The Flattened World of Barack Obama

“The world is no longer flat” but it is actually “flattened” to add another dimension to author Thomas Friedman’s thesis. Many Asian economists were quite confident that the Asian markets would be affected marginally if Western economies went into recession. It turns out they were wrong at least during current time frame. The old adage “when America gets a cold then Asia gets pneumonia,” in today’s global economy is still valid. American consumers have been playing Atlas to the world economy, by holding up the earth’s labyrinthine markets. America has been buying exports from Asia so that Asia can buy commodities from Latin America, Russia, Africa and Australia. This economic maze of interconnectedness is now in quite a fix as the 44th President of the United States steps up to the plate.

So what happens now with Obama at the helm of America’s 13 trillion dollar economy? Those who objected to America’s role as a global policeman will get what they wanted, but they may regret it. As the Obama administration intends to reduce the US presence to global terrorism hot spots, it is likely that these hotspots may flare up with new religious fervor, particularly in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Not to mention a “narco war” gaining momentum in Latin America. The worst affected by the global economic meltdown are some East European and oil producing countries.

Economists realize that there was much more collateral damage in emerging economies than at home in the US due to the economic tsunami that has rippled from America. Some analysts predict Iran theocrats will initiate an adventure of military power to shift the attention of the Iranian people, who are suffering even more with the crude oil price down to $50 per barrel and reduced subsidies, onto an external enemy, an old trick used by governments from the Romans, to the Germans, and beyond.

Iran and Venezuela may implode if oil stays below 70 dollars a barrel, especially when the cost of borrowing is substantially higher with interest rates spiking as much as 30 percent for Pakistan. The current financial crises may push Pakistan even further toward a more radical Islam. Many of the emerging markets have fallen as much as 50 percent and more. India, after stock market crash and terrorist attack on Mumbai, may elect the nationalist party to power creating India Pakistan problems more difficult to resolve. China is facing the problems of unemployed workers as the GDP growth rate is declining.

And those large sums of money, that were coming into developing economies because investors were receiving high interest rates and obtaining capital gain due to their appreciating currencies against the US dollar, are now nothing more than a fond memory. Today currencies of developing countries have fallen by 50 percent on the average to the

US $ from its peak.

Now that Obama is not only the leader of America, but the undisputed leader of African Americans, implying that Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton will become much more diminished in stature as they are overshadowed by Obama’s rising star. The President-elect in the past has stated he is a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. If he is to follow Gandhi’s path, he will then be harder on his own African-America people. Gandhi always demanded more from his own family and followers.

Obama may also find himself philosophically akin to another black leader, Bill Cosby, who has been critical of African Americans in matters of family values and their need to embrace the importance of education. It is also apparent that Obama is moving toward the center from the left to become the president of all the people. The ultra liberals are unhappy that he has asked the Defense Secretary Mr. Gate to continue and do not plan to bring the troops home immediately. He may not even follow his campaign promises of implementing new taxes on corporations and high income earners immediately because of the current economic crises.

In his book, The End of Racism, Dinesh D’Souza claims there is hardly any racism left in America and that blacks are like any other people with a key problem being epidemic broken families where kids are raised by single parents or grandparents. Jesse Jackson and others were very critical of D’Souza; however, with the election of Obama, many African American leaders may not be able to claim so loudly that racism is the core of every problem of the African American community.

12 percent of America’s population woke up on November 5 and felt they did belong to America where anything is possible. Race and religion do matter, but that is personal, and it is much less an issue in matters of doing business. Obama was elected not because he will solve all the problems of America, or because he’s a Democrat. Americans voted for him because they felt good within themselves to vote for a candidate who has shown no anger, no aggressive attitude, sticking to his message of hope and care, being cool, and positive in debates, who is respected world over, and who happens to be an African American.

The majority of Americans are to the right of the center. They did not vote for the Republican candidate because the party betrayed following their own principles— meaning small government, fiscally conservative, embracing sound money and a minimal interventional foreign policy. It is apparent that this election was more about personality and less on political issues. Election 2008 was a campaign of Obama narrative, favoring him with a world class editing job by the biased news media. Let us hope that he is much cleaner than the Chicago politicians, that he is perceived by the world as a strong leader of FDR vintage. If Obama is perceived as a weak president of Carter vintage, then America will be a big looser experiencing inflation rate much greater than the rate during Carter years.

It reminds me of the movie, Shankaracharya, played by Abhi Bhatacharya in 1950’s, defeating all his opponents in the debate over the philosophy of Vedanta by remaining calm, cool, pleasant, and positive.

Navin Doshi (December, 2008)
(Mr. Doshi is a businessman, writer, and philanthropist.)

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