GA Trade Mar-Apr interactive - page 26

T
he news has not been good for
Obama in recent months. The
government shutdown, a stuttering
start for his healthcare plan and the
big surveillance elephant in the room
are some of the setbacks the White
House had to face. Obama was
elected in 2012 for his second and
final term and there is little time to
change the general dissatisfaction of
the American public with current
political actions: The midterm
elections in November are on the
horizon – with the possibility of a
republican majority in the senate,
which would render Obama’s work
even more difficult – and shortly
thereafter preparations for the 2016
campaign will have to be made.
Obama’s Challenges
Despite this limited time frame,
Obama still has a lot of things on his
to-do-list: strengthening the middle
class, the immigration reform,
connecting energy and environment,
an unemployment insurance as well
as spending on infrastructure,
education, and research. On top of all
of that one must factor in the never
ending fiscal concerns. The 2014
State of the Union address by the
President to a joint session of the
United States Congress highlighted
two key problems of his presidency:
First, the struggle with the Republi-
can Party and Congress as a whole,
in which Democrats and Republicans
put a lot of obstacles
in his way; and second, a mixture
of big announcements and high
expectations on his presidency
which Obama could not achieve
to his satisfaction.
He seems to have learned from the
latter: His current plans are filled
with rather achievable goals, for
example establishing a patent
reform and new research and
development centers. Nevertheless,
big problems still remain. The gap
between the top percent and the rest
of the population are part of the
reason why so many people are so
unhappy with their president. In
fact, more and more U.S. families
rely on social assistance, although
both parents work fulltime. The
Democratic Party wants (and has) to
get these voters back.
Concentration on
Domestic Policy
Obama declared 2014 as the ‘Year of
Action.’ While some Europeans may
want to interpret that through the
lens of trade or international
relations, that is not in fact the case.
Polls indicate that the U.S. public is
more interested in domestic than in
international policy. As a result, his
duty is to bring back economic
growth and to create jobs enabling
social progress. The President
already raised the minimum wage
for federal workers and asked Vice
President Joe Biden to review U.S.
training programs so that they
match the employer’s needs and
reduce unemployment.
An essential part of this effort is a
reform of workers training pro-
grams. The German vocational
system provides a fitting example
the U.S. has already shown interest
in (and the German American
Chambers of Commerce have
already begun to set up programs
that support the skills employers
need!). Yet trainings and apprentice-
ships have existed under federal and
state laws for decades and a lot of
money has already been spent.
Reforming this system seems to be
absolutely essential as well as
terribly late – at least from a
German point of view.
W A S H I N G T O N U P D A T E
by Kevin Heidenreich, RGIT
26
German American Trade Mar/Apr 2014
Obama’s Home Stretch
President Barack Obama is in the final years of his 2-term presidency. Starting in
2009 with new hope for change and burdened by a Nobel Price, expectations were
high. It is common for journalists and commentators to say that Obama did not deliver
what he promised. Yet he still has the chance to shape his legacy and how history
will depict him. What can we expect from him in his last presidential years?
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