Dow Sinks Day After Election; Obama to Inherit Bad Economy

Cars, Energy and More Jobs

The ailing auto industry will also be a challenge facing the new president. Thousands may face unemployment if General Motors, Ford or Chrysler is forced into bankruptcy. Obama says he supports some aid to carmakers, in addition to the $25 billion loan program approved by Congress in September.

Obama says he would create 2 million jobs by rebuilding the country's infrastructure and he hopes to create 5 million "green jobs" through investment in renewable energy and building out the broadband network to all corners of the country.

Market Reaction?

And how will the stock market react to Obama's election? Many have said an Obama victory is already "baked in the cake" on Wall Street. And while history shows that stocks tend to rally the day after a Republican victory and sell off on a Democratic victory, in the long term the outcome of presidential elections is not a reliable predictor of performance.

Like many American voters, traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were ready for this long campaign to be over.

"I mean enough," said Jason Weisberg of Seaport Securities. "It seems like it's been going for the last four years."

Other Challenges

Kenneth S. Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard University and a former economist at both the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve, said earlier this week that the next U.S. president will grapple with a host of issues beyond the recession, such as a wave of retirements by the country's baby boomers that will put increased pressure on government services for seniors.

"Medicare and Social Security are just blowing up and calculations, which used to be long, dated problems, are starting to come to the fore," Rogoff said. The government's Social Security fund, in particular, will have no choice but to turn to deficit spending, he said.

The state of the environment, he said, will also have consequences for the economy in the coming four years. Rogoff said addressing environmental concerns may require new taxes or caps on pollution.

"To actually deal with it has profound economic implications -- that's why we avoided it," he said. "But we can't wait any longer." The president may also have to tackle the disparity in wealth among the country's economic classes, which, until recently, had reached levels not seen since the early 1900s, Rogoff said.

"Although the recent financial meltdown has gone a long way toward ameliorating those differentials," he said, "nevertheless that remains an issue."

The estate or inheritance tax, which generally applies to the very wealthy, is scheduled to be repealed in 2010. It may prove important to the president's work on income disparity, Rogoff said.

"Repealing the inheritance tax was highly questionable in terms of income distribution and the president needs to address issues like that," he said.

Social Security

Kent Smetters, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and former deputy assistant secretary of economic policy at the U.S. Treasury, said that the largest economic issue facing the new president is the "looming entitlement programs."

Smetters said the problems with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are much larger in magnitude than the fallout from the subprime housing market and the government's bailout of Wall Street firms.

That bailout, he said, "is just an appetizer for the real deal to come."

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