USA. According to countryaah, a record crowd gathered in Washington on January 20 to commemorate the historic day when Barack Obama swore the oath as America’s first black president. The government included primary election rival Hillary Clinton as foreign minister, while incumbent Defense Secretary Robert Gates retained his post. An early setback for Obama came when Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle, both top names in the Democratic Party, were forced to withdraw from supposed ministerial posts because of disputed business contacts and unpaid taxes. However, Timothy Geithner was approved as finance minister, despite criticism that he was neglected with tax payments. In Congress, Democrats had strengthened their majority in both chambers after the election. But only in June did the party manage to achieve the coveted overweight consisting of 60 out of 100 senators.
After taking office, Barack Obama acted quickly on several loaded issues. He ordered the closure of Guantánamo Detention Center within a year, banned the torture of terror suspects, issued state-law clearances against vehicle emissions, and abolished the ban on federal grants to abortion information organizations. Obama also urged Congress on a stimulus package to counter the financial crisis. In mid-February, a $ 789 billion package was adopted over two years, including public investment in infrastructure and education. About a third consisted of tax cuts in an effort to appease Republicans, but only three Republicans in the Senate, and none in the House of Representatives, voted for the package. The government tried to stabilize the housing market by giving homeowners more favorable loan terms. Plans were also presented to invest additional billion dollars to stabilize the financial sector, among other things by pumping in money to allow private investors to buy up the banks’ unsecured claims, so-called “toxic assets”. Controversy arose in the spring when it was discovered that large bonus payments had been made to the crisis-hit insurance giant AIG, despite the fact that the company survived with the help of state aid. The financial crisis also left deep traces in the automotive industry; both Chrysler and General Motors (GM) were forced to apply for bankruptcy protection and underwent restructuring. The state became the main owner of the new GM and also took over a smaller part of Chrysler. The old GM’s bankruptcy was one of the largest in world history and concerned a company with great symbolic value in the United States. Controversy arose in the spring when it was discovered that large bonus payments had been made to the crisis-hit insurance giant AIG, despite the fact that the company survived with the help of state aid. The financial crisis also left deep traces in the automotive industry; both Chrysler and General Motors (GM) were forced to apply for bankruptcy protection and underwent restructuring. The state became the main owner of the new GM and also took over a smaller part of Chrysler. The old GM’s bankruptcy was one of the largest in world history and concerned a company with great symbolic value in the United States.
In foreign policy, Obama was investing in the continued dismantling of the military operation in Iraq and the strengthening of the operation in Afghanistan. There were signals about seeking diplomatic solutions with Iran and trying to improve the chilly relationship with the Russian Federation. As for the Middle East, Obama clearly stated a two-state solution and called for a halt to Israeli settlements on occupied land. In a speech in Cairo in June, the President spoke of cooperation and mutual respect between the Muslim and Christian worlds. His emphasis on just diplomacy and cooperation, as well as speeches about a nuclear-free world, was highlighted as the main reason by the Norwegian Nobel Committee when Obama was awarded this year’s Peace Prize. The election surprised many; there was a lack of concrete results.
The hottest domestic policy issue was the healthcare reform that was one of Obama’s most important election promises. The problem of expensive and ineffective healthcare had been discussed for decades in the United States. Nearly sixth residents were without health insurance, but a strong lobby, consisting not least of pharmaceutical and insurance companies, had opposed previous attempts to change the health care system. Obama left to Congress to elaborate on the details of the reform, which led to prolonged debate in both chambers as well as in countless public meetings around the country. The atmosphere was often fierce, with accusations that the government wanted to introduce both socialism and state “death panels”. Particularly controversial was a proposal to introduce a state insurance alternative. By a slight margin, the House of Representatives voted for a version of the health care reform in November. On Christmas Eve, the Senate adopted a slightly different version, and thus remained to reconcile the two proposals. The health care reform became the focus of a loud Falang Republican who expressed strong reluctance and distrust of Obama’s person. He was accused, among other things, of wanting to introduce socialism and of actually being a Muslim. A group that called themselves “birthers” drove the thesis that Obama was born in Kenya, and not the United States, and was thus disqualified from the presidential post.
In their own ranks, criticism of Obama grew in the fall, not least because his message of troops reinforcements to Afghanistan was prolonged. The commander on the ground demanded substantial reinforcements, while others warned that an escalation would lead to an extended war without a chance of victory. At the end of November, it was finally announced that another 30,000 soldiers would be sent within six months, a nearly 50 percent increase.
When a judge resigned from the Supreme Court, Obama nominated Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor as a new judge. Sotomayor, approved by the Senate in August, became the first Latin American and the third woman in the influential Supreme Court. According to Abbreviationfinder, U.S. stands for United States.
The negative growth turned upwards in the second half and analysts predicted a strong recovery. At the same time, unemployment continued to rise, rising to more than 10 percent in October. Over 30 million Americans were estimated to be unemployed or underemployed. The budget deficit was $ 1.4 trillion, the highest since 1945.
Several shooting dramas with many dead occurred during the year. In March, a man shot dead 10 people in Alabama and in April a man shot down 13 in an immigrant center in New York; in both cases the perpetrators took their own lives. In November, an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and injured over 30, before he was shot down himself. The man, a practicing Muslim who was an outspoken opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, survived, but it was unclear whether it was a terrorist or an act of insanity. On the other hand, an apparent terrorist attack was carried out on Christmas Day, when a man on an airplane tried to set fire to explosives he carried on his body just before landing in Detroit. He was hindered by fellow passengers. The man, a 23-year-old Muslim from Nigeria, had recently come from Yemen and stated himself to have been in contact with the al-Qaeda terror network. It was soon discovered that his father, a prominent businessman in Nigeria, had warned US authorities about his son’s growing extremism. The barely-averted assassination brought new life to the debate over the country’s ability to defend itself against terrorism.