China Becomes Big Spender While
Uncle Sam Becomes Broko De Joko
How did such a reversal of fortunes happen? How else? Wise calculation in Beijing and abundant stupidity in Washington.
Let’s explore the disparate behavior and its impoverished implications.
First, let’s deal with the anti-globalization plaint. Since the globe is a finite bauble, globalization is inevitable. The only respectable question is, how will it happen – under freedom or totalitarianism? So let’s put down the placards and look reality in the multinational face.
As globalization proceeds apace, our favorite totalitarian trading partner has become the generous visiting billionaire in one underdeveloped nation after another. Meanwhile, our own Uncle Sam can’t afford to participate, at least, at the level he should.
Why? The ill-advised fellow has squandered his wealth so much that he has become Senor Broko De Joko. In fact, the formerly wealthy gentleman is now so down and out he can’t even afford to keep up his own homeland.
How has Uncle Sam been brought to this comparatively helpless state?
The explanation is so usual it’s all the more infuriating. He has squandered the national treasury on shaky military investments.
Meanwhile, in the midst of his financial debacle, the future of the globe is being decided.
Is there a merciful way to account for his predicament? Let’s err on the side of insight, generously stated.
Uncle Sam still hasn’t developed the vision to look past the military exigencies of the Cold War and see the economic imperatives of the emerging financially dominated world order.
When will Sammy get the email? He has got to stop playing the military card – a hand he can’t win, because he’s just not ruthless enough – and start playing the economic one, which he has a proven talent for.
America’s ideas of freedom and democracy – not to mention humane values like fellow-feeling and mercy – prevent us, for example, from wreaking so much damage on the sectarians in Iraq that every faction quickly throws up its arms and shouts uncle. Nor can we contemplate dropping a few nukes on the areas in northern Pakistan where we know Osama Bin Lunatic and his fellow abominations are hiding out, although just the threat of such an unwise preemption might make the tribal leaders in the area cough up the malefactors like chunks off a shish-kabob they inadvertently inhaled.
But we do have a genius for economic development. Maybe our ancestors learned it in the rough and tumble of early America, when everybody had to scramble for a dime. However we’ve developed it, it’s our strong suit – and we should lead with it.
And talk about a happy developmental inevitability. Most of the globe’s nations – literally, hundreds of the poor things – are still in dire need of economic success.
Let’s do the obvious and see that regrettable reality as opportunity – an opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of most of the globe’s nations – the way military force never can.
Imagine, my fellow colonists. Just by redirecting the uses of our national treasury, we can facilitate global development enough to assure that freedom and democracy get a fair shot.
More encouraging news. The benefits of our relatively born-free-live-free governance has a built-in advantage over China or any other nation that hopes to help global development along under the aegis of its treasured totalitarianism.
But the very thought of empire? Can a free and feisty people ever come to terms with it, let alone accommodate it comfortably?
Depends on how you define it.
The world has only known empire under military dominion, not economic benefactions – although the Roman Empire did, at least, have the wisdom to allow its conquered subservient nations varying degrees of privilege. But there has never been a nation with the resources, wisdom, and generosity to cultivate an economic empire under voluntary participation.
To achieve this rather revolutionary world disorder, all Uncle Sam needs to do is commit his resources to international economic development and well-being – not as an idealistic giveaway, which would never be endorsed by the bottom-line thinkers under whose skeptical gaze economic policy must pass, but as enlightened self-interest, which by definition includes a fair quotient of mutual interest.
Such a wise allocation of our largesse can transform a world of nations while it returns a reasonable profit for the US and its maligned corporations, which, by the way, most of Uncle Sam’s children work for. Then we can reinvest the well-earned capital in our own debilitated nation and in other nations.
Yes, gringos, America can start to create the world’s first prosperous economic empire – made up of hundreds of healthier and happier nations who actually know their best interest lies in liking us – while nations that choose not to get along with us, for example, Iran, can be left to sit on the sidelines peacefully, until the populace expresses the benefits of getting in on the good life and the leaders are persuaded to tip their turbans our way.
Now, should you be concerned about America pulling off such a triumphant achievement, ask yourself what other nation that is capable of overseeing globalization you would rather have in charge. A global imperium by any other nation we can think of becomes even scarier.
After all, America is the first country in history that might be able to conquer the world but wouldn’t even consider the possibility – first, because conquest for subjugation goes against our own foundational principles and also because, somewhere in our business-savvy outlook, we probably know we can’t afford the upkeep.
To allow America and the developing world to lose the opportunity to enjoy such a distinguished and prosperous future, bad television and all, while ceding global governance to stolid totalitarianism, is a misdirection of this nation’s resources to such an egregious extent that it seems downright unpatriotic.
Why, as we contemplate this inviting new horizon, Uncle Sam is misspending his national treasury to such a degree he can’t even afford development and well-being in the strapped USA. Witness our decaying infrastructure, slashes in Medicare, and our crumbling schools.
Meanwhile, the poor, hardworking slobs who make up most of the population of this country long ago earned a prosperous and happy nation of their own. In fact, healthy, wealthy, and enjoyable lives for our own citizens ought to be our first developmental goal.
Naturally, amid all of this dogooding, we'd remain buddy-buddy with our current allies and do as much together with them as we reasonably can.
And now that we’ve thought our way through to such wonders of underachievement and possibility, what can we do? Not much, if anything, except carry the truth lightly, so we can at least have a chance to be healthy and happy individually.
Here’s a parting piece of wisdom from an investor who was much wiser than Uncle Sam – a Wall Streeter who quipped, quite famously, that there’s a time to go long, a time to go short, and a time to go fishing.
By Tom Attea