Barack Obama; the Economy, Race and the American Presidency 2012: A Perspective

Article excerpt

FRAMING THE ISSUE

The issues of the 21st century's global society are numerous. Issues involving war, regional conflicts, the environment, the economy, education, healthcare, nutrition, political systems, valuing and accepting diversity within society, social structures, infra-structure repair and development and the effects of globalization are but some that are in need of resolve.

The current global economic crisis, cultural differences and the political discourse have created a reality that the world's leading economies must face. Factors such as rising income inequality, increasing poverty, the decreasing size of the modern middle class, unsustainable governmental obligations, political restructuring, widespread erosion of the public trust and that of its institutions have led various policy makers, in some countries, to borrow from the future on a massive scale with the hope of addressing the current crisis.

From an American-centric viewpoint, the effects of globalization, the economic raise of China and India, the nation's chronic deficits and America's pattern of excessive consumption spell out what the United States needs to address to attain the restoration of the American dream and the preservation of American global leadership. This period of expansive business globalization and the residue of the toxic recession of 2008 have leftthe United States in tatters, on its heels, and in search of resolutions.

THE ECONOMY 2012

The new tipping point would suggest that borrowing from the future by way of deficit spending places enormous pressures on American society, and its citizens, not only in terms of defining the proper approach to the country's asset allocation but to determining the moral direction of the country.

For example, in his 2005 paper, "Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness," Martin Gilens, a political scientist at Princeton University, examined the influence that different classes of Americans exert on federal government action. Sifting through detailed survey data on public support for thousands of proposed policy changes from 1981 through 2002, he found that, in essence, the government is responsive only to the wishes of the rich. Gilens compared popular support for different initiatives at various income levels and concluded that, on many issues, poor, middle-class and rich Americans held similar views. When they didn't, however, his research data indicated whose interests legislators and other policy makers served.

When the rich and poor disagreed about an issue, policy was closely geared to the preferences of the rich and was wholly unrelated to the preferences of the poor. The same was true, more or less, when the opinions of the rich differed from those of median-income Americans. When middle-class preference for any given policy flipped from strong opposition to strong support, the probability of government action rose by only 6 percent, on average, if the rich remained opposed. By contrast, when the rich supported an issue that the middle class opposed, the chances of government action rose by 30 percent. Whether or not elected officials and other decision makers care about middle-class Americans, Gilens concluded, "influence over actual policy out-comes appears to be reserved almost exclusively for those at the top of the income distribution."

If we are to learn from history, recent history at that, social tensions begin to develop and are typically strongest not just among the most marginalized groups of society, but among the newly marginalized, that is to say, those whose status and self-image have collapsed most abruptly or are in the greatest danger of doing so. In America, that describes a large part of the middle class. Therefore, income inequality is the cause for the cultural separation that is taking place currently in American society and I project that it will be even more corrosive over time.

Robert Samuelson weighs in on the issue by putting forth an argument that focuses on a more economic structure by stating, "we live in a world of broken models" and, as such, broken institutions. …