Sunday, October 10, 2010

Leader or Follower: What's the Future for the US Economy?

What can we expect to happen in the US after the mid-term elections on 2nd November – and what impact might this have on the Global Business Environment?

In The New York Times, (9th October), David Chen wrote, “with many Americans seized by anxiety about the country’s economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain to run against: China. In the past week or so, at least 29 candidates have unveiled advertisements suggesting that their opponents have been too sympathetic to China and, as a result, Americans have suffered”.

Polls show that not only are Americans increasingly worried that the United States will have a lesser role in the years ahead; they are more and more convinced that China will dominate. In a Pew poll conducted in April, 41 percent of Americans said China was the world’s leading economic power, slightly more than those who named the United States.

The Democrats cite studies this year from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization, that assert three million jobs have been outsourced to China since 2001 because of the growing trade imbalance. But Republicans, backed by some academics, say the number is much smaller. Indeed, Scott Kennedy, director of the Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business at Indiana University, said that most of the jobs that China had added in manufacturing through foreign investment had come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, and not from the United States.

This is at the same time when a survey in the US showed the unemployment rate had held at 9.6%, meaning it has now topped 9.5% for 14 straight months, the longest stretch since the 1930s. These closely watched employment reports are the last updates before the November 2nd mid-term elections. On that date US voters will elect members of Congress, and there is a strong belief that voters opinion on whether the economy is recovering or sinking is likely to be a key influencing factor.

If problems with the economy and jobs weren’t enough for the current administration; a draft report by the National Oil Spill Commission appears to suggest the Obama administration was directly involved in controlling the oil spill message. More than 206m gallons (780m litres) of oil leaked into the Gulf before it was finally plugged on July 15. It has become the worst offshore oil leak in US history.

The panel, which was set up by President Barack Obama, found the White House denied an early request by government scientists to inform the public of its worst-case predictions. Carol Browner, the White House's energy and climate change director, said on August 4 "more than three-quarters of the oil is gone". The commission said her comments misrepresented the findings of a federal analysis, which had found the oil had "dissolved" and "dispersed" - but was never "gone".

After what seemed like world jubilation at the election of President Barack Obama, what is the future for politics and the economy in the US? If Fox News is right the Presidency could become a reality show in 2012. On 8th October they reported that Donald Trump may challenge Barack Obama for the presidency; "For the first time in my life, I'm actually thinking about it," Mr Trump, a self-declared Republican, told Fox News.

The businessman did not rule out the possibility of running as a representative of the Tea Party, the conservative movement that is seen as a sub-group of the Republican Part, but which some experts think could emerge as a third party. "I am a Republican but have great respect for what the Tea Party has done because they have brought to light what's going on. I mean, we have trillion-dollar deficits. The country is going bankrupt, let's face it," he added.

Mr Trump said that Barack Obama was ‘having a very hard time’ and that the US could be ‘doing much better with proper leadership’.

Trumps aspirations may not be that far fetched as US politics appears to be as much about ‘wealth’ and ‘media attention’ as anything else. Ms Nancy Pelosi, for example, the current Speaker of the House, has raised $52.3 million, since the beginning of 2009, for Democratic incumbents, candidates and the party’s Congressional campaign committee, (second only to President Obama among Democrats).

When you imagine how much money must have been raised by both parties; you can’t help asking yourself whether these funds are used in the best interests of the nation, at a time when many are still struggling with the recession; or used in the best interests of a few?

Will the mid-term elections in the US, on 2nd November, add further impetus to the US and international economic recovery; or could they be the spark that ignites another global economic crisis?

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