Obama's to-do list can't wait

After a hard-fought campaign, the president must turn immediately to the fiscal cliff and the nation's debt limit. Already, a credit-rating agency is warning of a possible downgrade.

By Anthony Mirhaydari Nov 7, 2012 11:30AM

Image: American Eagle © Steve Allen, Brandx Pictures, PhotolibraryIn the wake of the bare-knuckled brawl with GOP contender Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama's emotions likely ran from aching exhaustion to ebullience and excitement last night as he took the stage with his family to celebrate his re-election.


But soon after, no doubt, a creeping worry set in as he took stock of what lies ahead. While he won't have to win the approval of voters again, if he wants to protect his legacy, Obama must get to work. Fast.


While he's no rookie when it comes to facing tough choices as a just-elected president -- he faced a financial crisis and economic catastrophe when inaugurated back in January 2009 -- the current list of fiscal and foreign-policy needs is nothing to sneeze at.


On the overseas front, he faces the rise of terrorism in Africa, Iran vs. Israel, Iran's growing influence in Iraq, the Taliban resurgent in Afghanistan via Pakistan, Iran's nuclear ambitions, China's increasing power and growing military might, Russia's growing assertiveness, the Eurozone crisis, territorial battles in the Pacific over the various island groups, and the ongoing drug war in Mexico.


Here at home, the problems are more immediate and will require compromise with the House of Representatives, which America has once again given to the Republicans. While the country said it's tired of the gridlock in Washington, and watched in horror as politicians torpedoed the economy and the financial markets in the summer of 2011 over the debt-ceiling battle, they also reelected the status quo.


This time, status quo won't be good enough.  Here's what's on the to-do list.


The fiscal cliff and debt ceiling

Job one is addressing the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts worth some 5% of GDP set to hit on Jan. 1. Also, the U.S. Treasury is quickly moving towards its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. This challenge, which I wrote about in "How to avoid the fiscal cliff," is the focus of Wall Street's attention. Expectations are that Obama and the Republicans cobble together a smaller, $300 billion deficit package worth around 2% of GDP.


But even this will require tough choices on issues like payroll tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits and the Bush tax cuts. Failure to act, or to dig up a big-minded, structural solution like the one proposed by the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, would rattle markets and once again threaten America's credit rating. As I've said before, the real long-term deficit problem is tied to an overpriced and inefficient health care system.


Wasting no time, the analysts at Fitch have already warned that Obama will get no fiscal honeymoon as he faces a 2013 credit downgrade if the fiscal cliff isn't avoided. And failure to act on the debt ceiling, which they believe will be hit in early 2013, would undermine confidence in the United States as a reliable borrower and thus its "AAA" status. (Standard & Poor's cut our AAA rating last summer.)


CEOs' lack of confidence

My immediate reaction to last night's result was "Will Atlas shrug?" -- alluding to the recent drop in CEO confidence and the slashing of hiring intentions and capital expenditures by executives. If those in the corner office fear more regulation, more taxation and more market-shaking fiscal chaos, they may very well continue to pull back. This, as Ayn Rand warned, could suck the wind out of the sails of the economy at a time when GDP growth is struggling to stay at 2% despite massive and increasingly inflationary monetary policy support.


I'll be watching measures of CEO confidence as well as capital spending closely.


The jobs deficit

While Obama and Romney touted dueling gauges of the job market (Romney taking about the jobs deficit, Obama talking about string of monthly job creation) the fact remains that there are still far too many people out of work. We are 6.4 million full-time jobs below where we were in late 2007 before the recession hit; despite an 11 million increase in the population over that period.


So to get the employment to population ratio back to its pre-recession level, we need to create 17.4 million jobs.


At the current rate of monthly job creation, we'll never get there. Year-to-date, we're creating 169,000 jobs per month on average, while the population is growing an average of 190,000 per month.


Stagnant wages

The final problem Obama must address is the stagnation of middle-class wages. You see, many of the jobs created over the last few months have been part-time, low-wage, no-benefit positions. And those with full-time positions are seeing employers increase their benefit contributions, not their take home pay. Until workers see a real, meaningful increase in their paychecks, the economy will continue to struggle.


Last month, the annual growth rate of average hourly earnings for non-supervisory employees fell to just 1.1% -- a record low. Adding to the problem is that inflation is pushing higher again, which will result in a higher cost of living for families.


If President Obama wants to improve his favorability and approval ratings, he needs to extend a hand across the aisle and find a way to cobble together a solution to these problems with the Republicans in Congress.  A repeat of the political blood feud we've seen over the last two years, between the Tea Party Republicans in Congress and Obama's White House would be a nightmare.


You know, in retrospect, maybe Mitt Romney should've been the one celebrating last night.


Be sure to check out Anthony's new investment newsletter, the Edge, and his money management service, Mirhaydari Capital Management. A two-week free trial has been extended to MSN Money readers. Click the link above to sign up. Mirhaydari can be contacted at anthony@edgeletter.c​om and followed on Twitter at @EdgeLetter. You can view his current stock picks here. Feel free to comment below.


Nov 8, 2012 11:21AM
You can just feel the pall of socialism in the air now.  We are a third world country where the main voting bloc now votes for stuff to be talken away from those that earned it and given to those that voted for it.  We will now resemble Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and other socialistic regimes led by power hungry despots that strongarmed the suffering public into believing they actually cared.  No motivation to improve, take a risk, or even get an education. The angry American "havenots" and the "naive liberals" were either unaware or may have actually struck a chord with the POTUS. I believe the mans real intentions are mostly money and power for himself and his inner circle. He harnessed the anger and resentment of a populace by promising to take from those that have and divert it to those that haven't.  Not much different than Stalin ,Lennon, Castro, and a list of other despots  throughout history. Economic risk taking;  through new product development and marketing, will no longer be a  hope for those with a sound business idea.  These kind of new ideas will be stolen, m****duced overseas or produced here with illegal cheap labor, and sold for a price driving the original American designer into submission. Those voting for the POTUS resemble the folks in Germany in the 30's.    They have no idea what this man has in store for them and the rest of us.  One thing for certain is it won't be the free ride he  promised them.
Nov 8, 2012 10:56AM
Just wait six months, even the Obamabots will be calling for this impersonator of a President's head. He is good at one thing, assassination to get elected, nothing else. 
Nov 8, 2012 8:30AM
Thirty plus years ago I was working in Burlington, North Carolina.  Burlington is(was) famous for high quality textiles.  I was shopping in a textile mill discount store where I could buy the previous years towels, or overstocks, dropped thread or flawed towels made in the Burlington area.  I was buying  a high quality thick, soft cotton towels.  I noticed people who I knew were textile workers buying IMPORTED lower quality, thinner, courser cotton towels. They were purchasing them because they could save a few dollars.  Time passes and the same people are whining with their friends at the big box store about the loss of textile jobs.  They killed the textile jobs when they would not buy the local produces which cost more.  I do not want to hear the complaints any more.  Go get a job at the big box store anbd be happy with the $8 per hour.  You guaranteed this future when you saved a few dollars when you bought the imports.
Nov 7, 2012 9:40PM

WOW... the dead rule these Comments blogs now. Waaaaa, I wost my fwee bee money... we're all doomed.

Europe is a severe problem, Anthony. It will fall apart in days to weeks. It will bring our banks down and wipe out a significant amount of wealth here. The moronic cry-babies think somehow, that Obama is Jamie Dimon. There are three types of currencies in play today-- cash, derivatives and debt notes. The fact is-- two out of three are facing evaporation (not collapse) the third hasn't flowed on Main Street for a while so Main Street has built a sub-economy on it's own. Why on EARTH would you be in stocks? What good are they? Are there any Founders at helms? No. Factories thriving across America? No. A wealth of personnel who are also customers? Nada. Are there a handful of anti-Americans at those helms and minions of morons buried up to their necks in fakery and phony investments? YEP.

The WORLD congratulated Obama today. Anyone with commonsense knows that he can only do what is humanly possible. Boehner suddenly gets it... maybe. McConnell should go home. We are ONLY going to avoid the Fiscal Cliff with massive elimination of highly-paid administrators and the all-out recovery of careers. Without revenues-- we're toast. The markets will begin losing everyday now and will continue until recovery can resupport us.

As for the posters blocking the BEST with cry-baby whining crap posts-- YOU LOST. Go home and pout. Stay off these Boards so big people can talk adult-like and everything.

Nov 7, 2012 8:38PM
No way Romney would be better, not overall, for average America. Your market mentality may say different, but for the good of the planet, and America's stance on the world stage, Obama is the better qualified. Strictly looked at through the eyes of Greed, sure, pick the hapless and likable spoiled rich guy. His verbal gaffes would've been legendary, if his campaign slips are any indication, but we don't need another clown, trying to look like he's really running things. Yes, comedians and talk show hosts may be wishing Romney had won, too. Obama is likable, but serious, not too much comedic material, there. The best person won, and since these will be his last four years, the Republicans have nothing to ruin, like his re-election. Co-operation may be more likely, just to save the financial underpinnings of the nation, and then hopefully job creation
Nov 7, 2012 8:13PM
And the ones in power who wanted to be re-elected decided to put talks regarding the 1 January tax increase on hold until AFTER the election.  What a buncha crap.
Nov 7, 2012 7:33PM
Four more years of a compounded downward spiral.  If you work?  Your first January pay check is going to take a hit and then it will get worse.  Nice job America!
Nov 7, 2012 7:28PM

Romney did better in the Rural areas because they are less corrupted then the people in the big city's. The cost line was the big daddy for obama. people that always relied on other people flock to the city. Rural people take care of them self's, we have to make it. Thank about it what sort of people live in the city's. most of them are hiding there sexual preference, there drug pushing, family members and its a easy place to pan handle money. this is the voting force for oboma there is more bad then good in the country and misery loves company. 
Nov 7, 2012 7:25PM

Congratulations to all the garbage Americans, you can continue to feed of us that work for a living. Sale your crack on the streets and  continue having your children do to the fact they are your income, and collect the government help you need. You have insurance you do not deserve. to bad people voted to fill there own agendas and not to help out the USA. This guy yesterday finally realized  that the economy is bad and said " i now know what the people are looking for and its a better economy." (No crap) this is a sad day for real Americans i agree. and a happy day for all the bottom feeders.      
Nov 7, 2012 7:19PM
thanks to all the morons re electing the knuckle scraper to help him finish making us a 3rd world nation, friggin spics voted for him because he promised to kiss thier greasey ****s.
Nov 7, 2012 7:12PM
I have never been so ashamed of being an American in my entire life. A great nation when I was a child, the laughing stock of the world now. I think it is time to hang our head in shame and maybe look again for the morals that once made this country great. If we cannot do that, it is once again time for a revolution.
Nov 7, 2012 7:03PM
The great socialist was elected by a demography of people dependent on him not working people who should have more of their own paycheck. We must cut federal government spending and therefore have the ability to reduce taxes on individuals as well as small businesses so we will be able to hire and rehire.
Nov 7, 2012 6:45PM
can someone tell me why Romney did better in Rural areas than in big cities
Nov 7, 2012 6:24PM
How does it fill to have 49% of this country not want Obama?
Nov 7, 2012 6:20PM

Obama only won because of all the uneducated people in this country. They are happy as long as someone else works and they can stay home and still collect a check at the end of each month. The are riding on the backs of the tax payer and will get a free ride for the next 4 years.

Nov 7, 2012 6:14PM
USA  -  Unemployed States of America
Nov 7, 2012 6:07PM
Since Obama has been re-elected, we (and He) get to blame all of the problems of the last 4 years on Obama.  It's Obama's fault.  Now he has no one to blame for his problems but himself, and Joker Joe!  Vote Republican in 2016 and let's [try to] get this country turned around!
Nov 7, 2012 6:04PM
"   we're creating 169,000 jobs per month on average," and those are at lower wages and with less benefits than the jobs that were lost. Need to compare total salaries lost vs total salarie gained, so not to equate one lost $60,000 job to one gained $25,000 job. That's called Obamamath.
Nov 7, 2012 6:02PM
if you have netflix or amazon watch "dreams from my real father"
Nov 7, 2012 5:46PM
Talk about the problems is cheap.  Real solutions are what is needed!
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.




Quotes delayed at least 15 min
Sponsored by:


There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.
There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.
Market index data delayed by 15 minutes

[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market began the new trading week on the defensive note with small-cap stocks pacing the retreat. The Russell 2000 (-1.4%) and Nasdaq Composite (-1.1%) displayed relative weakness, while the S&P 500 lost 0.8% with all ten sectors ending in the red.

Global equities began showing some cracks overnight after China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei poured cold water on hopes for new stimulus measures. Specifically, Mr. Lou said the government has no plans to change ... More


There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.