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Better than Nixon?

The most recent Gallup poll – released this week – shows U.S. President Barack Obama’s approval rating at a dismal 44.5 percent.

The 19th-quarter (July 20-Oct. 19, 2013) ratings for his presidency represent the third consecutive quarter in which Obama’s approval rating has declined.

Is anyone really surprised?

According to Gallup (www.gallup.com), “Only two presidents had lower 19th-quarter averages than Obama: Richard Nixon, whose 19th quarter came during the Watergate investigations, and Lyndon Johnson, attributable mostly to the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War.”

For more recent comparison, Obama today is about as popular as his predecessor, President George W. Bush, for the respective time frame.

About the only public officials in Washington, D.C. with lower approval ratings are members of Congress. Of course, Gallup doesn’t record negative numbers in its rating system. (There’s always one die-hard supporter out there, I suppose.)

Two significant issues that have made headlines this quarter have contributed to the decline in the U.S. president's popularity:

• The recent increase in the federal deficit; and,

• The funding of Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act.

House Republicans (and a select few GOP senators) who stood in opposition to Obamacare did so at their own peril. Media reports have been quick to blast the Republicans on the issue, but quite slow to criticize the president’s deficit spending.

With 2014 mid-term elections about a year away, we’ll soon see how Americans really feel. After all, the only poll that matters is the voters’ poll.

Here’s a fearless prediction: As Obamacare kicks in and the nation adds trillions in new debt, inflation will rise as will interest rates. Welcome to 1980 redux, America. (Thank you, Jimmy Carter.)

* * *

Speaking of the devaluation of the U.S. dollar, did you hear the one about the China premier (Li Keqiang) who expressed considerable concern over the ever-rising debt ceiling? And, no, it’s not the beginning of a bad joke.

As we all realize, China owns more of the U.S. government debt than any foreign nation. (Good luck with that, by the way.)

In a Time Business report by Michael Schuman (and Chengcheng Jiang) last week, I couldn’t help but chuckle over this gem of a paragraph: “Among the Chinese public, the stalemate in Washington has caused confusion and ire. Why, some Chinese are asking, have our leaders invested so much of the country’s money in a government that seems so dysfunctional?”

To the Chinese public asking that question, many of the workers and taxpayers in the United States are asking the same thing – only in spades: Why have our leaders invested so much of the country’s money in governments around the world that seem so dysfunctional?

Could it be that China is now questioning its foreign investments as U.S. taxpayers are questioning our government’s? Ah, the irony.

The Time report continues: “One strategy China is pursuing to lessen its dollar dependence is by promoting its own currency (the renminbi) as an alternative to the greenback in global trade and finance.  … Yet, in order for the RMB to become a true rival to the dollar, China has to undertake far more reform. … The RMB isn’t fully convertible, nor does it trade freely around the world like the dollar, euro or yen.

“What this all means is that China and the U.S. Treasury remain locked in an embrace from which it is very hard for Beijing to escape. What it will take is extensive reform to China’s own economy that so far Beijing has been reluctant to undertake. So Beijing can call for a ‘de-Americanized world’ all it wants. China is not ready to take America’s place.”

Not quite yet, anyway.

What all of it boils down to is this: In the long term, free markets outperform government manipulation. And when governments manipulate paper money to the extent that they are today, well-heeled investors will always prefer metal to paper. Call it the golden rule, if you will.

Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at rory.ryan@taii.com or roryeryan@gmail.com.


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