Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Which Presidential Candidate is Better for Non-Americans?

Unlike Australia, voting in the USA is not compulsory. Candidates therefore have a greater challenge because not only do they have to convince people to vote for them but they actually have to convince people to vote. I am actually a little surprised that I have not read any commentary about the Democratic Party's long road to choosing Obama over Clinton in the mainstream press from the perspective that it is actually a strategy, by the Party, to get people to register to vote. It is essentially an extremely expensive way to building an opt-in mailing list. (Actually this leads to the question of what percentage of people don't vote in the US and what effect does that have on the outcome. I guess that's an issue for another article because it actually requires research.)

US Citizens therefore have the right to influence who will be their President in the next four years but also have the right not exercise that right. So what issues will convince a US Citizen to vote? Based on no research whatsoever I have compiled a list of reasons why Americans will come out to vote.
1. Celebrity Encouragement (Because Oprah told me to..)
2. Because my parents have always voted so I have been taught that I should vote
3. Because my parents have always voted and because I am going through a rebellious stage I will vote for the opposing party
4. Because I am still related to an institution of higher learning, am in my twenties and still believe I can make a difference.
5. Because I am a member of a Union, the Military or I am a public servant and my future salary depends on who the next administration is
6. Because I am a badge wearing, banner carrying member of one of the Parties
7. Because I have a crush on one of the candidates.

Given that one of these reasons have convinced you to leave your couch to go to the polling booth? What are the issues that determine whom you vote for? Based on the same amount of research I did for the first list, here are what I think are the hot issues.

1. Which candidate will give me something for nothing? (Healthcare, Welfare, Jobs, Contracts, Payrises)
2. Which candidate is a better public speaker?
3. Which candidate will tax me less?
4. Which candidate is Oprah voting for?
5. Which candidate will make things cheaper?
6. Which candidate is more like me?

I know this list seems quite basic, however my point is that in the short term the things that will attract most voters is handouts and popularity. Both of which will be coming from the Obama Camp. Add to that the number of new Democratic voters recruited during the primaries and McCain has an uphill battle to sell a economic plan that is all about making the Government smaller. While McCain is selling lower taxes, Obama will be selling better health care, better schools and alternative energy, and although it makes more sense to vote for someone who will tax you less, all the issues that Obama will be selling are hot button issues. It seems that the Inconvenient Al Gore and Sicko Michael Moore have been campaigning already for a democratic win.

From the outside looking in (for non-Americans), the prospect of a McCain win will mean that the US economic recovery will be a lot slower but it will be based on strong market fundamentals of improved efficiency and innovation. Unemployment will not improve dramatically but in the long run America will be more globally competitive. Under an Obama government, it seems that trade barriers will go up in a high tax environment and a fat public sector will mean an artificially created recovery. Whether this will actually improve standards of living for average Americans is debatable because usually increased barriers to trade creates an inflationary effect, but at least more Americans will have jobs. It will also mean that in the long term, the US will make a lousy trading partner and will probably run into budget deficit problems late in the first term (as opposed to going deeper into the trade deficit under McCain).

In my mind I think that policywize McCain has the better long term package for non-Americans if you take his green & innovation stance seriously. It provides a good trading partner that will continue to import but will also continue to be the leader in technological and high value products. Domestically though, the unemployment rate will not improve for older blue collar Americans but at least the Government won't be taxing so much of the salary they're not getting. Problem is his record of endorsing Bush 95% of the time will continue to haunt him for this entire campaign plus he sounds like a pedophile when he snickers after saying "That's not Change we can believe in!". It's actually a pretty good tag line for his campaign and might have worked if he didn't come across as a dirty old man when delivering it.

On the other side of the coin, higher tax is the only real down side to the Obama proposition. This might actually be something Americans would be happy to pay if they get affordable health care, schools are actually staffed by qualified teachers and if the defense forces actually focuses on defense rather than offense in return. If this is the case, then Obama is a sure thing.

Internationally, Obama will probably piss some trading partners off (probably China the most) and become much more inward looking to protect the domestic economy from the evils of cheap labor. In the long term however, as countries like China and India become less labor intensive and really start to invest in their universities and higher learning, there is a chance that large technological gap between the US and the rest of the world will narrow as commercial incentive to invest in innovation becomes less attractive relative to protected non-technical industries. (this has already happened with the post WWII Japan).

It's still a little too early to call it but I get the feeling US will actually have it's first Afro-Caucasian-Mixed-Indonesian-educated-President simply because the American middle class will get a sweeter short term deal from Obama than McCain. I anxiously watch for history to be made...or not.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I vote so I have a reason to complain when things go wrong.

I'm glad I'm not living in the US right now--I don't think I could handle another election season of frantic phone calls about voting (I threatened to not vote after the 4th call in '04 if they didn't stop).