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Bitter sweet

By Chris Clancy
web posted August 22, 2011

I remember someone once remarking, that there isn't much point in getting older if you don't, at the very least, become a little bit wiser. As we go through life, one of the pearls of wisdom we should learn, is that when you're down, the chances are that you'll get a good kicking.

Not nice - just a fact of life.

I'm not a socialist and never have been – this is for the simple reason that I'm a realist – it just doesn't work!

There's no doubt that the USA is now at a tipping point. This is widely accepted. It finds its expression in the growth of the Tea Party movement.

Are we witnessing the emergence of a new party? An alternative to the tired old two-party fiasco? Just look at the Ohio straw poll result. To brush it off as irrelevant is to be naive.

The USA can still retreat from the precipice. It's not the end of the world. The situation can be turned around. But it has to start now. No more of more of the same. The stakes are too high.

So far, the country has been spared the problems of the PIIGS, and others, thanks to the US dollar being the world's reserve currency. But things are not what they used to be.

In the past, any criticism could be casually dismissed by the government – almost out of hand - like pulling a moonie whenever they felt like it:

 "It may be our currency, but it's your problem." John Connally once said. Not so today. It's everyone's problem. The printing press is not, and never has been, the answer. For quite a few the penny hasn't dropped yet.

Alan Greenspan remarked recently, "The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default" 

As long as the world is happy to hold and trade in USDs this is true.  However, this is no longer the case. They're still doing it but no longer very happy about it. In fact, more and more are becoming very angry about it:

"They [Americans] are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar … If over there [in America] there is a systemic malfunction, this will affect everyone … Countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities ... There should be other reserve currencies." Vladimar Putin.

Yeah, OK Vlad, take it easy son., I feel your pain.

You're unhappy about the situation and it's understandable. The USA can just print up extra dollars as needs be. The rest of the world has to go out and earn them. Given the size of the US deficit it's not surprising that everyone else is getting a bit pissed off.

The expression "exorbitant privilege" comes to mind. The overspending has got to stop and that's all there is to it.

Recall from your school days: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

Greenspan is hopelessly out of touch. The Obama administration is out of ideas. So what could be done now to turn the situation around?

Here's just a few of the ideas floating around before and during the Ohio straw poll. Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, abolish the minimum wage and grant licences for domestic oil exploration.

Start reining in unbelievably wasteful government spending (eg. a free Blackberry Smartphone if you try to give up smoking – is this for real?)– which has been estimated at somewhere between 500 and 700 billion dollars per year!

Get people working on reforming the tax system – replace it with a flat rate income tax and a sales tax. Forget about soaking the rich – it won't lead to job creation – just the opposite in fact.

These are just a few of the things which the President could do now, or set in motion now, but just cannot do.

Why not?

Because ideologically these are things which are impossible for him to do. The same goes for his socialist buddies. Once again politics, ideology and ego trump what is actually best for the country.

After nearly three years the game is up – yet again – only this time the proles have had enough.

"Keynesian economics is welfare state economics".

And, as we all should have learned by now, welfare states are not sustainable.

"Welfare states face an inescapable paradox: The level of production needed to sustain a welfare state cannot be sustained by a welfare state. This paradox is created by policies that encourage the redistribution and consumption of wealth while discouraging its creation. In the face of such perverse incentives, living standards must fall even though, for a time, they may be maintained through borrowing. The paradox is not unique to Greece or California, nor is it a function of who is in charge. It is, rather, inherent in the internal contradictions of the welfare state itself," said Richard Fulmer.

The President is an intelligent man. He must by now see the writing on the wall. He must by now know what's going on. Four of his five original economic advisors have departed with their tails between their legs. They've scuttled back to the security and safety of their ivory towers.

As for the one he's left with – God help him.

As someone who recognizes socialism for the hideous debilitating lie that it is, this should be a sweet moment. But it's not. The President is saddled with a school of economics which doesn't work and with a political ideology which is bankrupt.

When he makes a televised address now I don't watch. I feel uncomfortable. My perception is that he's saying the words but knows, in his heart of hearts, that his presidency has turned into a disaster. He's down and he's getting kicked. But, unlike the rest of us, he can't walk away. He has to see out his term and, barring a miracle, it can only get worse.

I will take no pleasure in this. But I will feel no sense of guilt either.

That should be reserved for the ones who worked so hard to put him in place knowing he was wholly unqualified to take on such a mess. ESR

Chris Clancy lived in China for seven years. Most of this time was spent as associate professor of financial accounting at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. He now lives in Thailand where he spends his time reading, writing, lecturing and, whenever he gets the chance, doing his level best to spread Austrian economics.



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