When George W. Bush leaves office, most people outside the U.S. will breathe a huge sigh of relief. Like most non-Americans, I’m praying that Obama gets elected. Obama has definitely struck a chord (or touched a nerve, depending on your viewpoint). Even in the small town where I live, I have met a number of retired Americans who have been sending donations to Obama’s campaign. These are ordinary people living on a pension to whom such donations actually mean something. I can understand the hope he inspires; it’s been a long time since we have seen someone in politics with that kind of charisma. Whether he can deliver the goods remains to be seen.
I would love to see Obama keep at least some of his promises – especially the introduction of universal healthcare. British people take it for granted. Even in Costa Rica it was introduced around the same time as the Welfare State was created in the U.K. For some reason, in the U.S. the idea has never enjoyed sufficient support. I have always had the impression that there is a definite stigma attached to the “welfare” (social security payments) that Americans receive. “Welfare” is a dirty word, even though originally it was about well-being, alleviating the hardship that so many people suffered. There are always scroungers in any country who abuse the system but when I think of what life was like for my ancestors I’d hate to see Britain return to that.
I think Obama’s biggest problem will be fiscal. Clinton was a clever President (okay, so the power went to the guy’s head and certain other parts of his body but he was intelligent). He left the country in a solid financial position. Then Bush came in and started his oil war. As if mortgaging the country to the hilt to pay for it wasn’t enough, we now have the bailout of the financial system. While the financial crisis has boosted support for Obama, perhaps even tipping the race in his favor, it may prove to be his downfall. Will there be enough left in the coffers for him to work with? I’m afraid the answer to that question may be “no.” I hope not but his administration may have been torpedoed even before it begins.