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Der Standard, Austria

Barack Obama, Political European

By Gerfried Sperl

Translated By Kylee Carlson

20 January 2013

Edited by Drue Fergison

Austria - Der Standard - Original Article (German)

Four Examples of the Politics of the U.S. President

"America Turns European" is the headline on the cover of the recent issue of the British magazine "The Economist." Those who read this political magazine regularly aren't likely to get the sense that the headline is meant positively. The one-sided story confirms that suspicion: Republicans and Democrats are being charged with dragging out problem-solving, in a fashion similar to proceedings in the E.U.

The Euro crisis is continuing because the currency's structural weaknesses haven't been corrected, writes "The Economist." Just as Europeans are controlled by national interests, the same thing happens in the U.S. — the respective extremist parties (left and right) call the shots. And just like in Europe, the top politicians in the U.S. are not honest with their voters. Even Barack Obama is accused of this.

Obama, however, is even more staunchly "European" than his predecessor Bill Clinton, as far as politics are concerned. In the U.S., this political ideology is considered "liberal." Its opponents exaggerate this to "socialist” (by which they mean “extremist”). A few examples:

1) Healthcare reform. Hillary Clinton was appointed by her husband to push through health insurance programs in the U.S. based on the European model. She failed miserably. Obama more or less failed with Congress, but he had a few essential parts of reform brought through, in part thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, resulting in insurance for the majority of the sick and elderly.

2) Weapons laws. In 1998, Bill Clinton brought an assault weapons ban to the Senate and House of Representatives. It would have had to have been extended in 2004, but Clinton’s successor, the Texan Bush, let it run out, to the approval of the gun lobby. Obama now wants to enforce stricter regulations via Congress, with the aid of a presidential decree.

3) Foreign policy. Obama has avoided conventional wars but replaced them with drone attacks against suspected terrorists. This is controversial, as there have been civilian casualties. Overall though, the president follows the direction of the E.U. (such as in Libya) and tries to keep the U.S. out of ground combat.

4) Tax policy. The re-elected president raised taxes on the wealthy from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. This is still ten percent lower than in Austria and other E.U. countries. But with that the divide between rich and poor should close back up a little bit. Until the mid-70s, there was an unwritten social contract that was upheld by powerful government agencies. The richest executives back then earned 40 times as much as common laborers. During the Reagan years, lobbying gained strength and labor laws were weakened. Now industry bosses make 400 times as much as blue-collar workers.

The economic and financial crises have stopped a wider opening of the income gap in Europe. Obama, on the other hand, wishes to steer his country back toward the continental European model.



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