Like many Americans living abroad, I'm keeping close tabs on the U.S. presidential elections. I'm a voracious reader of election-related news. I've replayed the speeches from both parties, and marveled at the glitz and euphoria from the conventions. The Obamas are gifted speakers and they're a good-looking couple (I'm impressed with Michelle Obama's makeover and her biceps).
To be sure, four years later President Obama is sticking to the same line, a line that plays on the idea of hope and the possibility of change.
This from his electrifying speech at the DNC in Charlotte, N.C.: "I've met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they'd never build another American car. Today, they can't build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that's back on top of the world." Hmmm, Detroit still looks pretty bad although with other once-thriving manufacturing cities.
"I've worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America - not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products. Because we work harder and smarter than anyone else." President Obama should check out the lightning speed of big cities in China.
"I've signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers -- goods that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America." Walk into any Target or Walmart, Mr. President, and reality is stamped on the bottom of almost every item including underwear, "Made in China."
Hey it's true the President Obama and his family are doing better than four years ago.
President Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize and is a New York Times best-selling author (The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream). Malia and Sasha look like they've grown into fine young women, polite, poised, intelligent. Sasha speaks Mandarin Chinese and even chit chats with China's President Hu Jintao. Wow that's impressive. This is a family that is indeed doing better than four years ago.
Outside of the Oval Office, the White House, outside of the radius of the Beltway and beyond, the affluent 5 percent of the U.S. population, the picture is much starker. Overall Americans are worse off than four years ago; median household income dropped for the fourth straight year after adjusting to inflation to $50,100 in 2011, down 1.5 percent from a year earlier.
America's unemployment numbers continue to hover about the two digit mark. The reality is that since relocating to Hong Kong two years ago for work, a growing number of my friends back in the U.S. are writing me and asking me if there is work here, if I can help them.
The job seekers range from fresh college graduates from Ivy League schools to seasoned middle management professionals with at least 10 to 15 years of experience under their belt, and MBAs and even PhDs from top U.S. universities. They are childhood friends, former college roommates, and fellow alumni. The emails and inquiries are discouraging in that I know firsthand that things are not getting easier or better back home.
President Obama is a gifted speaker, and he has an entourage of equally talented speechwriters and spin doctors. But if America is to get out of this funk, it needs a leader who can match words with action and results. In dissecting the president's eloquent speech one has a tough time identifying what the specific strategy is and what specific action will be taken.
How will the next four years be different than the last four years? Will we see The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Part II? Without any specifics and action plan, President Obama stands to be a NATO leader, that is No Action Talk Only, and as everyone knows, talk is cheap.
What remains interesting is that according to a Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans approve of President Obama's job performance between Sept 3-9. Are they simply being swept up in the moment?
So Mr. President, please do tell us how is America better off than four years ago, and what changes will you make for the next four years. And yes, be specific.