Socialist Worker

Key issues facing Obama as he becomes president

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2127

The widespread exhilaration at Barack Obama’s victory will be tempered by fear that his administration will not make the radical changes that so many are demanding.

As Obama himself put it in his victory speech in Chicago, “Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.”

The war in Iraq was certainly a huge factor behind Obama’s victory. Some 41 percent of US voters said they “strongly disapproved” of the Iraq war – and 87 percent of these voted for Obama.

Conversely, of the 14 percent that said they “strongly approved” of the Iraq war, a massive 96 percent voted for Republican John McCain.

Obama has promised to close down Guantanamo Bay and to “responsibly end the war in Iraq” with a “responsible and phased” withdrawal of US troops.

Security

But he plans to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and insists that “our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel”.

On climate change, Obama has promised to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050” and create five million “green collar jobs” in renewable energy.

Yet his plans also include commitments to false environmental solutions such as “clean coal” and to building a huge gas pipeline from Alaska to the US Midwest.

But dominating all issues is the state of the US economy.

On Friday of last week it was revealed that US unemployment had hit its highest level since 1994 – over ten million, or 6.5 percent of the workforce.

Meanwhile over a million US households face foreclosure as the US housing crisis shows no signs of abating.

Waiting in the wings is another credit bubble – this time in credit card debt – that looks set to explode.

At the same time Obama has signed up to the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street and a costly and open-ended military occupation of Afghanistan.

There is a real danger that, just as with Bill Clinton’s administration of 1992 to 2000, Obama’s progressive promises will be ditched in the face of a crisis.

The only force that can prevent this from happening is the mass movement that put Obama into power in the first place.

It must grow into a force that can check his rightwards drift – and act independently of him to defend the interests of ordinary working class Americans.


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