U.S. leadership, despite all its shortcomings and missteps, has been the brick and mortar of global stability since World War Two. Despite the world experiencing a tectonic shift in economic and political power since the 19th century, no other nation, nor group of nations, is emerging that would be as prepared or equipped to exercise leadership in the event of a global incident.
Despite that standing, many in the world are questioning the role of U.S. leadership, the governance architecture it helped create and even the values for which the U.S. stands. Weary from a decade of war and strained financially, Americans themselves are rethinking whether the U.S. can still afford a global purpose.
It took Great Britain 155 years to double its gross domestic product per capita in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was the world’s leading power. It took the U.S. only 50 years to do the same.
Where We Go From Here Seems Murky at Best.
Although China will likely surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy by 2030, Americans retain distinct advantages that could allow them to remain the pivotal power. We are like poker players on the world stage holding the best hand. But it doesn’t matter how good your cards are if you’re playing them poorly. And as the cartoon character Pogo in 1971 said while he was trying to make his way through a prickly primeval forest without proper footwear: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The doubling of the global middle class by a billion people by 2030 plays into U.S. political and economic strengths, by increasing demand for the products and services of information technology where the U.S. excels. Developments that improve the extraction of shale natural gas and oil provide the U.S. and some of its allies disproportionate benefits. Under this positive scenario, the U.S. could log growth rates of 2.7 percent or more each year, compared with 2.5 percent over the past 20 years. Average living standards could rise by 40 percent through 2030, keeping alive the American dream and restoring the global attractiveness of the U.S. model.
Politics is Killing the American Economy
Despite all the accomplishments of the past 50 years, American political wrangling is destroying America’s ability to capitalize on the conditions quickly taking shape. Middle Eastern diplomats in Washington say the failure of the U.S. to orchestrate a more coherent and generous transatlantic and international response to their region’s upheavals has resulted in a free-for-all for influence that is favoring some of the least preferable players; Russia, China, and even India. The U.S. has responded only marginally to the euro zone crisis, primarily because of its inability to proactively deal with its own economic failures of regulation and lack of oversight enabling fraudulent and deceptive business practices within its business community.
The U.S. has offered no vision for a transatlantic future that recognizes its enormous strategic stake in Europe, because it cannot shake the image to the rest of the world of an immature Hatfield vs McCoy mentality in its once respected legislative branch.
The U.S. played a dominant role in reconstructing the post-World War II international order. The question is whether it will do so again with a new Middle-East realignment, or instead contribute to a dangerous global power vacuum that no one over the next two decades is willing or capable of filling.
How Far the U.S. Has Fallen into Hyper-Partisan Wrangling:
- The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, stated on the day after the 2010 mid-term elections that the No.1 goal of the Republican Party should be the demise of the presidency of Barak Obama. That astounds not only Americans, but tells the rest of the world in brilliant clarity just how petty and incapable of leadership the U.S. has become. The number 1 priority. Wow.
- Republicans now believe that no matter how sensible or how necessary a progressive idea might be for the country, they will be dead set against it.
- The Republicans are so petty, so childish, and so irate that a black graduate of Harvard, that bastion of liberal thinking, beat their war-hero candidate for president and their NRA pin-up girl for VP that they’ve declared war on anything and anybody that stood with President Obama.
- Planned Parenthood, Environmentalists, advocates for Detroit automakers, Unions, Teachers, Firemen, Women in general, Hispanics, all groups that at one time or another they sought for support, are now enemies and are to be squashed and fought with the tenacity of a starving ape on methamphetamine looking at a basket of bananas.
Look at the list of issues that the Republicans have chosen for focus since Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Republicans declared war on the Obama presidency two years ago.
- Voter suppression
- Deportation of immigrants
- Tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor
No jobs. No infrastructure. Just states’ right and lower taxes. (Sounds an awful lot like the Confederacy of the 1860s, yes?) All under the guise of saving taxes and reducing the deficit while advocating for more tax cuts for the wealthy and fewer rights for women, poor, middle-class, and Hispanics.
There’s greater madness:
- When Michelle Obama came out against childhood obesity and said that it’s good to eat vegetables and exercise, Sarah Palin said FLOTUS was promulgating “food control” and taking away parents’ right to poison their children with sugar overload. Palin was essentially advocating that schools should be able to start dipping their children’s broccoli in chocolate sauce and deep frying it. After all, we’ve done away with gym classes and the only exercise kids need is for their shooting fingers or video games right? We’ve become so afraid of making a child feel less than perfect that our schools have eradicated meaningful rewards. Who needs math? I thought that’s why we had computers! Parents have become to expect schools to be ad hoc day care centers, not places of learning and the expansion of minds and soundness of bodies.
- When the Board of Education in Pennsylvania recently tried to stop serving so much candy in their cafeterias, Sarah Palin, the great NRA patriot and “momma bear” that she is, literally flew to Pennsylvania with a tray of sugar cookies. “Here ya go all you fat, ignorant kids. Have yourselves a big ole heaping helping of fat-assed freedom!” And Republicans cheered and applauded Ms Palin’s fight for individual rights from their double-wide trailers while munching on government cheese bought with food stamps…all while cursing the government for spending too much on the poor(blacks).
- Newt Gingrich proposed to make janitors out of poor school kids so they wouldn’t grow up lazy or expect handouts, (never mind that his campaign was being funded by one old Las Vegas billionaire giving him free money to espouse moon colonization!).
- Ron Paul decries that it is Socialism when the government tries to help citizens after tornadoes, or hurricanes, or any other national disaster. Ron Paul campaigned on the notion that New York City and New York State should have absorbed the entire cost of the 9/11 tragedy. Ron Paul wants to know why Texas should have to share in the cost of some Islamic terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Center?
- The Republicans extorted the government of the United States by taking the U.S right up to the cliff of global default by threatening not to pay the countries bills that were already incurred, essentially making the U.S. the world’s most powerful deadbeat, unless Democrats would cave in to their petty demands.
- Presidential contender, Republican Rick Santorum called going to college, just 50 years ago considered the goal of every American, a left-wing conspiracy to turn our children into elitists or snobs.
- Ex-Joseph McCarthy right-hand man in the era of blacklisting Americans if they even spoke to someone who spoke to a communist, Republican President Richard Nixon created the EPA for crying out loud, but somehow saving the clean water in America is a left-wing, socialist, commie, pinko, job-killing plot! After all, what properly-thinking American doesn’t want their drinking water to be flammable?
- Speaking of commies, tea party favorite Allen West(R), Florida, claimed that all democrats in congress are communists!…and not one single Republican leader had the balls to repudiate that disrespectful anti-American, blatantly inflammatory rant. Not one.
This is the politics of America of today? Are we entirely sure that the World Wrestling Association hasn’t gained control of the Republican political party?
And Then There’s Our Economy
Evidence has been exploding about growing confirmation that income inequality is rising in America to epic proportions. Economists calculate, for example, that 23 per cent of the entire U.S. income is now going to the top 1 per cent of Americans, double the rate seen just 25 years ago.
That same top 1 per cent also possesses around 40 per cent of all wealth in all of America. But although such statistics have caused hand-wringing among Democrats and worried Americans, what is less clear is what has actually caused this trend, who precisely is receiving this cash, and, for that matter, what might possibly change the pattern in the years ahead.
The work of James K. Galbraith, an economics professor at the University of Texas, offers several indicators of worrisome facts. During the past few years, Galbraith and a team of economists have created an entire center dedicated to understanding modern patterns of inequality, and they are now releasing this analysis via a new book, Inequality and Instability. This not easy reading for non-academics. But it does make some intriguing observations.
Economists typically focus on income data that are extremely crude and tend to focus on outdated ideas about how economies work. For instance, most economists (and politicians) have assumed in recent years that the US was becoming more unequal because of industrial change, such as a loss of manufacturing jobs to China, India, or other countries offering extremely low wages for production of high volume items to sell in America for huge profits.
Galbraith, however, sees little evidence of this. Says Galbraith, “At the global level, the data give no support to the vast outpouring in the professional literature arguing that changes in inequality are based on so-called ‘real factors’ such as a race between technology and education.”
More specifically, as the financial world has exploded in size across the west, it has benefited mostly bankers and a handful of the very rich. Equally important, it has pumped up the value of their assets, such as stocks and bonds at virtually no risk with very little actual investment dollars having change hands.
This assumption would point to factors that the recent increase in inequality in America is not actually due to anything that has happened to the bulk of the population. Instead, the statistical shift has been driven by the growing wealth of a super elite class. And if mentioned, the Republicans immediately scream “Class Warfare” is being declared, and how dare the rest of us complain?
Rather than watching the 1 per cent, the “Occupy” movement should be thinking about the 0.1 per cent, or perhaps even the 0.01 per cent, since subtle changes in these tiny subsets can skew the data in tremendous ways.
And the Democrats Response Is?
With a weak, uncontentious, ineffective, out gunned group of weak Democrats, the fate of the poor and middle-class in the U.S. has been left in the hands of the one person willing to take on the Republicans … President Obama.
Even with all of the Republican missteps, even with the Republicans declaring war on Hispanics, on women and on the poor or middle-class…it’s irrelevant. The Democrats continue to remain passive and without voice. The televised media has been almost exclusively moved to the right. Except for three of four hours per week night on MSNBC, there is no media coverage of the progressive party in America.
AM radio? Conservative. NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CNN, FOX. See a progressive voice anywhere in there?
Republicans go unscathed in showing blatant disrespect for the President. From President Obama’s first State of the Union Address, when Representative Joe Wilson did the heretofore unthinkable by screaming “You Lie” during the President’s speech, to daily attacks on virtually every step the President takes, no President in history has been treated as badly by the opposing party as President Obama.
Even the Supreme Court has been stacked over the last 20 years with partisan conservative justices who have no trouble allowing corporate interests to dictate how laws and elections in the U.S. are determined. The very idea that money equals free speech would have George Washington begging to return to Great Britain. Yet a handful of wealthy Americans could very well dictate the outcome of the November 2012 election.
This summer, the Supreme Court will announce its decision in June of this year, if and to what extent the President’s arduous battle over healthcare insurance for all Americans will be overturned.
I keep thinking that the Democrats will wake up and begin firing their own salvos. Yet nothing happens. Unless full-throated, unselfish, throw-caution-to-the-wind Democrat support in Congress and in the populous, is ignited, AND SOON, Conservatives will snatch victory from the popular vote in the shortest four years in history.
At that point, we have no reason to hope that we will not be faced with the same conditions so painfully prevalent in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and all the other countries willing to give into Conservative, regressive destruction of the 99% .
The same 99% who will bear the brunt of the results because Democrats once again decided to lie down and rollover like a dog to its master.
Is it any wonder that the rest of the world, who once held the U.S. in such high esteem, now see only a new kid on the block….a bloated, self-serving, barbaric, and worst of all, dumber (kid)United States than fifty years ago.
- The Global Power Shift from West to East (nationalinterest.org)