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The people have spoken

Wednesday, 7 November, 2012

American flag by Jasper Johns And half of US voters have rewarded Barack Obama with a second term. The challenges facing the United States in the coming four years of his presidency are daunting. Nearly a third of Americans now depend on food stamps, welfare, disability payments or some other form of government support. Even greater dependency is just around the corner as the “baby boomers” begin to retire. Then, the percentage of Americans over 60 will jump from 16 percent of the population to 25 percent. As their requirements for federal government assistance rise, that same government’s capacity to finance even more largesse will fall as the rest of the world cannot be expected to fund American well-being in perpetuity.

More numbers: With just 58 percent of the US working-age population employed today, the budget deficit is now running at more than a trillion dollars a year. During the past year alone, the US Treasury borrowed $1.2 trillion. This cannot continue. But a second term for Barack Obama means more of the same: more dependency, more spending and more debt. All against the backdrop of a profoundly divided country, with the popular vote virtually tied, not to mention the 90 million Americans who didn’t even bother to vote. Change? Hope?

Those who did vote for Obama have placed a big bet on hope. At home, they hope that he’ll use his second term to foster prosperity, security, tolerance and justice. On the international front, they hope that he’ll address the Palestinian tragedy, face down the anti-democratic Middle Eastern petro-monarchies, bring Iran to the negotiating table, engage meaningfully with Russia and manage the pivot to Asia in a way that avoids conflict with China. Over to you, Mr President.


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