Writings begin to assess Obama's economic legacy

President Barack Obama speaks in Connecticut. Image copyright Getty Images

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Two years ago the New Republic's Noam Scheiber wrote a book arguing that President Barack Obama had "fumbled" the nation's economic recovery. Now he'd like to withdraw that earlier judgement.

"I do think my verdict on the administration was overly harsh," he writes. He cites steady job and GDP growth over the past few years, exceeding the performance of much of the rest of the world.

The US compares favourably with Europe and the UK, he says, where there's been little if any economic recovery.

Mr Obama's attempts at stimulus worked "pretty well", he says, keeping the US from sinking back into recession. The 2011 focus on deficit-reduction only slowed the economy, it didn't derail it. And despite public protests, the financial bailout programme was effective.

Scheiber stands by his criticism of the president's attempted reform of Wall Street, however. The financial regulations designed to rein in excesses by big banks simply hasn't done enough to prevent a future economic crisis, he says.

In fact, he continues, the next crisis may be more severe than the one in 2008 if only for the reason that the public will be even less willing to go along with government bailout efforts.

Scheiber's analysis is only the latest in a line of articles attempting to cast the president's legacy in a better light. In early October New York Times columnist Paul Krugman penned a lengthy defence of the president's legacy in Rolling Stone, calling him one of the most successful presidents in US history.

"His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward - and it's working better than anyone expected," Krugman wrote. "Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it's much more effective than you'd think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy."

Expect the legacy-burnishing to grow only more fevered after the mid-term elections are over and the time left in the president's term is counted in months, not years.

Venezuela

Low oil prices could mean financial ruin - As owner of the world's largest crude oil reserves, Venezuela is particularly attuned to fluctuations in the price of the commodity.

High prices allowed late President Hugo Chavez to help poor Venezuelans, according to Girish Gupta in the New Yorker, but support for health, education and housing may not be sustainable.

As oil prices have dropped, he writes, there is an increasingly likelihood that Venezuela's current president Nicolas Maduro will be forced to default on his loan obligations.

"Many industries, from airlines to pharmaceuticals to small retailers, are fighting for a limited supply of hard currency in Venezuela, which means that, so long as the current climate prevails, the country will be presented with decisions about whom to pay," he concludes.

Turkey

Does the US want to drag Turkey into the Syrian quagmire? - When Turkey was admitted into the American club - the Nato alliance - in 1952, writes Rabee al-Hafidh of the Daily Sabah, it was nothing more to the US than a strategic piece of land bordering the Soviet Union.

"The US does not need Turkey to be anything more than what it was in 1952," writes Hafidh. "The US does not need the Turkish economy to rank sixth in Europe."

Because of this, he says, the US won't care if the Syrian crisis ends up plunging the Turkish state into chaos.

"The removal of Turkey as a regional power is a desirable aim and provocation (via the war with Syria) is a means to achieve this," he says.

Japan

World War Two's long shadow - While Mr Obama is trying to get two Northeast Asian pillars - Japan and South Korea - to work together to contain China, history is conspiring against him.

Nearly 70 years after the end of World War TWO, writes Walden Bello of the Inquirer.net, Japan's behaviour in that conflict and its lack of remorse now continue to insult its Asian neighbours.

"There are a number of theories why war guilt has not taken hold in Japan," writes Bello. "One is that the nuclear wasting of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 gave the Japanese a sense of being victims rather than culprits in that war."

He goes on to theorise that when the Japanese leadership asked the entire Japanese population to "accept responsibility" for the war, that actually meant no one was responsible, diluting "the very real responsibility of the political class for bringing on Japan's aggression and its attendant crimes."

Germany

Burgers uber alles - Hamburgers may be named after the northern German city, but only recently has it become easy to find a good one in the country, reports Spiegel International. Chef Thomas Hirschberger was one of the first to jump on the gourmet burger trend, in 2010, and he now has a 26-branch chain.

"The growth of the boutique burger industry in Germany has put the established chains under pressure," write the Spiegel authors. "McDonald's, for example, saw sales drop in the country in 2013, and company headquarters believes 2014 numbers in Germany will also reflect an 'ongoing weakness.'"

"Customers in these restaurants mostly grew up with McDonald's and Co., and they still like to eat burgers as adults," says Sandra Warden of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. "But they have become more discerning."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli and Palestinian commentators respond to unrest in Jerusalem following the shooting of a prominent right-wing Jewish activist.

"Parts of Jerusalem are burning, and instead of taking measures to put out the fire the extreme right (and the not-so-extreme Right, for that matter) is pouring fuel on the flames." - Susan Hattis Rolef in the Jerusalem Post.

"It is clear that the Netanyahu government's current plan is to escalate the situation, particularly in Jerusalem. It also plans to step up Israeli pressure in order to bring it to an explosion, even if this explosion has religious dimensions." - Samih Shubaib in Palestinian al-Ayyam.‎

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