PRO: How will Barack Obama's re-election affect B.C.'s economy and business landscape?

Voters in America showed they're weary of right-wing economic agendas. Tax cuts are a worn-out gimmick that holds little sway with today's voters

The U.S. election campaign is finally over. After spending close to $6 billion on ads and organizing, the results are in and voters have spoken. It's time for everyone to take a deep breath, relax and, in Washington state, you might even inhale.

The results from the U.S. have important implications for B.C., both economic and political.

Advisers to Premier Christy Clark should pay close attention to how the ground has shifted for our neighbours to the south.

For right-wing organizations like the Fraser Institute, the setback that U.S. Republicans were dealt is more than a wakeup call; it's a glaring reminder of just how out-of-step the right wing has become.

No better evidence of that could be found than in the results in California where voters passed Proposition 30, an initiative designed to finally reverse the damaging effects of Proposition 13.

In a nutshell, California voters have agreed to progressive tax increases that had been ruled out of bounds by Proposition 13, a tax-cut measure first passed in 1978 and long held up by right-wing enthusiasts as the holy grail of tax-cut mania.

Business Week's headline coverage of California's Proposition 30 summed it up best by saying that voters in that state had grown weary of the dismal impacts that Proposition 13 has had on everything from roads and public infrastructure to schools and class sizes in that state.

Thirty years of regressive tax policy in that state had left it unable to finance even the basics of public services, an outcome that voters recognized as wrong-headed and unsustainable.

At the federal level a similar narrative is playing out, one in which hard-line right-wingers find themselves increasingly at the margins of public opinion. Mitt Romney had staked his bid for the presidency on a half-baked fiscal plan that would have further entrenched tax cuts for the wealthy financed by massive cuts to social programs.

His defeat was a repudiation of that plan.

President Barack Obama left little doubt about that last point when, in his acceptance speech on election night, he reiterated his call for tax increases on high-income earners.

There is no question that the results from the November 6 election still pose serious problems on both the right and left side of the U.S. political spectrum. Obama's first term as president has been a disappointment for progressives in that country who hoped to see more dramatic measures to help close the yawning inequities in the U.S.

On the right, the combative stance of many Republicans has become so entrenched that they seem far too willing to scuttle the U.S. economy just to make Obama look bad.

While the November 6 results have not substantially changed the balance of power in either the Senate or the House of Representatives, the momentum has clearly shifted in Obama's favour, a shift that will force Republican hard-liners to look for compromise in the months ahead.

Economic recovery in the U.S. is also gathering momentum. Employment growth continues to build.

The unemployment rate is now below 8%. But, more importantly, Obama is in a position now to solidify economic recovery and use his second term to address the inequality that had been a goal of his initial run for the presidency in 2008.

What could Premier Clark learn from the U.S. results?

Voters on both sides of the 49th parallel are looking for government to play a more substantial role, one that protects and sustains key public services and works hard to address growing inequalities.

As the California results show, voters are also realistic about how tax fairness has to be part of that plan. Tax cuts are a worn-out gimmick that holds little sway with today's voters.

Premier Clark leads a government that has had more than enough time to prove itself, but polling numbers show that the public is growing weary of them and is looking for a change.

The sooner we get to a ballot box, the sooner we can all breathe a little easier.

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