Mr Obama’s most important challenge

People in almost every country are really being hurt by the recession, and although they understand that there are people in most other parts of the world who are also having to cope with the largest economic downturn in the lifetime of most of us, it is cold comfort. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being lost, and this causes hardship. If you cannot earn a wage you cannot pay your bills, including your mortgage instalments, which means that your home is at risk and may be repossessed by those paragons of vice, the banks, which have already wasted your savings and your pensions. Most people feel mugged by a mugger licensed by the government to steal.

Hope beckons in the form of a new President of the world’s most powerful and dynamic nation who will take office in January. I do not know whether Mr Obama will be a good President but I do know that people in despair need hope; Thoreau wrote that most men live lives of quiet desperation; they do – the desperation is made quiet by hope.

Mr Obama will face the same problems of every other developed nation. He will have to create measures which will move the economy out of recession. He will need to create permanent jobs, ensure that the major strategic industries of his nation are put into good shape while fixing the enormous environmental problems that his nation leads the world in creating. The engine of America needs repair, and the American people will hope that Mr Obama has the skills to repair it, rather than patch it up with short term fixes.

Most modern western economies are driven by the engines of the motor vehicle industry, and this is particularly true of the United States. Those manufacturing giants, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, are in big trouble. The demand for their product has fallen to very low levels and what seems worse from a business point of view, they have developed the wrong products – the Sports Utility vehicle, the large sedans which take up large road space and have big thirsty engines, and such environmental obscenities as the Hummer. They have few smaller more efficient products compared to those that are made by Japanese and European car companies.

Yet all is not rosy in the European garden. Mercedes and BMW will suffer a large downturn in sales; workers will lose jobs and work shorter hours for less pay and that means that they will have less money to spend; the knock on effect for Germany will be very hard for many people.

In the United Kingdom we have built an economy on finance. The tall office buildings in London’s Docklands will be emptier and fewer people will have work to do. They have been providing casino services in many cases allowing gamblers to use other people’s money for their own enrichment. The financial industry will be as hard hit as the car builders,

No one knows how long the recession will last. I certainly have no idea although I doubt whether the measures that governments have taken will shorten the time that we are in pain. Perhaps the quiet desperation will become louder, but people will struggle on.

It will require some very clear and profound thinking to understand why we have created such a mess before we can genuinely fix it.

The existing leaders of the major nations in the world are tainted by the failure of their policies. Their electorates blame them for the recession, and rightly so however much the politicians may puff and bluster and blame everyone but themselves. Mr Obama does not carry the baggage that burden the other world leaders, so perhaps he can bring hope.

If you are unfortunate enough to be affected by the recession now, as bad as things are they could be worse. It is perfectly clear that climate change will create conditions that will be far worse than the deepest economic depression. A temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius will create far more economic turmoil than the closure of all of the world’s motor industry or the whole of the world’s banking system.

In December, before Mr Obama takes office, the United Nations meets in Poland to discuss climate change; the hope to create a new version of the Kyoto Treaty (which expires in four years time), a more modern one without the compromises and faults that exist in Kyoto and perhaps one to which America will place its mark. If he can keep his promise, and I hope that he does, he will have created hope not for the enjoyment of more and more material pleasures, but something far more important.


2 Responses

  1. […] In the United Kingdom we have built an economy on finance. The tall office buildings in London’s Docklands will be emptier and fewer people will have work to do. Original post […]

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