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That thoughtful observer of the passing parade, Nancy Pelosi, weighed in on the “debt ceiling” negotiations the other day: “What we’re trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We’re trying to save life on this planet as we know it today.”
It’s always good to have things explained in terms we simpletons can understand. After a while, all the stuff about debt-to-GDP ratio and CBO alternative baseline scenarios starts to give you a bit of a headache, so we should be grateful to the House minority leader for putting it in layman’s terms: What’s at stake is “life on this planet as we know it today.” So, if right now you’re living anywhere in the general vicinity of this planet, it’s good to know Nancy’s in there pitching for you.
What about life on this planet tomorrow? How’s that look if Nancy gets her way? The Democrat model of governance is to spend $4 trillion while only collecting $2 trillion, borrowing the rest from tomorrow. Instead of “printing money,” we’re printing credit cards and pre-approving our unborn grandchildren. To facilitate this proposition, Washington created its own form of fantasy accounting: “baseline budgeting,” under which growth-in-government is factored in to federal bookkeeping as a permanent feature of life. As Arthur Herman of the American Enterprise Institute pointed out this week, under present rules, if the government were to announce a spending freeze – that’s to say, no increases, no cuts, everything just stays exactly the same – the Congressional Budget Office would score it as a $9 trillion savings. In real-world terms, there are no “savings,” and there’s certainly no $9 trillion. In fact, there isn’t one thin dime. But nevertheless, that’s how it would be measured at the CBO.
Around the world, most folks have to work harder than that to save $9 trillion. That’s roughly the combined GDPs of Japan and Germany. But in America it’s an accounting device. This is something to bear in mind when you’re listening to the amount of “savings” touted by whatever triumphant bipartisan deal is announced at the eleventh hour in Washington.
So I find myself less interested in “life on this planet as we know it today” than in life on this planet as we’re likely to know it tomorrow if Nancy Pelosi and her chums decline to reacquaint themselves with reality. If you kinda dig life on this planet as you know it, ask yourself this: What’s holding the joint up? As the old gag goes, if you owe the bank a thousand dollars, you have a problem; if you owe the bank a million dollars, the bank has a problem. If you owe the banks 15,000,000,000,000 dollars, the planet has a problem. Whatever comparisons one might make with Europe’s soi-disant “PIIGS” re debt per capita or deficit-to-GDP ratio, the sheer hard numbers involved represent a threat to the planet that Portugal or Ireland does not. It also represents a threat to Americans. Three years ago, the first developed nation to hit the skids was Iceland. But, unless you’re Icelandic, who cares? And, if you are Icelandic, you hunker down, readjust to straitened circumstances, and a few years down the line Iceland will still be Iceland and, if that’s your bag, relatively pleasant.
That’s not an option for the U.S. We are chugging a highly toxic cocktail: 21st-century spendaholic government with mid-20th-century assumptions about American power. After the Battle of Saratoga, Adam Smith replied to a pal despondent that the revolting colonials were going to be the ruin of Britain: “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” said a sanguine Smith.
That’s generally true. Americans of a certain bent looking at post-war France or Germany might reasonably conclude what’s the big deal about genteel decline. The difference, of course, is that Europe’s decline was cushioned by America. Who’s around to cushion America’s decline?
If the IMF is correct (a big if), China will be the planet’s No.1 economy by 2016. That means whoever’s elected in November next year will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economic power. As I point out in my rollicking new book, which will be hitting what’s left of the post-Borders bookstore business any day now, this will mark the end of two centuries of Anglophone dominance – first by London, then its greatest if prodigal son. The world’s economic superpower will not only be a Communist dictatorship with a largely peasant population and legal, political, and cultural traditions as alien to its predecessors as possible, but, even more civilizationally startling, it will be, unlike the U.S., Britain, and the Dutch and Italians before them, a country that doesn’t even use the Roman alphabet.
The American economy has been “stimulated” to a bloody pulp by the racketeers in Washington, mostly to buy off approved interests. Meanwhile, as Nancy defends life on this planet today, the contours of life on this planet tomorrow are beginning to emerge.
Remember the Libyan War? Oh, come on. It was in all the papers for a couple of days. And then, oddly enough, the media lost interest in Obama’s war.
But it’s still going on, out there on the fringes of the map. “We are generally in a stalemate,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced to a roomful of chirping crickets the other day. At the start of NATO’s desultory bombing campaign, the French and the British were demanding that Qaddafi be removed from power, leave Libya, and be put on trial at the Hague. Last week, they subtly modified their position: He can remain in Libya, but he definitely has to step down from power. Expect further modifications in their next ultimatum: He can remain in the presidential palace, but he has to move to the poky guest bedroom under the eaves.
Meanwhile, the Lockerbie bomber has been appearing at delirious pro-Qaddafi rallies. Remember the Lockerbie bomber? He was returned to Libya because he was terminally ill and only had three months to live. That was two years ago. It’s amazing what getting out of the care of the Scottish National Health Service can do for your life expectancy. Likewise, back in the spring, NATO declared that Qaddafi’s presidency only had three weeks to live. Like his compatriot, he seems disinclined to follow the diagnosis.
The Libyan War never caught the imagination of the American public, even though you’re paying for most of it. But in Tehran and Moscow and Beijing they’re following it. And they regard it as a useful preview of the post-American world. Absent American will, even a tinpot desert drag queen can stand up to the great powers and survive. The lesson of Obama’s half-hearted little war isn’t lost in the chancelleries of America’s enemies.
For dominant powers in decline, it starts with the money, for Washington as for London and Rome before it. But it never stops there. The horizons shrivel. Two-bit provocateurs across the map pick off remnants of the old order with ever greater ease.
America has had two roles in a so-called “globalized” world: America’s government was the guarantor of global order; America’s economy was the engine of global prosperity. Right now, both roles are up for grabs. And there are no takers for the former. Pace Nancy Pelosi, “life on this planet as we know it today” is going to change, and very fast.
According to the Commerce Department numbers released Friday, the U.S. economy is growing at just 1.3 percent. Maybe. First quarter growth, initially reported as a disappointing 1.9 percent, was revised drastically down to just 0.4 percent. Those numbers are depressing enough. The downward revision of first quarter growth suggests that even the woeful second quarter number may be optimistic. And it comes after five consecutive quarters of a slowing economy – with growth of just 3.9 percent, 3.8 percent, 2.5 percent, and 2.3 percent before the economy stalled out at 0.4 percent in the first three months of this year.
That’s not all. Unemployment has risen for three consecutive months. It’s now 9.2 percent. Nearly half of the unemployed have been seeking work for longer than six months – the highest long-term unemployment rate since the Great Depression. And the GDP numbers out Friday suggest that many more American workers will be added to the unemployment rolls in the coming months.
House Speaker John Boehner has a plan that he touts as slashing about $900 billion in government spending – shy of his original claim, only two days earlier, that cuts would amount to $1.2 trillion. It’s nonsense, of course. In Washington, unlike the rest of the known universe, a “cut” is a reduction in the rate of increase. There are never real cuts. In reality, Speaker Boehner’s plan would add $9.1 trillion to the national debt. It is a “cut” only in the sense that the Obama Democrats have rigged matters so that, if nothing changes, autopilot would add $10 trillion.
You could call this a cruel joke on a country that is already well over $14 trillion in debt – a country in which every newly born child opens his eyes as a debtor, well over $30,000 in the hole. But that would be premature, because I haven’t gotten to the punchline yet.
“Millionaires and billionaires,” President Obama says derisively, must make more “sacrifices” and live by the same rules the rest of America lives by. But there are seven little words that will never appear on the White House teleprompter: “And that means you, too, George Soros.”
For all his (and his wife’s) bashing of greedy Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Obama has shown nothing but love to the world’s most famous hedge-fund mogul. The feeling is mutual and deep(-pocketed).
Soros and his family shelled out $250,000 for Obama’s inauguration, $60,000 in direct campaign contributions and untold millions more to liberal activist groups pushing the White House agenda. While the class warrior-in-chief assails conniving financiers who exploit loopholes and corporate titans who imperil the planet, he lets the Soros exemptions to his attack-the-rich rules slide like butter on a hot plate.
The worst thing about the 2008 primaries – other than, you know, the result – was the huge amount of time wasted on what amounted to a Republican Spartacus re-enactment. Instead of each nominee yelling, “I’m Spartacus,” and, “No, I’m Spartacus,” we got, “I’m Ronald Reagan!” and “No, I’m the real Ronald Reagan here.”
The obsession with finding another Reagan was really a veiled slap at the Republican who actually occupied the White House at the time. Nobody was running to be another George W. Bush; nobody promised to give “four more years” of what they got for the last eight.
Everyone understood that running as Bush 2.0 was a bad idea from the outset, but the proof came in the general election, when then-senator Obama managed to paint John McCain as the reincarnation of Bush.
As we all know just because you’re away on holiday doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking about the nasty things in life. That s why I’m dedicating this post to the menagerie – or, if you will, infestation – of trolls which lurk below this blog and who seem to have grown even more active in my absence.
There’s an argument which goes that we bloggers need our pet trolls almost as much as they need us. I’m not sure I value them that highly myself but I do find them a fascinating case study. What intrigues me is their psychopathology. I mean, it takes a certain sort of mentality actively to seek out columnists with whom you disagree and lurk below their blog being spiteful and angry and disruptive. Maybe I’d respect them more if they weren’t cowering behind the mask of anonymity, or if ever for once in their sad, deficient lives they actually strove to engage with the arguments made. But they never do, for such is the nature of trolling.
About 50 percent of taxpayers don’t pay federal income taxes. Almost half of American adults receive either the majority of or all of their income in some form from government. They are naturally desirous of even more entitlements, in the sense that even higher taxes on the top 5 percent might ensure at least some of the needed revenue to pay for them. And if that echelon must pay 70 percent or 80 percent rather than the present 60 percent of all collected income taxes, it would still not be such a bad thing, inasmuch as the circumstances surrounding their earned income must be somewhat suspicious.
In the words of the president, the so-called affluent surely at some point must realize that they have made enough money and have hundreds of thousands in unneeded income that could easily be assessed with higher taxes.
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