President Barack Obama

The role & responsibilities of president

2016.11

The role and responsibilities of the President
President Barack Obama
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In January, 2017, the term of the 44th and 45th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, is set to end.

  • On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States. The first inauguration of Obama took place on January 20, 2009.
  • Four years later, Obama announced his reelection campaign and ran as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. He defeated Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney and was reelected as president on November 6, 2012, resuming office on January 21, 2013.

President Obama’s administration has received mixed reviews depending on the policies, but overall, his eight years have been viewed favorably.

  • Business profit & household income: The US stock market has been flourishing and business profits have been at an all time high. However, at the beginning of Obama’s term, the median household income fell from $54,926 to $53,657 in 2014. Though companies thrived and stockholders made profits, the lives of the average American did not improve.
  • Unemployment: The unemployment rate in 2009 approached 10%. In 2015, unemployment has dropped below 5%. Even though the average income has not risen, the employment index has shown an upward movement.
  • Core industries: The US industrial structure has shifted from concentrating in finance, infrastructure, and fossil fuels to IT industries and the development of original technology (biomedical engineering, strategic computing, etc.)
  • Economic growth rate: During Obama’s incumbency, the average annual economic growth rate was 2.1% (compared to Ronald Reagan’s 3.5% and Bill Clinton’s 3.9%). While figures have dwindled in social overhead capital and formerly dominant industries like the oil and gas industry, the mobile and innovative tech industries, which have a smaller impact on the GDP, have experienced tremendous growth.
  • Education: By implementing policies aimed at reducing the cost of higher education and training educators, Obama has strived to improve the quality of and equality in education, especially in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math). During Obama’s term, the number of engineering school graduates has risen by 25,000.
  • Social security: The percentage of Americans who do not qualify to receive healthcare benefits decreased from 15% in 2010 to 10% in 2015.
  • Human rights: There has been a rise in legislation aimed to bestow more rights to minority groups (e.g., legalization of gay marriage).
  • Energy & environment: There has been further support for environmentally friendly policies and corporations like Tesla and Solarcity.

In the “creative economy” point of view, President Obama has been regarded as the leader that made possible the innovations in Silicon Valley.

  • The US government’s approach to the creative economy: The US government has opted for policies and laws that optimize the economy for IT companies and start-ups. It has also permitted VC and PE firms to be the primary financial support systems for such budding companies.
  • Examples of institutional support
    • When Uber and Airbnb first entered the market, there was quite a buzz regarding the legality of their operations. However, instead of stifling their growth with regulations, the government has encouraged the companies to expand and come up with creative and unforeseen business models.
    • When faced with the ethical and legal challenges of driverless cars being produced by Google, Uber, and Tesla, the government, rather than setting strict regulations, has freely permitted the companies to test out their vehicles.
    • For electric vehicle owners, the government has provided subsidies and infrastructural support by erecting charging stations throughout the country. This has also encouraged car companies like Tesla to invest more into developing better vehicles.
  • Investment support for start-ups: While the primary investors in the Mobile/IT industry start- ups are VC and PE firms and dependent upon the market outcomes, the government facilitates this process with institutional support. Furthermore, the government may provide financial support to promising entrepreneurs.
  • The creative economy under the Obama administration: During Obama’s presidency, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have expanded to become global corporations, and such Unicorns as Uber, Airbnb, and Dropbox have entered the market.
  • Criticism against Obama: People criticize the growth in income inequality as well as in regional inequality (a burgeoning San Francisco vs. a withering Midwestern US).

The similarity between Obama and Silicon Valley is that both have emphasized communication and participation.

  • According to the 2016 NY Times article, “Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone,” President Obama spends most of his evening thoroughly reading reports from various departments, preparing questions and comments for those in charge, and composing drafts for key speeches.
  • When preparing the speeches, it was not unusual for Obama to call the head of a department to the White House, past midnight, in order to discuss and edit the drafts together.
  • Every night, Obama reads about 10 letters from citizens and watches the news in order to better hear the people’s voices.
  • This dedication has caused many to dub Obama as the “healer of the broken hearted American” (e.g. the “Amazing Grace” speech from the Charleston church shooting).

Those who praise Obama’s administration have emphasized two things in particular: 1) that he succeeded in directing public attention towards important matters and 2) that he was able to comfort those who experienced loss and encouraged societal unity.

  • Healthcare and education reform, encouraging the growth of the tech industry, promoting diversity, developing clean energy and addressing climate change issues.
  • In times of social discord (e.g. Charleston church shooting, immigration issues) Obama gave moving speeches that were genuine, filled with promise, and aimed to heal the nation’s wounds.

In reflecting on Obama’s presidency, South Koreans feel at once envious and hopeless about their own country’s situation.

  • Business profit & household income: Korea has been losing its competitiveness in its primary industries: shipbuilding, shipping, steel, and construction. Key companies are on the brink of bankruptcy and in 2016, the gross national income decreased for the first time.
  • Unemployment: In 2016, South Korea’s young adult unemployment rate reached an all-time high of 12.5%.
  • Core industries: In the Mobile/IT industry, the government does provide funds for young entrepreneurs to found their own start-ups, but regulations inhospitable to start-ups have made it difficult for them to flourish (e.g. regulations about how P2P businesses operate.) Furthermore, by investing in teams that are underprepared to face the world market, Korea has been unsuccessful in spurring on a domestic creative economy.
  • Education & social security: The country has been focused on dealing with the controversial “state-designated textbooks” and the welfare budget is expected to drop drastically by the end of 2016.

South Korea has also been reeling from the shock of some recent discoveries made about its current president, Park Geun-hye.

  • For several years, there have been allegations that the president is being controlled by “external forces.”
  • A recent investigation uncovered that the “external forces” were actually a single individual by the name of Choi Soon-sil. Choi is the daughter of a late cult leader, and it was found that Park had been giving Choi her speeches to edit and conferring with her about national issues.
  • This seemed to explain Park’s often irrational and incomprehensible decisions.

Therefore, unlike the United States, Korea has been berating its government for concentrating on the wrong subjects and worsening societal problems.

What do you think is the role and the responsibilities of a president? What are the greatest differences between President Obama and President Park? What can we do in order to help the nation overcome difficult issues?

Please discuss this topic with your Ringle Tutor and use this opportunity to improve your spoken English.

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