In 1971, 40 years ago, John Rawls published a "A theory of justice", a fundamental book for political philosophy. Among other things, Rawls identified the "maximin" criterion, for which a society where the least advantaged are in a better position has to be chosen.
The USA are the greatest democracy in the world and a land for opportunity. They represent a model for most countries, thanks to the spirit of association of its citizens and to its well functioning institutions. But the agreement to avoid the default of the USA showed the strenght of lobbies, of self interest, of a limited vision of society. In the next 10 years the default will be reduced by cutting social spending, whereas President Obama was not able to increase taxes on the highest incomes.
I think it is a bad signal not only for the American democracy, but also for the Western world. When the biggest economy in the world cannot reduce some of the inequalities of its society, then there is something wrong. A terrible crisis has affected the world in the last years, mainly because of greed and lack of transparency, but the market fundamentalists have stated it was due to State intervention. The same people would tell us that a more fair distribution of wealth in the American society should be called "socialism". They are the same against whom Amartya Sen underlines that Adam Smith did not found its theory only on self interest (he, the father of political economy, was a teacher of moral philosophy).
This is not what liberalism should be. This is caused by the poor moral standards of our time. This is what utilitarists lead us to. Things should change, and Obama could still do it, even though he lost a great chance.