Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Given the overwhelming number of "most important" items on the current administration's agenda, foreign policy followers often wonder if America's domestic problems could have any bearing on US commitment to exterior questions.

In a study recently published by the Centre d'Etudes et de rechereches internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po Paris, "Gaps in the US Safety Net: A Challenge for the Obama Administration," Anne Daguerre attempts to lay bare the extent of America's social worries.

The economic crisis has turned upside down the American Dream's promise of success and social mobility through hard work. In the current climate, having a job is no longer a guarantee of being able to survive, and many employed Americans must still choose between paying for health care or food. Daguerre first provides an historical understanding of the different periods in US public assistance programs, from the Social Security Act of 1935 through today. All of this to give adequate context for today's growing social inequalities and poverty, before then moving on to deconstruct the president's efforts to respond thus far.

Some Key Points to Note:
- The current administration's public assistance efforts to "[mend] the US safety net" "build upon existing programs," and Democrats are "reluctant to push progressive programs that threaten their reelection" in an electoral climate increasingly controlled by Independents. Nevertheless, there are three major differences between Bush's and Obama's responses to growing economic hardship among Americans.

1. "The Obama administration is seriously committed to the idea of workforce development and education."

2. "The Obama administration places more emphasis on programme alignment and interagency cooperation than was the case under the Bush administration."

3. The current administration is "truly committed to raising the educational levels of the entire American workforce," which is "driven by the president himself."

The primary function of social policy for the current administration is to "equip individuals to become or remain employable once new jobs are created." But Obama is unlikely to attempt radical changes to the architecture of the US social protection system, preferring rather to focus on developping skills and competencies to bolster the quality of the US labor force.

- Amy Greene

Click here to purchase the full text in English (CERI Website)