Friday, September 26, 2008

Death of a Superpower

I was listening to my usual diet of talk radio while chopping peppers and onions for lunch yesterday, and this though occurred to me: Is this how the United States dies as a superpower?

Of course, the coverage was mostly about the bailout, which hopefully will continue to flounder in Congress until they either get it right or the market explodes. And a financial crisis with the world the way it is currently organized may be enough for another power to rise and become dominant.

We've seen, through the centuries, empires rise and fall. The collapse of them was never evident until it was far too late to save them. The Romans, from their days as a republic to their shift to empire were innovators and artisans, advancing technology and culture. They became known for excess, incest, and utter brutality. But their empire lasted through all these, rotting slowly until they were split from within by intrigue, ravaged from without by weaker enemies, and ultimately reduced to ruins. The Soviet Union, bastion of Communism, grew in power, wielding mighty influence and power for decades against the might of our great country. But their desire to control everything, enforce uniformity, and resist change eventually led to their collapse, along with the Red menace.

We are focused on events on the other side of the world, where we have become beholden due to our failure to protect our energy independence while we forget the various problems and shifting alliances of this hemisphere. We play politics with businesses and entangle ourselves in them. We face weaker and weaker enemies who chip away at us slowly. We become less focused on the things that made this country strong and repeat the mistakes of the past. We worry more about the mundane than we do the threats that unite us. And we continue to overextend ourselves politically, financially, and personally.

The current financial crisis is a perfect example. The left blames Bush and Wall Street, the right blames liberal Democrats. In reality, every one of these has some measure of culpability, whether it is complicity and the willingness to throw money at the problem Bush), questionable and possibly illegal actions to maximize a paycheck at the expense of their businesses (Wall Street), or creating the environment where the government becomes further entangled (the liberal Dems). But instead of accepting the blame and eliminating their part in causing the problem, it will become another political circle jerk until all parties are satisfied and enough money is spent to cover all agendas. And the American people just want it "fixed" so they can get back to the next season of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

This is the tendency we have been seeing increase over the decades since the Great Depression. Now whether this is what will destroy the might of the USA or not, I don't know. But there will be a point at which historians will mark as the beginning of our decline. And they won't mark that line until the great experiment that is our Constitution is a relic in a museum of history alongside other fallen powers in this world.

Now even I (in my damn-near-infinite wisdom) don't have the answer to solve this one. We'll have to see if we have another bailout, or the first step in a true recovery. This might be the event that defines our future.

16 comments:

Bob said...

Even more disappointing is how George Bush looks like a deer stopped in the middle of the road staring at the headlights as he kowtows lock step with the socialists who are all in this just to enrich themselves and maintain their POWER over us. More than that, it’s makes me ill

Beth said...

If you ever read Atlas Shrugged, you would see the trend of today with quasi-nationalization going on mirror the story in Atlas; however, although it would seem like the beginning of the end for us, take to heart the fact that when we hit rock bottom, there still is no better place to rebuild than in the USA, given that we revert to the principles our nation was founded upon of course.

Patrick M said...

Bob: After the blowup yesterday, there's hope. If Bush has the sense to listen to his base and be ready to veto the bill if it's either a money bandage or a greasy pork sandwich (for rectal insertion). If he lets a crap bill go through just to "do something," then you can say goodbye to McCain and the GOP's chances in little over a month.

Beth: I was thinking more along the lines of Asimov's Foundation novels, as I've read them.

The problem is that rock bottom for us may mean we become even more socialist, and while we may still be economically powerful (for our consumption alone, the fate of the world may end up being controlled by other countries (China, perhaps) that have no problem injecting their bent philosophies into world politics. We may reemerge as a superpower eventually, but it would be after decades of struggle and a hard war or two.

But none of this is set in stone, and can be changed if enough people demand that change (and not Obama-change, which really isn't).

Toad734 said...

But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the only things American's care about is dancing with the stars or whether or not it's legal for two guys who they don't even know to do each other in the poopers. When that's what Americans care about they elect bad leaders and blind themselves with dancing idols and get their mind clouded with single issues that the people in power can get into the position of power because no one cares about the issues and once they are there, they are allowed to do as they please. This includes letting banks run wild with our money and essentially take it to Vegas. The frightening thing is that you people and the Bush administration want to do the exact same thing with Social Security. At least this crisis shows us that the "free market" isn't really free and in fact, it's quite expensive, not to the rich people who push these agendas but the poor people who vote for them.

All Empires fall. Some of our enemies are chipping away at us with force some with economics. Keep electing legacies just because of their name or because they go to the same church as you and this will bring on our collapse even quicker.

Can you please learn from this?? Republicans don't stand for small government! You are being lied to. 5 years ago Bush came on TV telling us we were doomed if we didn't invade Iraq but it was all bullshit in which his rich friends benefited. Do you think this is any different?

Patrick M said...

Maybe the only things American's care about is dancing with the stars or whether or not it's legal for two guys who they don't even know to do each other in the poopers.

That's my point. Except for the butt sex you mention every day. Repressing anything? :)


At least this crisis shows us that the "free market" isn't really free and in fact, it's quite expensive...,

Except this was not the free market. This was a market perverted by laws, rules, regulations, and politics. And the bailout could end up being more of the same unless the president gets a spine and the GOP maintains one and decides to be conservative for once (although they do better as a minority party).

Republicans don't stand for small government!

Amen to that! Why do you think I bailed? Although what that has to do with Iraq has escaped me.

shaw kenawe said...

The Republicans keep saying that when we see them pass the largest tax increase in the history of the US (Reagan), when they form the largest government agency in the history of the US (Homeland Security, Bush), when we witness the worst finanacial disaster since the Great Depression and the government bailout of it (Bush), the Republicans are "acting" like Democrats.

This, of course, is Republican bullshit.

It was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who balanced the budget and reduced the deficit--fiscally responsible actions. But the fundamental crazies on the Right were into panty sniffing and bogged Clinton down so that he wasn't able to do even more for the country.

The crazies on the right never, never take responsiblity for their failures--they also manage to pin their disasters on the Democrats.

Now they have a double disaster:

McCain running around the country saying the fundamental of the economy are great one minute, then saying he wants to create a "committee" to study what happened on Wall St., then he wants to suspend his campaign (he didn't) and drop out of the debate (he didn't) to save the US from god knows what. He's out of his mind and looks like a loose cannon on the deck of a ship full of dynamite.

And then we have his thoughtful selection for vp, Sarah Palin, who has shown over the past few weeks through the very controlled interviews that she is a highly functioning incompentent.

She could get away with that shit in Alaska where no one's watching her. She made an ass of herself and showed us what McCain is really about: HIMSELF.

What a week this has been.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Here's a piece of Palin's idiotic interview with Couric. Why in the name of all that's sane and logical would she open her mouth a say something that has no basis in fact? Why? Oh, wait, I know. She's an ideologue and facts don't intrude into her uninformed opinions:

COURIC: You met yesterday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is for direct diplomacy with both Iran and Syria. Do you believe the U.S. should negotiate with leaders like President Assad and Ahmadinejad?

PALIN: I think, with Ahmadinejad, personally, he is not one to negotiate with. You can't just sit down with him with no preconditions being met. Barack Obama is so off-base in his proclamation that he would meet with some of these leaders around our world who would seek to destroy America and that, and without preconditions being met. That's beyond naïve. And it's beyond bad judgment.

COURIC: Are you saying Henry Kissinger ...

PALIN: It's dangerous.

COURIC: ... is naïve for supporting that?

PALIN: I've never heard Henry Kissinger say, "Yeah, I'll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met."

Well, I don't think anyone has ever heard Henry Kissinger say, "yeah," but here is what he did have to say last week:

Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic...

But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.

So, when Palin met with Kissinger the other day, what did they talk about? How naive he is?

Patrick M said...

Shaw: Do you just like to type? Because I'm sure trying to figure out what the hell you're point is other than "Republicans are bad, Democraps are good, so elect Barry or suffer and die!"

When you nosedive the subject completely off the rails, there's nothing to discuss, and no reason to waste time responding.

Dave Miller said...

Patrick, Shaw did indeed get off topic but I can understand why.

Palin seems more and more like an empty suit every day she opens her mouth.

You did notice that we got no coherent answer from Palin on the question.

The facts are that at a round table of 5 former Secretary's of State, they all supported what is the essential Obama position to negotiate with our enemies.

Now to your post, we may have reached the nadir of US power over a myriad of issues.

Sad, but probably true.

Patrick M said...

Dave: I can't clearly comment because I still haven't gotten around to watching the damned interview. I will be interested in the debate with Biden. That's when she'll either prove herself or go down in flames.

Shaw's motivation appears to be to convince everyone Palin is an idiot. So how do you have a discussion on that?

Back to point, now:

Yep.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm not trying to prove Palin is an idiot. I'll let her do that work herself. I will, however, set out the FACTS as opposed to her lies about her being a "reformer" and against tax increases and big spending.

Here are facts. You can do the research and try to dispute them:

Palin's great legacy as mayor of Wasilla was the construction of a $14.7 million hockey arena in a city with an annual budget of $20 million; Palin OK'd a bond issue for the project before the land had been secured, leading to a protracted legal mess that ultimately forced taxpayers to pay more than six times the original market price for property the city ended up having to seize from a private citizen using eminent domain. Better yet, Palin ended up paying for the fucking thing with a 25 percent increase in the city sales tax. But in her speech, of course, Palin presented herself as the enemy of tax increases, righteously bemoaning that "taxes are too high," and Obama "wants to raise them."

Palin hasn't been too worried about federal taxes as governor of a state that ranks number one in the nation in federal spending per resident ($13,950), even as it sits just 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434).

That means all us taxpaying non-Alaskans spend $8,500 a year on each and every resident of Palin's paradise of rugged self-sufficiency. Not that this sworn enemy of taxes doesn't collect from her own: Alaska currently collects the most taxes per resident of any state in the nation.

Pretty much anyone with an Internet connection knows by now that Palin was originally for the "Bridge to Nowhere" before she opposed it (she actually endorsed the plan in her 2006 gubernatorial campaign), that even after the project was defeated she kept the money, that she didn't actually sell the Alaska governor's state luxury jet on eBay but instead sold it at a $600,000 loss to a campaign contributor (who is now seeking $50,000 in taxpayer money to pay maintenance costs).


These facts are not calling her an idiot, they're calling her a fraud.

Patrick M said...

Shaw: I'd delete your comments for continuously jumping off the topic and going on for pages, but then I'd have to listen to you whine.

Toad734 said...

Again, this happened because of deregulation, not too much regulation. Please print or do a posting on the exact regulation which forced AIG to buy bad mortgage securities and any regulation that forced country wide to give loans to non qualified people.

This was a land grab that backfired plain and simple.

Think about it. What happened during the depression??
First, the fed was created to prevent bank runs and to keep the economy from collapsing but it failed. Why? Who ended up owning a whole lot of property after the depression was over? Who were the guys who championed the Federal Reserve to begin with? Who got richer and who got poorer? The Depression was the largest redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich in history. The reason it worked then is because Oklahoma's drought finally ended, the TVA and the war made all the land the rich took from the poor worth something again. All the big rich banks were able to gobble up the small banks. That's exactly what they tried to do here by eliminating the same regulations put in place after the depression. The thing that backfired here is that property values have plummeted and even if the banks take possession of that land, they won’t be able to sell it. And even if they can, they have to try to stay in business long enough for the value of the properties to increase. Someone will end up getting rich from this. At the top the person who buys out these foreclosures at pennies to the dollar will only need to sit on them for a few years before they have a whole lot of land to sell. The good thing about owning land is that they aren't making any more of it.

If you believe that this crisis was because of too much regulation then you aren't paying attention. You are being lied to.

Patrick M said...

Toad: I did that post already. It was titled Business on the Government Tit. By creating an atmosphere where organizations like ACORN (former employer of The Marxist) could pressure banks to bend to their political will, and where Fannie and Freddie were buying bad paper, it made it a speculative market. I don't have sympathy for the companies that did it, but they were behaving like companies do when government artificially sucks the risk out. And while the prices of houses went up, no problem.

As you keep injecting government into these situations, you get businesses doing what they do. A free market doesn't get this damned messed up.

Toad734 said...

I don't disagree that Fannie is more likely to buy bad paper if they know it is backed by the government. But it isn't that it was just backed by the government, it was backed by Wallstreet who also encouraged Fannie, Country Wide, etc. to generate more loans. AIG, Bear Stearns, ETC. was not forced by any government agency to buy those loans or bundle them into their financial products. AIG should have never even been able to buy that shit. Thus a result of too little regulation not too much.

Patrick M said...

Toad, Fannie is part of the government. And the businesses knew that. And since they stood a reasonable change of a bailout (and Congress is trying to do just that), they took the risk. I never said they were forced. They behaved like any business with minimal ethics and a reduced risk based on government entanglements.

The market for these securities should have never existed in the first place for AIG to buy. You want to add regulation to solve a problem created by another law, another regulation.

In the real world, it's called a clusterfuck. In Washington, the phrase is "affordable housing."