Economic and political challenges US at the end of the Obama era

January 16th, 2015 – Article previously published in the blog “US and emerging markets” CincoDí

In 2015 the end of the Obama era begins. This always happens in the last two years of the second term of an American president. Especially if, as usual, the legislature is of opposite sign, indicating that run new times and that the population is in need of a change. Obama himself has said on occasion: “In 2008, I was fresh news. Now I am no news. “

Bill Clinton ruled his last two years with a Republican Congress. George Bush did it with a Democratic Congress. Obama revisits the Clinton era. Between 2015 and 2016 pre-election period in the United States, because in November 2016 presidential elections there and in 2015 the potential candidates are gearing up and starting to collect funds. The 2016 will, in all probability the most expensive election campaign in history. There could be also a duel in the sun between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

In 2015 and 2016, Obama seeks to achieve two objectives: firstly, meet the challenges proposed. Furthermore, consolidate -since they are continuing their policy of six years previos- to paraphrase Bill Clinton, Obama may constitute his own legacy as president.

The first challenge has Obama ahead is the acceleration of economic growth with strong job creation. The president wants to end his term with GDP growth above 3% annually and full employment (unemployment rate of 5%). To do this, it will increase the participation rate, especially among youth and discouraged. Increasingly, autonomous actors will work life in America, and the rest of the West. The highlights The Economist in January 2015. It will be necessary to raise interest rates gradually (it will be up to the Fed), while reducing stimulus to the economy occurs during 2015.

The American GDP recovery will leave the one hand, strong domestic demand (increasingly private and public consumption and investment). But we also have to have exports and will need to finish the FTAs, both the slope with the European Union (TTIP) and with the countries of Asia Pacific’s what Hillary Clinton called the strategic shift from the US to Asia after failed attempts in the Middle East, on the one hand, and the menacing and growing Chinese influence in the region.

The big risk for the US economic recovery is slowing in the euro zone, China, Brazil and Russia. And it all together, pull down US because the US is not able to pull them up.

The legacy of President would not be complete if the reforms undertaken are not consolidated. The health care reform started on the wrong foot, but there are already many millions of Americans who benefit from it and being the engine of economic growth.

Financial reform, which we discussed in previous works, must still be implemented. Getting to implement the fine print normative -development 40% of the Dodd Frank.

The immigration reform has not even been filed (although a bipartisan version came to see the light in the Senate): In late 2014, Obama has prevented the deportation of five million Hispanics, but the reality is that the long-awaited reform does not progresses, due to the lack of agreement between Republicans and Democrats. United States has fifteen million Latinos living and working illegally in the country. Its demographic weight is growing and also the electoral. Republicans fear a diverse and very different country inherited from his grandparents, and Democrats see an opportunity to embrace the diversity of that feed.

The increased levels of family income from 2015 will be on the agenda of Obama’s domestic policy. The output of the crisis has resulted in increased productivity (thanks to information technology and wage freeze): It is time, now, that citizens benefit from economic recovery, with a greater ability to save and spend .

The presidential elections of 2016 also marked in part the president’s agenda, because he will pressure the Democratic contenders are already preparing for the electoral battle.

From a socio-demographic view, Obama will have to deal with three major challenges: racial tensions, reduce income disparity between rich and poor and ensure social mobility or so-called “American Dream”. This third point will be the great electoral trick of Hillary Clinton in 2016, reminding voters economic achievements of her husband in the nineties.

From a political standpoint, so Obama will not be easy to achieve these objectives, because it will be across the entire legislature (House of Representatives and Senate in Republican hands). Therefore, Obama will have to combine rule by decree law, and compromises with Republicans, knowing that the latter has not been easy in six years in office.

International politics, finally, is the challenge that presidents often take refuge in his last two years in office. In any case, there are real problems that require attention Obama, starting with the restoration of relations with Russia, following clashes Ukraine.

In the Middle East there are unavoidable commitments. First, the withdrawal with honor of inconclusive wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. But the conflict in Syria, where Obama had self-imposed red lines that he ended up skipping, not to have to become more involved in the civil war raging there. The appearance of ISIS, Iraq and Syria, and attacks in the West perpetrated by radical Islamists such as the terrible events of France in January 2015 will force Obama to not be separated from the only place she wanted to leave. There will also be more involved with Pakistan, because the Taliban are not outside, but within its borders, and the Pakistani nuclear weapons danger: America must come to her aid, and weapons and put money on the table.

Obama wants Iran to stop being a problem. The United States has not bothered him that Iran and Hezbollah fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, but to Israel, and hence, to the United States not make any grace that Iran could become a nuclear power . So the negotiations for the Persian country stop its uranium enrichment program will continue during 2015 and 2016. The president of Iran, the most moderate of the past presidents who has taken the country, Hassan Rouhani, has the pressure of a population will not stay isolated from the world, feeling the pressure of the Sunni Muslim countries (especially his enemy Saudi Arabia) and who wants to improve their standard of living, for which it is necessary to raise international economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. Everything indicates that Rouhani is a pragmatic-political-President cleric, who will endeavor to reach an agreement.

Mention Iran is bring up the peace agreement in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israel. For now, after several failed attempts nicely tells Hillary Clinton in “Hard Choices” is highly likely that Obama will take a break on this issue, at least to see what elucidate the elections in Israel, 2015. The current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no special rapport with Barack Obama, and their confrontations, even softened before the public, are already famous. Probably, as did George Bush and Condoleezza Rice, Obama try very end of his mandate a final peace initiative sponsored by the United States.

Finally, a symbolic issue: the beginning of a further normalization in relations with Cuba does not mean much either politically or economically. But has great historical significance.