Leaders: Obama is the right choice, for US and the world
FORMER New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s dictum that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose was never more apposite than when applied to Barack Obama’s presidency.
After the soaring “yes, we can” rhetoric with which Mr Obama gripped the United States four years ago, his term of office turned out to be something of an anti-climax. The expectations he generated with speeches that combined JF Kennedy and Martin Luther King, with a bit of Sam Cooke thrown in, could never be met.
Yes, the change the then Democrat candidate promised did come during his time in the White House, but more slowly than he led voters to believe and affected America in ways that could not have been anticipated in 2008. It was not always a change for the better either as Mr Obama fought both the worst global recession since the Great Depression and the inertia that America’s founding fathers built into their political system, which makes it so hard for a president to get legislation through congress.
Yet, despite this, there has been change for the better. The simplistic certitudes of the George W Bush era – which resulted in this country joining the bloody Iraq war and having to cope with its even bloodier aftermath – have been replaced by a new pragmatism, at home and abroad, as President Obama demonstrated his preference for compromise over conflict, political and military.
However, beneath that wish to operate under what Americans call bipartisanship, there was principle, too. Significant healthcare reforms were introduced, in the teeth of Republican and big business opposition. The US automotive industry was saved. American troops finally withdrew from Iraq and will withdraw soon from Afghanistan.
How should we view today’s election? Even though the “special relationship” sounds a little dated in the 21st century, our ties are close and deep, extending from trade through to defence and a shared world view based on the values of liberal democracy. President Obama has recognised this common ground.
What of the alternative? Much has been made of Republican Mitt Romey’s Mormon faith, but what matters more is how he sees the world. Once on the more liberal wing of his party, Mr Romney has moved to the right – for example on women’s rights domestically and on belligerence towards Iran internationally. His economic policies, though even now lacking in detail, signal a devotion to the unfettered free market with a suspicion of sympathy for old-style protectionism.
Judging from the platforms of the two, we conclude that President Obama offers a more enlightened, progressive future for his country, for ours and for the world. Mr Romney seems to want to take the US back to a more insular future. We trust the good sense of the American people to make the right choice. We trust they will re-elect Barack Obama.
A living wage is nothing to be afraid of
The idea of a everybody being paid a living wage seems eminently reasonable. Who could disagree with such a proposition? Not most reasonable members of the
public, we can be sure. And not, we can hope, most reasonable employers.
Which is why the living wage yesterday received a significant boost with Labour leader Ed Miliband, Tory London mayor Boris Johnson and Nationalist Cabinet secretary John Swinney reinforcing their support for the idea.
In Mr Johnson and Mr Swinney’s case, they put their money – or rather taxpayers’ money – where their mouths were and increased the wages paid to staff directly under their control.
So, to use the idiom, what’s not to like about this policy? In theory, not much. The living wage – set to rise to £7.45 – is based on what the public think constitutes enough money to live on.
That includes not just being able to afford food, heat and a roof over your head, but also having enough to pay for a modest holiday, Christmas presents and a mobile phone.
However, the living wage figure differs from the minimum wage, set for the government by the Low Pay Commission, which stands at £6.19 an hour for those over 21, and set at a level which, research shows, does not have an adverse effect on employment.
Here’s the rub: opponents of the living wage fear if it were applied to everyone, it would act as a disincentive to job creation. But remember, the same argument was used when the minimum wage was first introduced and the fears have proved unfounded.
A living wage is a mark of a civilised society. Private and public sectors should work towards its introduction.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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