Whole wide world watches when we pick a president

I’ve had the pleasure of being in Spain for the last month, we all have our cross to bear, which has provided me with a couple of dividends.

First, I’ve escaped all the last-minute rhetoric, baby-kissing, mud-slinging, camera-mugging and bro-crushes.

Second, and more interestingly, I’ve been able to observe the ever-expanding global circus U.S. presidential elections have become.

As the last remaining superpower standing, the U.S. election has become an increasingly less American event and a more global one.

Just as the chairman of the Federal Reserve is the world’s most influential banker, so, too, the American president is the world’s most influential leader. Factor in those ineligible to vote and Americans’ less-than-enthusiastic voter participation, and about 1 percent of the world’s population gets to elect someone whose decisions effect 100 percent of the world’s people. Americans are the “one-percenters.”

And people around the world pay attention. While polls show the U.S. popular vote has Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a virtual deadlock, the world favors Obama, by about 75 percent.

There’s a phrase “When the United States sneezes, the world catches a cold.” Despite the growing global role of Europe and China, there’s little debate that America’s Great Recession rippled throughout world economies. And while the recession may not have affected some economies directly, the aftershocks were pervasive.

So, from this perspective, why Obama?

First, some historical perspective - despite Republicans’ claim that they are the party of economic prosperity, in the post-World War II period data show the highest growth rates in the United States occur during Democratic presidencies.

This might be because larger government expenditures under Democrats or Democratic presidents enjoying the policies of previous Republican presidents.

Depending on whom you talk to, lowering taxes has little to no impact on economic growth, indeed. If tax rates are already low, lowering them further is not going to have a marked impact on new spending.

And Romney? In his run-up to GOP nomination, and since, he has taken an overtly isolationist stance: Chinese currency manipulation, commodity-market scaring saber rattling, and, here, claiming that Spanish government taxes and spending are too much. Yet Spain’s current debt-to-GDP ratio is below the European Union average.

This oversimplification and misunderstanding of non-American economic realities is somewhat worrisome globally. How much is rhetoric and how much is policy potential? Hard to say.

Questions arise: Will Romney’s policies make the United States sneeze? What will his stance be vis-à-vis the world economy?

There’s also familiarity with Obama’s policies, and uncertainty abounds with a Romney election.

Ultimately, Americans vote for a president of the United States, not for the world. Nevertheless, by Thursday, everyone on Earth will be pointed in some direction, maybe.

sonora_t@fortlewis.edu Robert “Tino” Sonora is an associate professor of economics at Fort Lewis College and the director of the Office of Business and Economic Research at Fort Lewis College.

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