Guarini Institute: Looking Beyond the U.S. Elections

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On Monday, November 8th the Guarini Institute hosted a round table discussion aimed at analyzing the impacts of the recent midterm elections in the United States. With the Republican party picking up 60 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in the Senate, a clear message of dissatisfaction left Congress divided: the Republicans regained control over the House and the Democrats remained in control of the Senate. Moderator Patricia Thomas from the Associated Press began with an introduction of what President Franco Pavoncello called the “power panel”.

Mario Baldassari, an MIT Economics graduate, was the first to speak, addressing the importance of “looking back before we are able to look beyond”. Baldassari analyzed the financial crisis and explained that the root causes of the crisis have not yet been identified. He suggested that a new Bretton Woods is essential to create updated international governing bodies and, politically, a new G8 that represents the U.S., the E.U., China, India, Japan, Russia, Latin America, and Africa is necessary to move forward. In an ideal world, Baldassari says the coordination of economic policy would solve financial stresses and the U.S. and the E.U. would work together to face China’s growing economic power.

Professor Pamela Harris

Professor Pamela Harris

Professor Pamela Harris of John Cabot University analyzed the elections from a domestic point of view, noting that the presidential party often loses in the midterm year. Over the past 30 years, 21 years have seen a divided American government. Harris suggested that the American constitution allows for this “healthy rebalancing” by preventing the tyranny of one faction and, although divided government is able to produce a more centered agenda, historically it has put the U.S. government in a gridlock making it difficult to produce legislation.

In 1994 when Bill Clinton was President, the Republicans swept the House of Representatives and were unable to develop a budget that the president would sign. This perhaps, is something that we might expect to happen in the next two years. Professor Harris specifically hypothesized that the Republican House would attempt to de-fund the health care legislation. Next to speak was Professor Larry Gray of John Cabot University who emphasized that an increase in consumption and not in income is a signal that the U.S. is adjusting to a structural shift.

Gray coined the emergence of credit, technology and low cost labor as the “perfect storm” that would lead to a movement of American lifestyle and identity. He condemned the government for not looking to invest and compared the American citizen to the American government on the large scale: Congress simultaneously wants to lower taxes and provide more services which logically only drives up American debt. Gray noted that in the last few years, United States debt has grown 14 times while the U.S. economy has grown four times. Perhaps raising taxes to create more revenue is worth considering.

Franco Venturini, a journalist from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, spoke of the American public’s possible “mass misunderstanding regarding the illusions of [Obama’s] campaign”. He noted that there is a “psychological misunderstanding” of any presidents capability to mend and return a country to previous situations. While Venturini considers Obama a great communicator, he was disappointed by Obama’s decision not to explain to the American public that it was impossible to return to previous international situations. The United States is no longer the only world superpower and therefore is unable to solve its economic problems domestically. Obama was in an ideal place to announce this to the public, but failed to do so.

Lucia Goracci from TG 3 continued the discussion by emphasizing the impact the results the midterm elections have on Obama’s Middle East policy, specifically regarding Palestinian and Israeli negotiations. A divided Congress could, she suspects, place a freeze on the talks themselves. Israel doesn’t actually negotiate with Palestinians in the West Bank directly, but with the U.S. in Washington. Gorracci said that Obama “wants a place in history by stopping the conflict” and perhaps his recovery will come with a focus on Middle East policy because it is the “easiest to approach”.

The last to speak was Lucio Martino whose use of an informative powerpoint displayed historical general election results and emphasized the impact of the Midwest in election results. Historically, the Midwest has been “up for grabs” making it desirable campaign territory. Martino also questioned whether or not Obama was going to become a “foreign relations president” and theorized the effectiveness of a military campaign aimed at destroying Iran’s industrial base.