America Faces the Prospect of Its Decline
America doesn’t lack intelligence and wisdom, but it uses them for partisan power struggles instead of strong political cooperation.
Translated By Bion Johnson
22 January 2013
Edited by Hana Livingston
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)
America doesn’t lack power; its power lacks focus. America doesn’t lack the means to focus its power; the means aren’t being carried out.
President Obama is entering his second term. This comes after America’s two political parties have temporarily agreed to raise the “debt ceiling” as an inauguration gift. But this gift has not fostered an atmosphere of cooperation. Prominent American economist Paul Krugman states, “In a tactical sense the fiscal cliff ended in a modest victory for the White House. But that victory could all too easily turn into defeat in just a few weeks.”
French newspaper The Daily Echo posed a question: Can Obama afford to operate without Republican cooperation? The answer is that he cannot. In the next few weeks, Obama will again need support from Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. Otherwise, America will be unable to pay its debts. Then it will be his opponents’ time for revenge.
Throughout American history, every president who wins a second term makes poor decisions (to varying degrees) that result in a lifetime of regret. Obama wants to make a lasting impact in his second term, so he must come up with a way to revive the sluggish economy. Doing so would be the best defense against what historians call “the second term curse.” Obama must expand on the accomplishments of his first term by ensuring the continuation of the economic recovery, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the strengthening of financial regulation. He and his team must quickly face the upcoming automatic budget cuts, deadlines for government expenses and the third hard fiscal battle over raising the debt ceiling. At the same time, he must accumulate enough political capital to address gun violence, immigration policy, tax code reform, climate change and many other challenges.
Yet circumstances are more powerful than individuals. Since the 2010 elections, Obama has been paralyzed by party conflicts. Winning re-election does not change this — his hands continue to be tied by struggles between the two parties. Recent polls by America’s NBC and Wall Street Journal show that 70 percent of Americans are unsatisfied with the current economic conditions, and only about one third believe Obama has the ability to promote strong economic growth.
Similarly, international public opinion also expresses misgivings about Obama’s second term. There is concern that poor decisions in U.S. policy could negatively affect the global economy. Specifically, the international public is concerned about Washington’s inability to make and enforce policy decisions.
As America’s economic troubles persist, will its trade policies become more conservative? In its “re-focus on Asia Pacific,” will America’s domestic woes cause it to continue to profit from exploiting old regional conflicts? Will an increasingly introverted America neglect global economic reform? As America’s own development slows, will it worry even more about those emerging economies whose development is accelerating? These questions certainly didn’t fall from the sky, and the last year has revealed some clues about the answers.
Today, America is certainly facing many thorny problems. In the eyes of many other nations, America doesn’t lack power, but it lacks the ability to focus its power. It doesn’t lack the means to focus its power, but it lacks the execution of those means. America doesn’t lack intelligence and wisdom, but it uses its intelligence and wisdom for partisan power struggles instead of strong political cooperation. It is up to America to ask the question of whether or not it will decline, and in the end it will be Americans who determine the answer.
It will be difficult for Obama to avoid the second term curse. It is crucial that he act wisely to crack the structural, political and economic problems facing America. It is up to him to shoulder these responsibilities, not shirk them. This is the American people’s expectation, as well as the world’s expectation for America.
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