; the conservatives opposed that. President administration spent huge amount money to failing financial institution and conservative supported that. President Obama got carried away with the agenda that he had in his mind even before he became president. He saw social justice as the driving force for the long term progress of the country. The first priority of his administration was to implement a comprehensive health plan that would provide a net for those who had fallen through the cracks in the health system. President Clinton and first lady, Hillary Clinton started the same ambitious health policy legislative process and failed. The social health plan paid by the government is not uncommon in the civilized world. Most European countries, China, Japan, England, Canada and most of European countries have provided coverage to their citizens through state. But America lives in its own universe. The medical lobby with the help of the Republican conservatives always made sure that the issue should be dead before arrival to the congress. The privileged get the best medical system and care in the world.
The economy at the end of President Bush presidency in 2008 was in shambles. The housing market boom and bust created a worldwide recession. The house loans, sub-prime mortgages, were sold as derivatives, in tune of 10.6 trillion dollars, bought by large financial institutions; and pension funds were invested in those derivatives, all over the world. Those loans were extremely risky. The economic recession with higher interest rates and higher unemployment and the loss of the value of the real estate in USA, bought in after years of exaggerated high prices on adjustable mortgage rates forced people to let those properties go to foreclosure; people could not simply pay the mortgages as the rates reached to an unaffordable threshold- They could not sell the properties as the real estate market collapsed. The giant Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. AIG, one of the largest insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Citi Bank, Chase and other small and large banks and financial institutions needed federal help to stay in business; General Motors and Ford Car Company, two American icons of American dominance of car industry in the world were on verge of going out of business, and needed billions of dollars to stay afloat. In 2008 elections, one wondered who wanted to become the president of a country so close to depression of a larger magnitude then that of 1928 depression.
The neo-conservative interventionism in the world affairs were costing America not only billions of dollars every month, its image was tarnished all over the world. The Iraqi and Afghanistan war had to be brought to some closing without losing the face. President Bush, on the advice of neo-conservatives like Vice President Chaney who was suggesting that the panacea of all the ills of third world were due to undemocratic governments, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. They created the mess all over the world and dragged America into something that required a protracted war, costing billions of dollars.
In that backdrop, Americans elected the first African American president, who was raised by his white mother’s family. He had the best education; he attended Columbia and Harvard Universities. After Woodrow Wilson, he was an intellectual and a philosophically oriented president. It is important to observe that Americans usually elect someone very different than the one who stayed in the office for eight years. President Nixon who was considered as someone very shrewd and cunning, they elected President Carter as he was perceived as a very gentle and nice man; he was also a liberal Democrat. After a weak and liberal president, they elected a strong and true conservative President Ronald Regan. After twelve years of conservative presidency, they again elected a very liberal president Clinton; and then a conservative president Bush. President Bush was not an intellectually oriented man. He sounded and acted simple and plain. In 2008, the American people elected an intellectual. Within two years and loss of midterm election cannot foretell us the decision that American would make to elect their next president; it is too soon to predict. This new president was looking to resolve some of the problems that American people understand and appreciate but are reluctant to deal with them. All new programs cost money and affect people’s lives. What people were expecting from this president was a magic wand to find jobs for most Americans; Instead of getting cow out of the ditch; the attention was diverted to the green pasture for its feeding. President Obama could not wait for another two years without implanting his first and foremost ambitious health program. The Obama administration includes some of the brightest mind in their fields from the most elite universities in America. He brought two giants, Geitner (was the chairman of New York Federal Reserve) and Summer (had served as the treasury secretary during Clinton administration and served as the president of Harvard University). These two men were the most brilliant men for the job. They aggressively saved the collapsing economy, but could not bring down the unemployment less than 9.6 percent.
The Tea Party group that had a great impact on the mid-term elections was created by ultra- conservatives- They are mostly religious right groups. They had a tremendous influence in recent America politics. They energized people on the slogan of citizens taking their country back from liberal onslaught on what they called American values. The only solution that Obama team of economic policies could foresee was to supplement by injecting over trillion dollars through stimulus plan. Paul Kurgman, a noble prize winner of economics, was suggesting a bigger stimulus plan to save the economy going down the hill. The tax increase was proposed on high income individuals. They were lot of programs that needed huge amount of money. If the unemployment does not come down to a comfortable level soon, next two years will be critical for Obama administration- His Indian and China visits are part of that strategy; bring back jobs to America. America has lost manufacturing jobs. The countries, China, India, Mexico and Central American countries, with lower wages and cheaper operating expenses in new developing economy have attracted most American companies to look for off-shore for production. Those countries have taken the advantage of the current environment. American is mostly left with the service segment and high technology jobs. There is no doubt that Americans are looking for the relief that would take some time. In the mean time, the pendulum is shifting towards right. The liberal agenda of deficit spending and high taxes have taken its toll; and conservatives have won the day.