2 February 2024

Iduring the SelectUSA conference on foreign investment in the United States, which was held from 1er May 4 (National Harbor, Maryland), Michael Suess, chairman of Swiss conglomerate OC Oerlikon, made a startling remark to his American hosts: “You have a stable political environment despite the news” in the media. Steady ? Despite Donald Trump’s failed coup on January 6, 2021? Despite the revelations about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is swimming in the money of his conservative billionaire friends? Despite the threat of bankruptcy of the federal state, for lack of an increase in the debt ceiling?

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Yet Mr. Suess is not wrong. There is another America, which works in peace outside of politics, that of business. This was blatant in early March, during Ceraweek, the oil industry forum in Houston, which never stopped celebrating President Biden’s subsidies for the energy transition. This was confirmed at the SelectUSA forum, organized by the federal state to attract investments from all over the world.

What is the real America? That a bit hopeless of Washington and the political sections of the newspapers, or that of the companies and the federated States which walk quietly? Both, of course, but a little backtracking helps note that America’s tears have changed profoundly since the Great Depression of 2008.

The fight has changed

Back then, it was Wall Street versus Main Street: New York’s big corporations had blown up the financial world and plunged working America into the worst recession known since the 1930s. Gradually, the fight changed of nature, since Donald Trump’s march to the White House in 2016: it was the prosperous America of the coasts against the deindustrialized States of the Rust Belt, the “rust belt”, and the white workers considering themselves victims of globalization.

And then, suddenly, this topic faded away. Because unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since the late 1960s; because the lowest wages are finally rising. Because America has found a new social and nationalist consensus: an industrial rearmament made of protectionism and massive subsidies, to protect itself from China and the risks of supply disruption, and to restore hope to the Rust Belt . Donald Trump dreamed of it, Joe Biden realized it.

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Admittedly, inflation makes the current president unpopular, but it is on the ebb, while the oft-heralded recession is not coming. If the banking and real estate crisis does not degenerate, the 2024 election will not be played on the economy, a more consensual subject than it seems, but on the “cultural war”, almost religious, on abortion, racism, transgender or weapons.

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