President Obama has defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a landslide victory, making a clean sweep of almost all swing states, including Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida. Running on the slow but consistent recovery of the nation’s crippled economy, Obama will enter his second term.
Demographics played a pivotal role in Obama’s reelection, crippling the GOP’s election bid. Earning just 39% of white voters, he carried 93% of black voters, 71% of Latinos, 73% of Asians, and 60% of the youth vote (18-29).
The most immediate issue now facing Obama is the looming “fiscal cliff” rapidly approaching Jan. 1, whereby numerous tax increases and spending cuts will be implemented unless Congress is able to come to an agreement over these economic issues. Passed by Congress in 2011, in an effort to force compromise on pressing economic issues, the budget package cuts Obama’s payroll tax cut, withdraws unemployment benefits, rolls back defense and “discretionary” spending—varying from education to homeland security. Experts anticipate great risk of a repeated recession unless efforts are made to prevent the drastic cuts.
The debt and poor economy were unavoidably the key issues for both candidates to face this election cycle. Contrary to Obama’s claims during his 2008 presidential bid, when he promised to cut the deficit in half, we are now in a fourth year under Obama in a trillion-dollar plus deficit.
Often tagged as unclear with economic plans, Obama’s policies will hopefully continue to invest in a strong and robust middle class, a clear strategy in his first term. Investments in education, for example, will rarely foster a speedy recovery to a poor economy. They will, however, result in long term middle-class stability because of a well-trained workforce. His attempts to disassemble the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, the four-year, $10,000 college tax credit for college students, and increases to the Pell Grants and other financial aid have been wildly popular. The crushing debt of college student loans is the fast growing debt source in the nation, and without the aid and assistance Obama has implemented in his first term, many would have to rescind on their dreams and reconsider higher education as a viable option.
The crucial point to remember is that Obama’s campaign promises and decidedly vague ideas are nearly a photocopy from four years ago. Therein lies the interpretation: whether we are on track to a resilient recovery and if we are implementing strategies to avoid future, possibly more detrimental fiscal perils.
So what can we expect? A stable tax rate for people making under $200,000 has been a continued promise, and one Obama kept in his first term, but there is that lingering “fiscal cliff.” The tax increases, he claims, will be directed to people in the upper bracket, but details still remain fuzzy as to the precise numbers and brackets being discussed. Obama plans to utilize these “new” tax increases on the rich, plus other, unspecified spending cuts to tackle the massive accumulating debt.
Obama is holding strong to plans of ending the war in Afghanistan in 2014. On many foreign policy issues, Obama, along with Romney, seemed to join forces and largely agreed on crucial issues, forcing a lack of choice for voters. Amy Goodman, from the online news show Democracy Now!, claimed a variety of issues weren’t even mentioned, equating the debates and election as an abandonment of choice for voters. “Several key international issues were not addressed at all,” Goodman said, “including climate change, the economic crisis in Europe, and the U.S-backed drug war in Latin America.” The avoidance of these issues denotes support for the status quo by Obama.
After one term, a question still looms that also dominated during the debates: “Are the American people better off than four years ago?” The U.S. currently has a robust stock market and housing prices have increased for the past five straight months. Americans are currently in their 44th month of job increases. Because of this, the unemployment rate is hovering around the area it was at when Obama first entered office, when jobs would continue to hemorrhage for some time. While Romney claimed during the election that this was insufficient and his policies would foster a quicker recovery, he could not gain enough support to win the race. Obama now has another four years to capitalize on the progress he has already made.