Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama's Stimulus, Romney's Austerity

AT the last presidential debate, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent majority of their tussle around military spending, Iran, Israel, Pakistan etc—all the macho Captain America posturings and “national security” cautionary air. What about global economy? Aside from China, what is the trade policy on Russia, Brazil, India, Southeast Asia. What about the European Union? All this “threat to America” should be set aside—instead, focus on formulating a more sound economic/trade relations with the world...
     A glaring look at the debate also articulates Obama's edge in the race. Romney appeared tensed, scattered, unconvincing–and he agreed with Obama on most issues (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iran). The Massachusetts politician didn't present one smartly thought out foreign policy agenda. The president was more firm and convincing—although I don't necessarily agree with some or most of his arguments. Romney contradicted himself on not just one issue. It's as though he forgot what he kept on hammering out in his campaign speeches...
     I am particularly concerned that they didn't discuss or even asked by the moderator about how they'd deal with Russia being a member now of WTO (as China's main competitor in "stealing" American jobs and patents), China gaining control in South China Sea (a main trade gateway and defense fort), and what about the European Union? It bothers me that the debate centered on national security in re Iran and Pakistan... It sends a chilling message to Americans and the world that Muslims should be hated instead of looking at the global situation as a business negotiation and mutually beneficial compromises.
     But then, let's leave foreign policy for a bit and focus on economy.
     Mitt Romney’s best argument on the campaign trail is consistent but weak: Under President Obama, the American economy has remained gasping. That is not hard to argue. But if we scrutinize the Governor's proposed economic policies, well—Americans should worry more. He favors the same austerity measures that Germany and Britain have been implementing to rescue the economic downturn—as though he isn't looking outside his window what's going on in the West.
     Austerity refers to a policy of deficit-cutting by lowering spending via a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided. Austerity policies are often used by governments to try to reduce their deficit spending and are sometimes coupled with increases in taxes to demonstrate long-term fiscal solvency to creditors.
     Textbook wisdom says that in an event of a downturn, governments should go into deficit to stimulate demand. That trick, after all, saved America from the Great Depression. But times are changing so fast. Recent European data and analysis by the International Monetary Fund underscore that austerity in the middle of a downturn not only doesn’t help but leads to even higher ratios of debt to economic output. The IMF projects that Europe's economy is expected to shrink even more this year, and that the US economy will only grow by 2 percent.
     Republicans who are almost unanimously in favor of austerity tried their shenanigan in New Jersey. NJ ranked 47th in economic growth last year. When Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010 and began to impose austerity measures, New Jersey ranked 35th in its unemployment rate; now it ranks 48th.
     Bottomline, Obama's massive stimulus program and Germany/Britain's US Republican-endorsed austerity aren't working for the West.
     Needless to say, the president's $700 billion rescue of Wall Street in 2008 created only at least 1.4 million jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That wasn’t enough. Moreover, the 93 percent income gains from the 2009-10 recovery went to only the top 1 percent of taxpayers, says economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.
     So what's going on? Americans should head East... Drop Europe and ponder countries that are doing exceptional work with their economies. I mean, even the “lowly” Philippines has recently donated money to a cash-strapped IMF.

Friday, October 12, 2012

US Presidential Elections: It's All Foreign Policy

U.S. PRESIDENTIAL elections.
     What American voters must dig in deeper is Washington's ever-intensifying relationship with global economy/regional security, especially that Uncle Sam's European allies are in disarray. World Bank and IMF are virtually penniless and tempest roars on the streets.
     Historically, most US presidents devote more energy while on campaign trail on domestic issues than overseas—but about a year or two after they are elected, they seem to focus an ever increasing amount of time to the rest of the world. The Balkans consumed Bill Clinton. George W. Bush launched two wars. Barack Obama paid much attention on revamping counter-terrorism policies, rebalancing priorities on the Pacific Rim, prosecuting a war in Libya, and wiping out Osama bin Laden.
     Without spending too much rhetoric on foreign policy, it is apparent that both candidates' tactical teams are looking beyond the West: Asia, Southeast Asia, South America. They have reasons to be wary. The playing field has become tight in the past few years. China has emerged big like the proverbial dragon, Russia launches huge stakes in Antarctica's melting icebergs for oil etc etc. India and Brazil—and most Southeast Asian countries—have muddled bidding for the world's factories with China and Russia.

NOTWITHSTANDING President Obama's campaign pledges to fix the economy, few weeks following his proclamation in 2008/9, he embarked on a trade mission to China—for obvious reasons. Apparently, such gesture didn't manifest into good tidings. Hence these days, as Mr. Obama runs for re-election, he takes on tougher line toward Beijing...
     The White House has filed two major cases in the past three months against China at the World Trade Organization. On the same day as the latest trade action, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced plans in Tokyo to help Japan deploy a new missile-defense system, which has aroused suspicion in Beijing.
     Then figure this out: Why did Washington gave a no-visa policy to Taiwan—a privilege that China doesn't enjoy although the Chinese is tops in terms of bringing in tourism money to the US. Washington has, time and again, rejected the suggestion that the United States was pursuing a cold-war-style containment of China... Let's wait and see. Meantime, we have to ask: Why is it there are renewed war exercises in South Pacific—at a time of Chinese “bullying” in contested islands in South China Sea?

BUT hold up, let us also look into how the presidentiables stand on North Korea, Iran, Mexico (it is NOT an illegal immigrant perch, it is an important economic partner), Colombia's drug wars, Libya (remember, Libya is an OPEC power), Afghanistan (take Kabul out, then worry about your next medication/pills--this country is a pharmaceutical minefield).
     Not Obama or Romney have presented credible or consistent stand on these matters, as yet. Americans can't just say, "Let's just look within." Whatever Washington decides on outside and beyond affect America's smallest town and biggest cities. Look what happened when Bill Clinton got China into WTO in the 1990s...
     If the 1 percent/Wall Street pushes for Russia, India and Brazil in re factory/outsourcing alternatives besides China and Southeast Asia, expect recession to go worst than the Great Depression. But then, we are all numbed by apps, FB, tweets, and Smartphones, so it's dim.

MOREOVER, I don't get the point why Romney/Obama (esp. Mitt) had to harp on education and the middle class. Education? College grads are waiting and bussing tables and cleaning houses just to pay rent. So Massachusetts made good in educating its youths under Romney? But for what? Where are the jobs that levels with such good education? Even Harvard scholars are caught cheating...
     And the middle class? They are living on their beat up sedans. History says many exodus to America for greener pastures... But the US has become simply a place to hang out and chill place for the contemporary rich (check Chinese and Brazilian tourist data in NYC alone in the last 4 years)--while brilliant Americans leave families and fly to Saipan or Hongkong or Guangzhou province to supervise workers. The world order has tilted.
     America has more than ever couldn't survive without its allies. Whoever wins in the coming election, must convince his constituency that life and living will improve drastically—because Washington is adapting a more decisive stance in regards foreign policy.