(VOVworld) – More than 315 million American people are beginning their Christmas and New Year holidays. While optimistic about a better year to come, Americans can’t ignore big problems on both the domestic and foreign front. VOV’s reporter looks at President Barack Obama’s leadership and the challenges facing his administration.
The US began 2013 with the hope that President Obama’s re-election would prosper the economy, reduce the unemployment rate, and increase people’s income and social welfare to make their lives easier. In the first year of his second term, President Obama kept his promise to voters that economics would remain his focus and he exerted efforts to narrow differences among Congressmen to resolve the nation’s problems. But Obama’s efforts have not reached his targets. Disagreements between the two American parties have pushed virtually every domestic and external issue to an impasse.
Deep political and financial disagreements
Discussions on major domestic issues like the budget deficit, tax reform, health insurance reform, gun control, and immigration policies have made no progress. Health insurance reform, dubbed Obamacare, has taken much of Obama’s effort and is still being hotly debated. Strains between the parties have always existed, but the confrontation between Democrats and Republicans this year has become more destructive than ever. For the first time in 17 years, some federal government agencies were shutdown, hundreds of thousands of state employees were furloughed, and the nation was pushed to the edge of bankruptcy.
The administration faced social tensions triggered by shootings in schools and the worst shooting ever at an American navel base.
Diplomatic crisis stems from NSA surveillance program
A shocking incident affecting America’s foreign relations was former NSA contractor Edward Snowden fleeing abroad after revealing a secret surveillance program conducted by the NSA on a large scale. The leak pushed the US administration into a serious diplomatic crisis with its closest allies. The case harmed US-EU relations and suspended negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The spying program and the US’s missile shield program in Eastern Europe have damaged the US-Russia ties.
US-China economic relations have been enhanced by a series of high-level meetings. But Washington’s announcements concerning Beijing’s activities in the disputed sea have placed the two countries in a state of “willing speech but unwilling heart”.
It’s undeniable that President Obama has been successful in some areas, including economic progress. GDP growth rate in the third quarter was 3.6%, much higher than economists’ estimates at 3.1%. It’s the highest rate since early 2012. The economic rebound reduced the unemployment rate in November to 7%, the lowest point in 5 years.
2013 saw visible improvement in US-Iran relations. Americans are happy with the White House’s decision to take advantage of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reconciliation policy to find a non-violent approach to limiting Tehran’s nuclear program. And Obama made a wise choice to avoid war and accept Russia’s initiative to seek a diplomatic solution in Syria.
2014 is anticipated to be a breakthrough year for the US economy. But there is work to be done to achieve inclusive growth. The US will need to create greater consensus on domestic and external issues.