The president's in-tray: six challenges facing Obama
While it is possible all five of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court judges will seek to hold on to their seats until the end of the Obama presidency, death or the lure of retirement may draw one or more of them off of the bench.
Over the next four years, he is likely to have the opportunity of naming at least one, and possibly even three or more, judges. But whether he will be able to tip the balance of the court’s ideological make-up is another story.
There is no way of knowing how many vacancies there will be during the next presidential term. Judges are appointed for life, though they can step down for personal reasons, as two older judges have done in recent years.
Of the nine judges in all, four of the court’s judges are in their mid-70s or older. Two of the eldest judges, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (79) and Stephen Breyer (74) are liberals. If he replaced one, or both, with liberals it wouldn’t alter the ideological fault-lines of the court.
But Anthony Kennedy (76), widely seen as a “swing vote” when it comes to key issues, could potentially be replaced by a more liberal judge.The court’s most senior conservative, Antonin Scalia (76), has not shown interest in retiring.
The ideological balance of the court could be crucial for Obama in delivering key policy changes. After all, it was the court’s 5-4 decision that upheld his recent national healthcare law in the teeth of intense opposition from Republicans.
It is also possible that Obama could leave the White House in four years having named more than half of the entire supreme court.
Would he stack the court with liberals? Or seek to heal the divide by appointing more moderates? It is this possibility that may allow the president to leave a long-term stamp on the nation long after he has left office.
In the end, China the bogeyman probably didn’t play as big a role in the US elections as Mitt Romney had hoped for. By telling the voters in the Ohio town of Defiance, incorrectly, that Jeep would be shifting production to China, he merely added a gaffe to the list and frightened people.
Plenty of jobs have gone to China in the past decade with outsourcing. Some think tanks reckon China’s trade surplus with the US cost 2.7 million American jobs between 2001 and 2011. But rising costs in China and a tricky regulatory environment mean a lot of companies are moving back to the US. Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, has added more than 11,000 jobs since the crisis.
That doesn’t mean China isn’t a threat to US hegemony however, and the US-China relationship will remain the defining one of the early 21st century. China’s rising economy is one of the reasons why the US is finding it hard to boost employment at a faster rate.
It’s not so much American firms heading to China but investment from other parts of the world, and China’s growing domestic market, that makes its economy a threat. China is fast overtaking the US’s role as the donor and market of choice among emerging economies.
The forthcoming leadership change in China is a more significant event for emerging economies than Obama’s re-election. And while the Chinese yuan currency remains undervalued against the greenback, it has eased in recent months. Obama is unlikely to take trade issues with China too far, because it will soon be a question of how to woo Chinese investment to invest in US companies, to help support job growth in America.