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Latest Country Blogs: USA
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Money can't buy Obama or Romney love

In the 2008 election which brought to power America’s first black president, 131 million people went to the polls – five million more than before, most of the new votes coming from Black and Latino communities.

Barack Obama’s victory raised huge expectations. They have been largely dashed as the 2012 race for the White House hots up with this week’s nomination in Tampa of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Despite around $6 billion being spent on the US elections, the latest Washington Post-ABC opinion poll reveals that US voters are hardly budging in their voting intentions.

Disenchantment and concern over the economy has produced a doldrums in the electoral sphere. Around 47% of registered voters support Romney and Obama has 46%. Obama has maintained his base largely by portraying his opponent as simply a rich businessman, bereft of charisma or personality.

Romney’s appointment of fiscal right winger Paul Ryan from Wisconsin as his running mate is of course a sop to red neck Republicans who see Romney as too “liberal”.

Ryan’s claims about Obama’s economic policies have earned him a high place in the porky-pie stakes. So much so that the Washington Post has added him to its “Pinocchio Tracker”, which monitors candidates’ distortions and lies.

And Republican representative Todd Akin’s reprehensible remarks about “legitimate rape”, for example, have been seized upon by the Democrats in an effort to win women’s votes. (And Akin is of course, only one of many “pro-life” Republicans who seek to boost their support by appealing to the religious right.)

But the irony is of course, that only 2% of American voters are likely to change their party affiliations in any case. So how much does that add up in spending per vote? As blogger, Don Lichterman notes, the only states that really matter for the outcome of the election are the “swing states”, so it adds up to millions of dollars per vote.

Obama’s spokespeople are excusing his performance by saying that “people’s expectations were too high”.  And they blame the Republican-dominated Congress for blocking his policies.

But, although there are indeed differences between Republicans and Democrats over how to deal with America’s $16 trillion debt, the reality is that Obama has continued where the previous president George W. Bush left off, particularly with regard to foreign policy.

He backs the Pentagon’s drone war strategy on the Afghan-Pakistan border in which people are killed on a daily basis, many of them innocent civilians. He has, as democracy campaigner Amy Goodman notes, “presided over more deportations than any president before him, and the targeting of Muslims by undercover agents”.

Guantanamo remains open for business despite a pledge to close the detention camp and the persecution of serviceman Bradley Manning and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks are also happening on Obama’s watch.

In reality, Americans’ greatest concern is the state of the US economy – and their own poverty and lack of opportunity. This is hardly surprising considering that income inequality in the United States is deepening rapidly. United Nations health economist  and statistician Howard Friedman, comparing the United States to 13 other wealthy nations in health, education, safety, democracy and equality, concludes the US has fallen far behind in most of these areas.

The US health care system, he has found, ranks 37th in the world by the World Health Organisation and America also has the lowest life expectancy of the world’s 13 wealthiest nations. The figures say it all: the bottom 40% of Americans, own 0.3% of the wealth; 0.3%, almost nothing, whereas the top 20% own about 84% of the wealth.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats – both capitalist parties in their origin and practice – can or will address the true interests of voters concerned about rampant banks, gross inequality, unemployment, healthcare and extreme weather resulting from climate change. Perhaps four in 10 won’t vote in November.

The economic and financial disaster that signals a turning point in America’s fortunes and position in the global economy is running parallel with an historic crisis of democracy. The US political system is broken and whoever wins in November won’t fix it.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
28 August 2012

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