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Are governments protecting your interests, or just playing politics?

On August 29th John McCain, in the most audacious move in the US presidential campaign so far, announced Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential nominee. Sarah Palin was chosen to rally support from the Republican base, who are sceptical about John McCain’s moderate views on abortion and gay rights. McCain also chose her as a running mate because she appeals to the “average Joe” American, being an everyday “hockey mum”. Christians love her piety, gun lovers love her love of guns and pro-lifers admire her staunch pro-life credentials…but what’s the difference between Sarah Palin and a pit-bull? The pit-bull probably has better economic credentials.

At the present time, polls show growing support for Obama amid economic turmoil. With the current state of the economy, was Palin the right choice for McCain? Over the summer, Mr McCain made the confession that he does not know as much about economics as he should. With this in mind, McCain should have chosen a running mate who could have provided heavyweight economic experience; after all, in the words of Bill Clinton: “it’s the economy, stupid”. McCain had the chance to select Mitt Romney who, as the ex-Massachusetts Governor and venture capitalist, would have brought the much-needed economic credibility to the Presidential ticket. Instead, McCain chose Sarah Palin, who has only two years of experience as Governor of Alaska, and very little foreign policy or economic experience. John McCain had met her only once for a fifteen-minute chat at the National Governor’s association meeting, before summoning her to his ranch for the final interview.

On the one hand this may not be a disaster, as historically the vice presidency is not seen as an important role, due to its lack of formal duties. In the words of Bill Vaughan: “the Vice-Presidency is sort of like the last cookie on the plate. Everybody insists they won’t take it, but someone always does.” On the other hand, however, in more recent times the role of the Vice-Presidency has expanded, due to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney. One in five Presidents reached the Oval Office, not by the normal route to the White House, but because they were the Vice-President to an incumbent who died, or was discredited. There is a saying that the Vice-President is a heart beat away from the presidency, and with John McCain being 72, there is a very real chance of Sarah Palin having to step up to the plate and take on one of the toughest jobs on earth. This was a political decision, which could have huge consequences on a global scale.

It is not just the poor choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate that has shocked me over the last few weeks:last Monday, the House of Representatives voted down Hank Paulson’s (the US treasury secretary) $700 billion economic bail out plan, by 228 to206 votes. This meant that US stocks suffered their worst one-day fall since 1987. The Economist stated: “The prospect of [the bail-out’s] failure would send credit markets veering towards the abyss. Congress should pass it- and soon.”

If the financial system ceases to function properly, and a range of financial institutions collapse, everybody will be hurt as businesses and households are starved of credit. So with all this in mind, why did representatives vote against the bail out? Opposition to the proposal came from two different sources: a few remaining libertarians and believers in free enterprise voted against the bill because of their strong belief in the free market, which is reasonably credible, however: the rest of the nay-voters pandered to the wish of their constituents without much consideration to what would happen if the bail-out failed. In tight races, 71% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans voted against the bail-out, while overall 60% of Democrats and 33% of Republicans voted for bail-out. The failure of this bill was clearly a case of desperate representatives seeking re-election, over an issue that is much more important than re-election and could have grave consequences for the future.

A lot of the problems in the world economy are due to issues which originated in America, but the effort to solve the problem needs to beco-ordinated and global, in order to halt the domino effect of the economic crisis. Political decisions have hindered the progress of the economic recovery and this could have very grave consequences,. The political decisions in the near future will be crucial to the survival of western capitalism.

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