Letters: Obama and the economy

Obama's rhetoric cannot wish away economic gloom

Thursday 06 November 2008 01:00

There is little doubt that we are in a bear market, but markets have been affected by the optimism sweeping the world as a result of the anticipated new White House administration. Shares have rallied, but these rallies are not real.

Companies have not suddenly started to declare unusual profits, the so-called toxic investments are still there, and the banks are still sulking and not lending. Investors are caught up in the moment and imagine that government efforts to ease credit conditions, allied to the electoral success and electric rhetoric of America's new president-elect, can somehow avert a deep global recession.

The debt-collapse is only at its initial stage. All governments are acquiring record deficits. All major governments have embarked on record borrowing binges. Mr Obama can do nothing to change that, or to somehow halt the downward progression, because it has now gained its own momentum and, like a forest fire, it needs to be given time to burn itself out.

Governments are having to borrow in order to finance their deficits and to purchase bad assets from the banking industry. Governments generate income through taxation, and in a faltering economy, production decreases and unemployment rises. Those unemployed are no longer paying taxes. The solution – yet more Government borrowing.

Even as government sweeps piles of bad debts under the carpet, mountains of new debts will go bad – a new flood of mortgages that can't be paid, a new raft of credit cards defaulting, an avalanche of companies going bankrupt.

They will pump resources into credit markets and stock markets and by doing so they will create the occasional stock-market rally. In reality though, they are treading water and buying time.

Richard Ruzyllo

Glynde, East Sussex

Proud of my country at last

As an American who has lived abroad most of my adult life, I have always felt ashamed of my country. From the unjust wars, to untold human rights violations, to utter disregard for the US impact on the world's climate, I have been deeply embarrassed to be associated with the land of my birth.

Nevertheless, I continued to be politically active, to vote, and to work for change. And today, for the first time in my life, I can honestly say I am proud to be an American. I am proud to come from a country that will no longer use its might while ignoring its head and heart. I am proud to be a member of a rainbow nation that is celebrating its diversity. I am proud to hail from a land that can produce an inspirational man like Barack Obama.

Suzanne Savage

Malvern, Worcestershire

Merely by becoming president, Mr Obama has dispelled many of the myths about America. He has made it far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan, as it is led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein; and far harder for autocrats around the world to claim that American democracy is a sham. At home he has salved the ugly racial wound left by America's history and lessened the tendency of American blacks to blame all their problems on racism.

This is not just a win for the Democrats, the USA, or merely Obama, but for the free world.

Luke Mansillo

Sydney, Australia

All too often, White House administrations rely on the President as a figurehead and allow national policy to be generated and executed by advisers and unaccountable officials. I believe Obama is different, being articulate and intelligent enough to lead the way and co-operate effectively with governments in the rest of the world.

Laurence Williams

Thetford, Norfolk

The message for all in the UK, especially British non-whites, is to start rowing the lifeboat. They need to "do a Barack" and join the local and national communities in all aspects of life – and encourage or shame the "white-trash" smug majority to do much, much more.

Congratulations to the USA.

Anthony Frost


Queues at the polling stations

Somewhere in the definition of democracy there should be reference to how easy it is to vote. Standing in a line for three hours or more in Virginia is just unacceptable. The BBC found people who had queued for four and a half hours.

And how bad would the situation get if 30 million hadn't already voted, or if the turnout was higher than 65-70 per cent? I have voted all over the UK, often with higher turnouts, and the process has never taken more than a couple of minutes.

Next time the USA lectures other countries on democracy, they should be told to put their own house in order first.

Chris Brandt

Sevenoaks, Kent

When in this country shall we ever have a political candidate who gives millions of Britons hope of a stake and influence, of a government that hears, involves and speaks honestly to us? Shall we ever have an 80 per cent election turn-out that starts queueing before dawn to vote?

The American election leaves me feeling angry and ashamed.

Tony Crofts

Stonesfield, Oxfordshire

New hope for the Middle East

The election of Barack Obama as President, which symbolically cut through decades of segregation in the US, will hopefully mean a genuine political change – leading to dismantling of the Apartheid Wall that brutally cements the decades-long occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people by Israel.

Let us hope that "change is coming to America" will indeed embrace a fresh direction, bringing about greater collaboration with nations of all creeds and colours and changing the political map to establish a "new world order".

Ruth Tenne

London NW6

During his visit to Israel in late July, Barack Obama made two pledges which he described as complementary rather than contradictory – one to the security of Israel and the other to a renewed and urgent search for peace in Palestine, not waiting "until a few years into my term or my second term . . . in order to get the process moving". Amid the inevitable clamour of special pleading, his commitment to the healing of this running sore will be a crucial test not only of his foreign policy but of his presidency.

Colin V Smith

Rainford, Merseyside

A lesson for British politics

Why did John McCain lose? I spent the last two weeks in America, in Georgia and Arizona, and witnessed daily the progress of the presidential election. John McCain conducted one of the most negative campaigns my American friends had ever witnessed.

It wasn't surprising. In addition to smearing Mr Obama on almost a daily basis, Mr McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, could only offer the same policies as President Bush, repackaged as to appear new.

Americans wanted honesty, not the same threadbare policies. They wanted transparency on critically important matters including overseas military escapades, health, financial services, jobs and help for the rapidly increasing numbers of homeless, out-of-work Americans on the breadline.

We can only hope Mr Obama is not subverted in his many challenges, and that his progressive agenda inspires that other "novice", David Cameron, in the months left before the British general election.

Mike Abbott

London W4

US and Europe on the same planet

The election of President Obama heralds a new opportunity in US-European relations (Mary Dejevsky, "Will Europe get the America it wants?", 3 November). Whereas once critics were able to claim that "Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus", the two continents are now unquestionably occupying the same planet.

President-elect Obama has stated that "the United States has an interest in a strong, united, and peaceful Europe as a partner in global affairs". On the European continent, the leaders of major countries are Atlanticist in their outlook. The conditions are ripe for a strong partnership between the US and EU tackling huge challenges such as the credit crunch and climate change, and also in creating enhanced economic links.

Roland Rudd

Chairman, Business for New Europe

London EC2

A long road for black Americans

In 1968 I went to the Blues Loft in High Wycombe to see a black American singer called Champion Jack Dupree; he played brilliantly and during his well-deserved applause, Champion Jack suddenly burst into tears. He explained that this was his first trip to the UK and that he had never played to a white audience before and did not know what reaction to expect.

Now, 40 years later, an African-American has been elected to the White House. Well done to Barack Obama and well done America for putting him there.

America, you have come a long way.

Sue Langley

Southwold, Suffolk

The first mixed-race Formula One world champion has been joined by the first mixed-race President of America and they will take their place alongside Tiger Woods, who is probably the best sportsman in the world. They have all been referred to many times as black, but probably never as white, despite the fact they are as much one as the other. Hopefully black and white races will now recognise and celebrate the success of the melting pot referred to in Blue Mink's prophetic pop song of 1970.

John Rogers

London SW16

The continued reference to Barack Obama as the first black United States president is surely profoundly racist, and perpetuates the thinking of the slave era.

To state that a person who has a black father and a white mother is black is to rely on the perverse logic of the slavers. That logic held that to have white blood "contaminated" with black blood, even to the degree of one eighth (the octaroon), was sufficient to condemn the person to slave status - calculating that having any black blood whatsoever made one black, rather than any white blood making one white.

Additionally, to refer to him as African-American is to ignore the lineage of his white mother, deeming it to be of no consequence – an equally racist standpoint.

Surely the rightful, non-racist solution to this is to refer to him as the first mixed-race, or, even better, Eurafrican president.

Philip Anderson

London E10

After a succession of European Americans, the USA now has an African-American president. What about a president from the Native American people? They were the original inhabitants after all.

David Morgan

Wistow, Cambridgeshire


Next challenge

The US secret service now has one of its most critical assignments in generations, That of protecting its nation's most precious asset.

K Nolan

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, Ireland

Historic high

Three hours' sleep, but who cares? Our fragile green planet has what it needs – a politician with intellect and compassion in the White House, with massively broad grassroots support. He only needs to review his pro-nuclear energy leanings, and back renewable, sustainable energy instead, and to be less uncritical towards the Israeli Government (not its people) and he will do just fine. I await to see his Cabinet and the new Democrat-dominated Congress in action from January, but for now I am in political ecstasy, just for the moment.

Dr David Lowry

Stoneleigh, Surrey

Vindicated at last

Why this morning do I feel, perhaps stupidly, somewhat vindicated after clinging on to certain political and social values ever since Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979?

Ian Flintoff


Early to bed

I was intrigued to learn from your report that my wife and I celebrated election night in America at the Ivy ("The world stops to watch as drama unfolds in America", 5 November). Actually, I went to bed early with a heavy cold, while my wife followed the election on television. Are our body-doubles stalking the metropolis?

Sir Christopher Meyer

London EC1

Huddled masses

Those of us who are "huddled around radios in neglected corners of the world" have taken heart.

Ivor Morgan


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