Q+A: PANEL DISCUSSION, HOSTED BY SHANE TAURIMA, IN RESPONSE TO EVAN BAYH INTERVIEW
SHANE Jennifer, both our previous guests have mentioned the fiscal cliff and economic woes that lie ahead of the President. Will that be his main focus, do you think, in the next four years?
JENNIFER CURTIN, political scientist Well, it's certainly going to be his main focus in the next four months, because we have this expiry date of the 1st of January, and if they don't sort a bunch of economic things out with the Republicans between now and then, then all sorts of spending cuts and tax increases come into play that could be very problematic for the rest of the Obama presidency. But in addition to that, in the longer term over the four years, there's still some welfare reform and tax reform that's needed. The Simpson-Bowles Report is still sitting there worth looking at.
SHANE Richard, let's take a step back. Are you confident he's going to be able to broker a deal to get this through?
RICHARD ADAMS, Guardian correspondent Well, Congress and the White House have a history of playing chicken on this, and that's how they've dealt with it the last couple of times, and it's probably what will happen this time. Obama does have a card up his sleeve, which is he can have negotiations with the current Congress, and of course come the end of the year, that Congress disappears and a new one comes in, so he gets two bites at it, even though that's after the fiscal cliff itself comes into effect. I imagine there'll be a last-minute deal. So, you know, who knows what it'll look like at the end of it, but I imagine that, as with the last two occasions, disaster will be averted. And generally the economy, I think, is picking up, and there are economic forecasts that there'll be another 12 million jobs created in the next four years.
SHANE Peter Watson, very briefly, just picking up a point that Chris Liddell made. He said there's a serious risk of a recession. Is he right?
PETER WATSON, trade consultant Well, there may be, but the fact of the matter is what we need is some bipartisan consensus and some cooperation. Unfortunately, the campaigns and general elections tend to polarise positions, and there is a significant possibility of some negative fallout from that. But that mandate, therefore, is - and I think on the Republican side, they really have to understand that there's a message being communicated here - they have to start cooperating and participating in a more collegial way.
SHANE And, Peter, what does that mean for New Zealand?
PETER Well, I mean, to the extent, of course, any and all of this does, needless to say, affect the international financial and economic environment. New Zealand, of course, is potentially affected, like everybody else, just as they were a few years ago when we had the crash. It's imperative that we actually get some cooperative bipartisan movement here.
SHANE Jennifer, apart from the economy, what will Obama's focus be, do you think - his legacy issue?
JENNIFER Oh, I think he'll be looking to embed Obamacare. He needs to work with Republican governors on making sure that happens at the state level. He's really- Carbon tax is impossible in this country, but he'll be looking towards renewable energy sources and immigration reform, as was mentioned before.
SHANE What about immigration, Richard?
RICHARD Immigration reform I think could be the signature. Once the fiscal cliff is dealt with, if it is, I think immigration reform is the big opportunity here. Obama has a chance to really punish the Republican Party. The combination of that and the question of statehood for Puerto Rico, which is related, although not that close. If Obama moves aggressively on those, he'll find the Republicans really have to make a decision about whether they sign up to the sort of modern America with a large Latino and Hispanic population.
SHANE Peter, just very briefly before we have to wrap, but what about foreign policy? This is a president in his second term. Can we expect anything bold in that area?
PETER Well, I'm not sure when you say "bold". Much of it's not going to be driven necessarily by US policy per se. It's external actions that I think the US are going to have to think about or be obviously responsive to. Iran, for the time being, has been off the boil. It's not going to stay off the boil, I can assure you. And secondly, we've seen some extremely bellicose statements from Chinese recently, particularly against the Japanese, relative to the disputed islands. This is going to be a very challenging four years in terms of foreign policy for the President.
RICHARD It's significant that Obama's first foreign trip - well, the first one that he's announced - is to Burma. That's very important. In relation to China, that's quite significant.
SHANE Very briefly, Richard, can the Republicans come back in four years' time?
RICHARD Well, anything's possible. If they find a better candidate and the Democrats don't, then definitely. And also there's a pendulum effect after eight years of a Democratic administration.