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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 03 novembre 2012 alle ore 04:59.
L'ultima modifica è del 03 novembre 2012 alle ore 02:22.


According to the polls there’s never been a presidential race in America in which the outcome was this uncertain. Yesterday pollsters registered mere 0.1 percent advantage for President Obama. The advantage is so slim that there’s no way to make an accurate prediction. In Washington attention has moved from polls on which way the electorate will vote to who voters believe will win. In this case, the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is strangely enormous, no less then 20 points. Obama’s supporters are relieved, because in the past surveys on who voters will vote for have identified the correct winner in just 69 percent of the elections, while surveys on who voters expect to win (regardless of personal preference) have been right 81 percent of the time.

The vast difference that exists between these two surveys suggests that American voters keep personal opinion separate from their sense of reality—choice and necessity. They express their disappointment for a somewhat apathetic presidency, but they aren’t convinced that the alternative offered by Mitt Romney is realistic. That’s the true portrait of this electoral campaign: Romney has called on Americans by appealing to the ideal convictions, free initiative and Americans’ uniqueness, while Obama has defended his pragmatism with introspective and often uninspired tones, betting that he can depict his adversary as inadequate to deal with the real problems facing the country. In other words, putting the very pledge that he himself adopted—elected on the wave of an emotional slogan of “hope” and “change”—on Romney. They’re good sentiments, but not solid strategic strengths. Obama had to pay for these very slogans in light of reality four years ago amid the labyrinth of the Beltway, the cynical capital of American politics.

On the eve of the vote, realism tends to prevail over ideology, as when a devastating hurricane demonstrates the utility of a present, efficient government and pushes rhetoric on a tax-devouring leviathan backstage. In fact, over the last few days polls have registered a marginal consensus for the current president. But the logic of the electoral campaign hasn’t changed, and the reference to Romney as an “Italian-style” fiscal destiny for the U.S. is fully a part of this counterbalancing of rhetoric and realism. It’s a reference that mustn’t be undervalued.

As often happens during electoral campaigns, the view of Romney is the other side of a half-truth. It’s true that America’s fiscal future looks the same as that of southern Europe. The U.S. is on a fiscal trajectory that is unsustainable because of a structural divide between taxes and spending policy. This divide will only get worse as the population ages.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that net debt will rise to 200 percent of GDP by 2037 and is, therefore, moving along an explosive path. The structural nature of the fiscal deficit is deeply problematic because even when the U.S. economy pulls back close to full employment the deficit will force the country to look for foreign loans. Once foreign debt drains earnings, transferring them abroad, the economy will slow down and the country will wind up in a budget trap of payments like the one Europe is facing. It’s difficult to predict a fiscal crisis, but during the four years of European crisis, the warning alarms for a “Greek” destiny for the U.S. have rung more than once in Washington. And this is where the half-truth ends. The rest is far less intuitive.

The fiscal emergency touches upon two political totems: taxes for Republicans and, for the Democrats, welfare. Last year, Social Security and health bills accounted for half of the federal government’s key spending. They are constantly on the rise, while tax earnings have remained constant for 50 years, ranging between 17 percent and 19 percent of GDP. The only time these earnings were higher, thanks to taxes on the nouveau riche and the technological boom, was between 1997 and 2001. Then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan inflated the economy to the benefit of government budgets, then George W. Bush’s tax cuts and military spending created new imbalances that only grew worse once the financial crisis exploded.

Both Romney and Obama know the situation is unsustainable, but they don’t have any incentive to find common ground. Romney can ride high on Republican ideology: he wants to cut taxes for the rich and increase military spending for a $7 trillion impact on the deficit over 10 years. Obama can accuse the Republicans of having sabotaged every accord established over the past four years. In reality, both candidates have been sitting on their hands for over a year now, waiting to see who wins the election in order to negotiate from what they hope will prove a stronger position.

Whoever wins, 2013 will be a crucial year for America’s fiscal future. Tuesday’s vote will tell us what the new power dynamics of Washington will look like, but without some quick agreements, the ratings agencies may downgrade U.S. debt even further. America’s ability to supply the rest of the world with dependable, safe bonds to invest in would no longer to keep pace with growth in the global economy. The role of the financial reserves would have to be covered by other currencies. The American singularity, that exorbitant privilege of printing cash for the rest of the world, might just come to sudden death. In part this depends on the destiny of the euro, which in turn depends in Italy’s destiny. The somewhat contemptuous reference to southern Europe masks one of the most important economic issues of upcoming years.