Over 2 million people attend the swearing-in ceremony as 44th President of the United States of Barack Obama on the Washington Mall. The election of the Democratic Senator from Illinois, decreed by the popular vote on November 4, was officially confirmed on December 15 by 365 out of 538 electors.
Pragmatism in the formation of the government team, determination to relaunch growth by leveraging a new economic recipe that rewards middle-class families and a foreign policy divided halfway between the idealist bet to dialogue with enemies and the gritty will to defeat Al Qaida and its jihadist allies in the Afghan-Pakistani chessboard: this is the profile of Barack Obama’s presidency that emerged in the first 100 days of administration following the inauguration of 20 January 2009.
The government team
In the days between election night and the settlement at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama immerses himself in a transition of powers that he faces by reading two books: Team of rivals, in which historian Doris Kearns Goodwin recounts how Abraham Lincoln formed the his first cabinet bringing together rival ministers, and The defining moment by Jonathan Alter, the Newsweek commentatorwhich details the first 100 days of government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who faced the aftermath of the 1929 crisis and transformed America into a superpower by entering the war against the Axis powers. For Obama, what Lincoln and Roosevelt have in common is pragmatism. Lincoln demonstrated this by putting aside the fear of internal rivalries to aim for building the best team and Roosevelt did the same, weighing his beliefs with facts.
This is the genesis of the decisions that lead the new president to compose his ‘team of rivals’. Hillary Clinton, with whom he dueled until June 2008 in the scorching Democratic primary, becomes Secretary of State. Robert Gates, chosen by President George W. Bush for the Pentagon, remains in defense to manage the changes coming in the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Liberal Eric Holder takes office in the Ministry of Justice to “restore the values of our nation.” To the Treasury goes Timothy Geithner, who as head of the Federal Reserve of New York joined his predecessor Henry Paulson in tackling the genesis of the economic storm, and Steven Chu, champion of the fight against climate change, takes office at the Ministry of Energy. while former professional basketball player Arne Duncan gets the Education wallet. The ministerial team brings together whites, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, men and women to create a multi-ethnic and diverse team that reflects the identity of the nation that elected a president son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas. In the White House, the team of close associates is no exception. Political guru David Axelrod, who grew up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, and councilor Valerie Jarrett, born in Iran to a couple of American doctors on a humanitarian mission, are the leading faces of Chicago’s loyalists; Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers come from the Clinton team, while General Security Advisor James Jones worked with Condoleezza Rice’s State Department. From the Oval Office to the banks of the Potomac, the Obama administration presents itself as a collage of differences, ethnic and political, and it is the president himself who justifies the choice by explaining that he will want to govern “by listening to different opinions” to distinguish himself from the team of his predecessor to whom he accuses of “having surrounded himself only with condescending people.”
The economic recipe
Winner of an electoral campaign conditioned by the weight of the recession on middle-class families, Obama puts the need to lay the foundations for a new phase of growth at the top of the agenda. The choice falls on the definition of a new development model in which Wall Street counts less than Main Street, reducing the weight of finance on GDP. If it was the real estate crisis that triggered the difficulties of the banks then found themselves lacking in capital, Obama identifies the vulnus in an economic system too tied to speculation. Together with Summers and Geithner, but also with a host of liberal economic advisers like Daniel Tarullo and conservatives like Paul Volcker, he therefore decides to take a different path. If it is the middle class that suffers the most, the state will have to help them recover. Thus, multiple initiatives aimed at supporting the economy of individual families start: scholarships to be able to attend college, free public health for children, new schools in poor neighborhoods, renewable sources to lower energy bills, controls to avoid speculation of credit cards, drug grants for the elderly, fast trains to connect small and large centers in order to use cars less, broadband Internet network in every corner of the nation to allow equal access to the opportunities of the digital economy for all. These are medium and long-term projects, but Obama’s strategy is to “invest in the future” by committing the state to create better living conditions for the middle class. A crucial pillar of this building is the recovery of jobs, and therefore the 787 billion dollar economic stimulus that Congress passes in record time foresees a shower of dollars in a myriad of projects, public and otherwise, destined to produce jobs. Obama’s goal is to create 3-4 million within 2 years, but the Republican opposition, led by former presidential rival John McCain, he accuses him of creating an economic boomerang because the debt caused by the dizzying growth of public spending “will weigh on the next generations”. Mike Huckabee, the former evangelical pastor and former Arkansas governor who was also a candidate for Republicans in 2008, goes so far as to call Obama’s recipe a ‘socialist’, warning Americans about the risks of a ‘European statism’ in the United States. The confrontation in Congress with the Republicans is tough, marked by an ideological contrast that is repeated when Obama presents the 2010 draft budget, which includes such an increase in public spending as to predict, at best, a record deficit of 1,200 billion. dollars. But if the right disputes the choice of leveraging public spending to revive employment,
Obama and Geithner embrace the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) inherited from the Bush administration, which provides public aid to financial institutions at risk of collapse and with capital exceeding 500 million dollars. There are 19 large banks that access loans and undergo stress tests of the Federal Reserve to ascertain their stability on the markets. Geithner also launches a plan to identify ‘toxic securities’ and gradually put them back on the markets, but for liberal economists, such as Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, these are palliatives because they are intended to “not solve the problem of the system at its root. financial”. Krugman proposes ‘timed nationalizations’ of banks, but Geithner is convinced that even state intervention in the economy must have limits. The clash is over the application of Keynesian principles at the beginning of the 21st century: Krugman is pushing for a massive public presence in finance, while the administration fears that this would jeopardize the prospect of recovery, stopping the return of capital over time private in Wall Strett. For Obama, the revival of growth passes through massive investments in the fight against pollution and climate protection. The decision to set new standards for harmful emissions for cars – aiming to consume 1 liter of gasoline per 16 km in 2016 – means pushing the manufacturing industries to massive investments destined to create green jobs, jobs linked to the development of new generation plants that protect the health of the planet. The intention is to make America the leading power of the new climate and energy agreements intended to be approved by the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009, thus also pursuing a very patriotic goal: to drastically reduce dependence on imports of crude oil from unstable nations. such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Libya.