The US Presidential Election: does it matter?

An American election features a pounding mix of campaign adverts and speeches, with massive amounts of money being spent. One would hope that it’s all being done for an important reason. But how important is the US presidential election to the people here in Ireland?

Americans will cast their votes on Tuesday November 6, choosing between Democrat and current President Barack Obama, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Romney, who served as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, won 11 states in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries before John McCain won the party’s nomination. The Republican candidate for Vice President is Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan.

The state of the US economy is the number one issue that will affect voters’ decision on Election Day. Unemployment in the US stands at 7.8%, and the national debt has reached $11.2 trillion.

“What I will do as President is make sure it’s more attractive [for enterprises] to come to America again.” This was the promise Romney made during the second presidential debate. The United States’ corporation tax rate currently stands at 35%. In Ireland, businesses complain about paying 12.5% corporation tax.

Ron Davis, professor of economics at UCD, dismissed the idea that the US corporation tax rate could be changed to a degree that would affect the Irish economy.

“There are so many special interest groups there, that the ability to get any meaningful change is zero,” he said. “If you lower the tax rate down to 30%, it’s still nearly three times the amount in Ireland.”

Davis added that, in order for the corporate tax rate to be lowered, the US government would have to cut spending or raise other taxes. Obama is in favour of increasing taxes on Americans who earn more than $250,000 annually. Romney’s focus is on spending cuts, aiming to limit government spending to one fifth of the gross domestic product.

Davis said that a change in US policy towards the Middle-East could have consequences for the Irish economy. “If we get [a president] who’s very aggressive towards the Middle-East, we’ll see a spike in petrol prices.”

According to the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association, nearly all of energy consumed in Ireland comes from imported oil and gas.

This year, the European Union imposed a phased embargo on crude oil imports from Iran, following similar sanctions that had been implemented in the US. Iran faces such sanctions as a result of its nuclear program, which is thought to include weapons development.

Speaking to The College View, Dr John Thompson of the Clinton Institute of American Studies at UCD, pointed to cooperation in dealing with Iran as an example of Obama’s success in working with the EU in foreign policy.

“I think it’s clear that, overall, Europeans are much happier with the tone, and mostly happier with the substance of, US foreign policy in the post-Bush era.

“If Romney is elected, all of the European governments will continue to seek to maintain a good relationship with the new administration. It will begin to suffer, as it did under George W Bush, if the Romney administration acts recklessly and is disdainful of its European partners.”

States where the presidential race is most competitive include Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida. On Election Day, their results will be awaited with more anticipation than anywhere else in the country. You can be sure the world will be watching but maybe only a fraction actually care.

Aaron Mc Nicholas

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