Indian Americans have long supported the Clinton family in American elections. Deep pockets in the Indian community, the likes of Lakshmi Mittal and SP Hinduja, are financing a high profile campaign for the 2008 presidential elections. This support does not, as yet, have an obvious rational foundation. Given the policy pronouncements that Hillary Clinton has made, it is hard to see how the Indian community could benefit from her presidency.
Bill Clinton’s charm played a role for the support he could garner from Indian American entrepreneurs in the past. Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton just like Sonia Gandhi is not Rajiv Gandhi. Unlike Bill, Hillary leans a great deal more on the far left for her support. This is evident from her unwillingness to distance herself from organizations like moveon.org. The times are also not the same. America enjoyed a record economic boom during the 1990s. Now the prospect of a recession sometime in 2009 is real for the American economy even if the world economy continues to boom. The mood has also changed with a drift towards protectionism, lost causes of the left, etc.
Above all, Hillary’s attitude to outsourcing is an early indicator of where she is going. Indian Americans, who live in the Bay Area, are familiar with the taunts from those who blame the loss of their jobs to “cheap” services offered by Indian companies. Influential people like Alan Blinder have tempered their support for free trade in response to loss of much prized white collar jobs. Hillary herself has implored Indian entrepreneurs to invest in facilities in the USA just like the Japanese had to locate their automotive plants here in the past. After decades investing in auto plants in the USA, the Japanese are now considering consolidating their operations in Japan to lower costs. Yet, Hillary continues to promote these tired ideas.
In the global free markets of the day, Americans will have to eventually find new sources of competitive strength. The corporate tax in the USA is relatively high now after countries such as Germany and France, not to mention several emerging economies, have lowered their rates. The more serious problem is the high cost of health care. Consumer health care can substantially bring down the costs of health care. A shift from employer sponsored health care to consumer health care will encourage greater recourse to preventive, alternative and complementary care, improving health by reducing weight and smoking and use of information to find the most effective doctors and therapies. Just like auto insurance companies provide incentives to individuals to drive safely, health insurance companies will reward those who take care of their own health. The slogan of universal health care, financed by higher taxes, is clearly going into a blind alley which will only increase the cost of doing business in the USA without yielding any significant benefit.
Indians and Indian Americans have a great deal to benefit from a prospering American economy. The inability of the Democratic Party to reinvent itself and the prominent rise of the strident left will ensure that the short-term problems of the American economy will become longer-term problems. Indian Americans should be working to build on the gains of recent years by promoting ambitious programs such as an Indo-American free trade zone. Hillary Clinton can hardly be expected to be a partner in such an endeavor when she has opposed the free trade agreement with South Korea.
Indian Americans have been shy of engaging with the Republican Party which has been perceived to be less friendly to minority communities. Moderate elements, such as Rudy Giuliani, present a new opportunity. He is clearly focused on economic growth, market-oriented health care and a more open approach to immigration. Minorities should help to bolster the socially liberal and fiscally conservative elements within the Republican Party as a counterweight to the far right conservatives. The American Enterprise Institute represents the best in American politics and that is where the successful Indian community should find support instead among losers of the American Left.