The US is in serious trouble

Charlene Smith
20 December 2011

Charlene Smith says the Obama presidency has not lived up to its promise

Cambridge, Massachusetts - This week Barack Obama told a radio interviewer of his response to criticisms of his administration, "I tell them what Joe Biden says, judge me not as the Almighty, consider the alternative."

Certainly the Republican's unimpressive presidential hopefuls are pretty awful, but Obama's track record has left many former supporters angry. Perhaps the most significant thing about the 2012 presidential election will be who bothers to vote; there is such disillusion and anger here with politicians on both sides of the field.

Obama's comment was astonishing. The man who came in on a wave of public optimism and support, whose rallying cry was, "Yes, we can" was brushing off his four years of "no, we can'ts," and a record that makes George W. Bush seem okay. Here are some examples:

- Obama has increased drone strikes eight times over what the Bush administration did across two terms according to John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies‫.

- He prevailed upon the Environmental Protection Agency to pull back anti-smog legislation as part of the Clean Air Act. The U.S. with China and India is the worst carbon emitter in the world.

- He has failed to close Guatanamo Bay - an election promise.

- He promised immigration reform - a key promise given that 26 percent of the electorate are Hispanic - instead he has stepped up arrests against illegal migrants. In 2010, his administration arrested more migrants - 393,000 - than any administration before (81,000 more than in President George W. Bush's last year in office).

Obama's failure to keep promises has been mapped by a user of Idea Palooza, a U.S. website, it is sobering reading. The creator compiled all 891 election promises Obama made (perhaps the first warning was a candidate who made so many promises, but Americans and the world, exhausted after eight war-mongering years of George W. Bush failed to pay attention). So far, according to this measure, which is used by major U.S. news media, Obama has kept 233 promises, broken 116 and failed to address 61 percent.

He is to the right of President Ronald Reagan, the Tea Party hero, according to the Institute for Policy Studies on some financial issues. They point out that after more than 250 economists wrote to him earlier this year calling for more imagination in the handling of the massive U.S. $15-trillion debt their call was spurned by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Obama remained silent).

The IPS said, "That rigid position places the Obama administration to the right not only of Reagan, but also both Bush presidencies and the International Monetary Fund." Geithner served as head of New York's Federal Reserve under Bush, and is one of a number of key Bush appointees Obama has kept close; they also include national Federal Reserve chief, Ben Bernanke and former Defense secretary, Robert Gates, among others.

When Obama was elected into office in November, 2008, he had the strongest majorities in both houses of Congress since 1993.

Democrats held 258 of the 435 seats in the House and at least 54 of the 100 seats in the Senate - two years later he lost Congress to the Republicans and the United States has essentially been on autopilot since.

Obama has been incapable of uniting Congress, and no longer seems to care, which adds fuel to his detractors and antipathy among some Democrats toward him. Congress has slumped to a nine percent approval rating - its worst ever - from citizens for its ongoing bickering, failure to implement, and continual threats to shut down government. These threatened shutdowns have seen government departments freeze - they are too nervous to implement projects or to hire staff because there is no assuredness that they will receive an ongoing flow of funding.

And so America's infrastructure has begun crumbling, the potholes in roads are acute, the rail system is antiquated - the New York subway is little better than a sewer, 12% or 69,000 bridges are "structurally deficient," and hospitals are in serious need of overhaul. In some states schools are on four-day weeks because there is no funding and thousands of teachers have been retrenched.

"Frozen" federal departments hinders employment which officially is at nine percent, but unofficially close to double that. In August the White House reported that unemployment among young African Americans was 32%, by December it had leapt to 41.3% -figures similar to those in South Africa.

The union group, AFL-CIO reported last week that, "The loss of public-sector jobs has disproportionately impacted African Americans - nearly two-thirds of city employees across the country facing layoffs are African American."

African Americans are deeply divided about Obama, while some in Washington D.C. still refer to him as "the chosen one", others, like federal whistleblower and author, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo are deeply critical. She writes for Black Agenda Report, an African American website that regularly hammers Obama.

While Africa greeted his election with joy, Obama has shown little interest in the continent. In September, he signed into law a $23.2 million cut for Pepfar - the HIV and AIDS program introduced by President George W. Bush and an important funder of treatment and care programmes in South Africa and other developing nations. There was a further cut of $16.1 million to the Global Fund - and as a result South Africa is seeing NGOs that work in HIV struggling to surviveg.

But global family planning and reproductive health services took the biggest hit with a reduction of $85 million. Obama's track record on women's reproductive rights is poor, his health secretary recently overruled a Federal Drug Administration regulation that would have allowed emergency contraception pills to be sold over the counter for girls younger than 17 (the U.S. has an avalanche of teenage pregnancies).

The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialised nation according to the CIA Factbook. The Save the Children Fund notes that "an American woman is more than seven times as likely as one in Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes and her maternal death risk is 15 times that in Greece. Only three developed countries - Albania, Russian and Moldova - had a worse maternal mortality rate."

The array of depressing figures from the U.S. are astonishing: the Census Bureau reports the number of Americans in poverty jumped to 15.1 percent in 2010, a 17-year high. About 46.2 million people, or nearly one in six, were in poverty. And 49.9 million were without health insurance in the country with among the most expensive health-care in the world.

In October, the Congressional Budget Committee revealed that since 1979, the richest one percent had seen incomes rise 275%, while the middle class was 40% more comfortable and the lowest fifth of the nation had seen incomes rise only 18% - essentially, they got poorer.

Yet in November, the so-called super-committee nominated by Obama to find ways out of the debt crisis failed to reach accord, one of the biggest stumbling blocks was a refusal by Republicans to increase taxes on the rich - many of whom pay far lower tax than the lowest earning members of the country. Billionaire Warren Buffet famously pointed out recently that his personal assistant pays more tax than he does.

Many of these issues Obama inherited, but with the mandate the electorate gave him he had the greatest capacity of any president in decades to make a real difference. 

When he was elected Obama said: "Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blue states, we have been and always will be the United States of America."

Under Obama the United has fallen off the States of America. History still has to reveal whether Barack Obama was a giant con foisted on the American people, or whether he is a victim of racists in the Republican party who will do anything to stymie the first black president for the United States. Either way the United States is in serious trouble.

Charlene Smith is a South African-born journalist who lives and works in the United States and for a period this year covered the White House

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 responses to this article

terrible story, complete rubbage

by Harik on December 20 2011, 14:43
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"the New York subway is little better than a sewer"
Come on, Charlene, why such an exaggerated statement? I spent two months in New York earlier this year (May and June) and used the subway every day. I found it a most impressive system in all my encounters with it, and was fiercely jealous of the New . .more

by Linde Dietrich on December 20 2011, 15:10
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Not quite the Obamessiah
Whatever the merits of the arguments Ms Smith makes - and many are contentious (the warning is that she calls the IPS "progressive": by which she means "left-wing"), this is an example of a writer colliding with reality. I well remember Ms Smith's fawning . .more

by Terence on December 20 2011, 17:59
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The SAS is not the USS
Ms Smith is wrong on several counts:

(1) The NY Subway is clean - it was cleaned up by Rudi Guilliani using distinctly non-progressive tactics and policies. Overall, NY is clean, save, well managed, a pleasure to visit.

(2) I find . .more

by L on December 21 2011, 00:36
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I found the statement that ...
...America's infrastructure has begun crumbling, the potholes in roads are acute, the rail system is antiquated...

to be astonishing.

I invite Ms Smith to examine the formerly tarred roads in the parts of rural SA I grew up in ... . .more

by JVR on December 21 2011, 00:48
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I still like Obama

Even after reading all the "terrible" things he did, I think he's okay and positive. I compare him with ours and I shudder. I know it's comparing apples and pears. Obama has never commented on slavery as the reason for doing things or not doing . .more

by Honkey on December 21 2011, 06:42
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Obama's record
Charlene, I agree with you 100 percent. It was said of President Lincoln that he came in as a conservative and ended as a liberal. Obama has gone the other way, ending as an extreme conservative - or worse, a bullied, powerless, mealy-mouthed liberal . .more

by Graeme Addison on December 21 2011, 06:43
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Caught between two rogue nations
Western Europe must get its act together. Sooner or later the two superpowers -- both rogue nations of the worst kind -- the USA and China, will crumble, and the centre of civilisation will return to where it came from in the first place -- Western . .more

by Sam Sly on December 21 2011, 06:45
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Obama has destroyed America. He is not a conservative. The Americans rightly stopped him from doing more damage during the midterms. His Obamacare fiasco is not "conservative" either. It is fair enough that he admired Reagan but he also admired Jeremiah . .more

by Republican on December 21 2011, 08:07
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'Own" and not "one"

by Republican on December 21 2011, 08:49
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Just tell us who the richest 1% are -- name and shame them.
Then tell us WHO owns the US$ 15 trillion debt -- and WHY it always gets bigger and not smaller ?

One wonders if anyone ever reads history ( and especially for JvR )

The . .more

by Bibliophile on December 21 2011, 09:29
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Simpler ( 31st of December )
WHY are we never told who the richest 1% are ?


"Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PSYOP), have been known by many other names or . .more

by Bibliophile on December 21 2011, 09:37
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Ah, politics...
Obama got caught in the realities of realpolitk! He made many other promises that he failed to keep. The question, at some level, should be whether he was just being a cynical politician in making those promises, desperate to be elected, or whether he was . .more

by solitoliquido on December 21 2011, 09:43
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House built on Sand
Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it . .more

by Bibliophile on December 21 2011, 10:47
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Do you truly think that Obma is running the US. He is just one of the passing puppets that the powers that truly control, use to achieve their agenda.

by wake up USA on December 21 2011, 11:06
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Who owns America's debt?
I seem to recall reading somewhere that the biggest chunk of US debt is in the hands of China.

Two nations in a tub,

And how do you think they got there?

The butcher, the banker,
The . .more

by Sam Sly on December 21 2011, 12:23
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Come to SA for a real-life experience
Diddums! Come back to SA if NY is so terrible and experience REAL potholes, not those silly little holes in the roads there, that barely cause any damage at all to a car. Come and see the filthy rubbish strewn streets everywhere in Johannesburg. Meet . .more

by jen on December 21 2011, 13:31
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Obama, WW III scenario, New World Order

I do agree with Bibliophile (at 10:47) and wake up USA (11:06) and think we are all pussyfooting around the truth.

According to her government the US wants to have military control over the world. What we all see is the US with the . .more

by Klaus Borgolte on December 21 2011, 14:19
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Obama, WW III scenario, New World Order, continuad
Last questions: Who is controlling the Rothschild's? What is the aim of all the unexplainable and fairly sercret things?

by Klaus Borgolte on December 21 2011, 14:55
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Mr Bibliophile...
..Thanks for the lesson on the VOC (I read about its dissolution some decades ago) -- and sure there are similarities with today. I think it was Naill Furgason who recently commented that the decline Great Powers are always preceded by financial decline. . .more

by JVR on December 21 2011, 16:51
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...of course, a couple of bad typos above, Mr Bibliophile...
... In the last sentence, I meant that "He" (Naill Ferguson) is right about property rights. By the way, he lists the following qualities of Western Societies as critical in giving an advantage over . .more

by JVR on December 21 2011, 16:58
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The US is in serious trouble
Ms Smith, We have a business in the USA, offices in New York, Chicago and Denver. We spend 6 months of the year in the US. I do agree Obama made a hash of it. But I do think you are ex-saturating or you are talking about SA.

by FBS on December 21 2011, 20:50
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I live in California, and though I find several of Ms Smith's statements contentious, and though my city is rated as the safest place in "the world" to live in, I also believe the USA is in its last days of existence in its current form. The current . .more

by Ca Bez on December 21 2011, 22:32
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@ Bibliophile & JVR
We seem to be of a like mind in our perception of where The Problem lays. A book you really should peruse, is called "The Creature from Jekyll Island". Its about the American Federal Reserve, (clue: its not federal and they do not have any reserves!), . .more

by CA Bez on December 21 2011, 22:38
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A so called liberal South African just became another Tea Party supporter
I cannot remember that I have ever read about any politician walking on water or making water into wine. The strange thing is we want them to do all that, see in the future, and much, much more. It is even a worse political sin when an opposition . .more

by Pieter Reyneke on December 22 2011, 03:27
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Please check your statistics. Only 16% of the population was Hispanic according to the 2010 census, and not all of them are citizens, so certainly Latinos do not make up 26% of the electorate. Such claims cast doubt on the rest of your piece.

by Shannon on December 22 2011, 09:23
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state of US
All things are relevant, aren't they? Charlene complains about the underground, while most South Africans would love to have one to complain about.
America put up with cowboy George W. Compared to him Obama is wonderful.
Perhaps we can swap . .more

by jelry on December 23 2011, 19:26
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what a load....
....the us has problems granted, but she will recover....remember the us gdp is $16 trillion....this is 3 times bigger than china...the state of california is the 9th biggest global economy.....

by onlooker on December 24 2011, 15:49
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I find your comments amusing Charlene. Potholes? I can't remember when I last saw any real road maintenance in our cities. A pothole " brigade" ( a private organization) yes, that attends to potholes while our roads deteriorate, and become sand roads. . .more

by Wizard on December 26 2011, 17:58
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tiresome Charlene
Charlene has a way of peddling her views as science and fact. In SA she was supposedly a writer with struggle credentials. when she did not get the attention that she believed was due to her, she sulked and became routine whinger.

by mlungisi on January 01 2012, 04:43
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New World Order reigns the world. I agree with Bibliophile & Klaus Borgolte. Many people in the USA have woken up to this fact although the price of this awakening has been extortionate. When are the peeps of South Africa going to wake up to the fact that . .more

by WendyD on January 04 2012, 19:52
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