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Jewish World Review
April 6, 2009
/ 12 Nissan 5769
Exporting their mistakes worldwide
During the Obama administration's foray to London this past week, officials provided a special telephone number to journalists interested in discussing foreign-policy issues in an "on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones."
Unfortunately, as part of the curious run of bad luck currently afflicting our new secretary of state, upon dialing the number the gentlemen of the press were greeted by a honey-voiced seductress, presumably not Secretary Clinton, offering them "phone sex" and seeking their credit-card number if they "feel like getting nasty."
No, it wasn't a White House April Fools' gag. This was April 2.
Alas, what with the collapse of the newspaper industry and major metro dailies filing for bankruptcy every 20 minutes, sticking phone sex on your expense tab isn't as easy as it once was. So many of these bigshot correspondents were forced to hang up, call the White House Press Office, get given the correct number and listen to Hillary droning on about the NATO summit for a half-hour. The Deputy Press Secretary, Bill Burton, insisted that the White House handing out sex-line numbers was no big deal and only Fox News would make a fuss about "a corrected phone number."
I'm not sure why the White House needed to correct it. It's the perfect radio ad for the administration. Call 1-900-OBAMA, and Timothy Geithner will demand your credit-card number and ask whether you feel like getting nasty, because he certainly does. He'll be wearing a steel-tipped basque, and the squeals in the background will be an AIG executive or the former CEO of General Motors hanging upside down in the Treasury Department basement while he feels the firm lash of government "regulation" from Barney Frank and Mistress Pelosi.
Well, we all hate "the rich," don't we? Last week, David Paterson, the governor of New York, said that if he'd known his latest tax increase would persuade Rush Limbaugh to sell his Manhattan apartment and leave the city, he'd have raised taxes earlier. Ha-ha. Very funny. In New York City, as Mayor Bloomberg has pointed out, the wealthiest 1 percent contribute 50 percent of municipal revenue. How tiny a number of people does Gov. Paterson have to drive out before it causes significant shortfalls in the public coffers?
On the other hand, the rich can only be driven out if they've got somewhere to be driven to. At the ludicrous G-20 summit in London last week, the official communiqué crowed over a "clampdown" on tax havens - those British colonies in the Caribbean and a few other offshore pinpricks in the map. "The era of banking secrecy is over," the G-20 proclaimed.
Does anyone seriously think a Swiss bank account or a post office box in the Turks and Caicos are responsible for the global meltdown?
No, but the world's governments have decided to focus on irrelevant scapegoats. In the current crisis, Japan, Germany and Italy (plus Russia) are in net population decline that's only going to accelerate in the years ahead. So, unlike the U.S., they can't run up the national debt and stick it to their kids and grandkids, because they don't have any kids and grandkids to stick it to. If New York is running out of rich people, Germany is running out of people, period. The Chinese and other buyers of Western debt know that. If you're an investor, and you're not tracking GDP versus median age in the world's major economies, you're going to lose a lot of money.
If government has a role in this crisis, it ought to be to reverse the combination of unaffordable social programs and deathbed demographics that make a restoration of real GDP growth all but impossible in many European nations. But that would involve telling the citizenry unpleasant truths, and Continental politicians who wish to remain electorally viable aren't willing to do that. President Sarkozy, The Times of London reported, "said that the summit provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give capitalism a conscience." What he means by "a conscience" is a global regulatory regime that ensures there's nowhere to move to. If you're France, which has a sluggish, uncompetitive, protectionist, high-unemployment business environment whose best and brightest abandon the country in ever-greater droves, it obviously makes sense to force the entire planet to submit to the same growth-killing measures that have done wonders for your own economy. But it's not good news for the rest of the world. The building blocks for a global regulatory regime and even a global central bank with an embryo global currency (the IMF and the enhanced role of "Special Drawing Rights") are an ominous development.
Let it be said that in recent years in America, the United Kingdom and certain other countries the "financial sector" grew too big. In The Atlantic, Simon Johnson points out that, from 1973-85, it was responsible for about 16 percent of U.S. corporate profits. By this decade, it was up to 41 percent. That's higher than healthy, but it wouldn't have got anywhere near that high if government didn't annex so much of your wealth - through everything from income tax to small-business regulation - that it's become increasingly difficult to improve your lot by working hard, making stuff, selling it. Instead, in order to fund a more comfortable retirement and much else, large numbers of people became "investors" - albeit not as the term is traditionally understood: Instead, you work for some company, and it puts some money on your behalf in some sort of account that somebody on the 12th floor pools together with all the others and gives to somebody else in New York to disperse among various corporations hither and yon. You've no idea what you're "investing" in, but it keeps going up, so why do you care? That's not like a 19th century chappie saying he's starting a rubber plantation in Malaya and, since the faster shipping routes out of Singapore, it may be worth your while owning 25 percent of it. Or a guy in 1929 barking "Buy this!" and "Sell that!" at his broker every morning. Instead, an exaggerated return on mediocre assets became accepted as a permanent feature of life.
It's not, and it can never be. Especially given the long-term structural defects in many Western nations. A serious G-20 summit would have seen France commit to the liberalization of its economy; Germany to serious natalist incentives; Britain to a reduction of the near-Soviet size of state spending in Scotland and Northern Ireland; and the United States to allowing its citizens to keep more of their hard-earned money and thus reduce both the dependency on ludicrous asset inflation as the only route to socio-economic improvement and the risk of a Euro-style decline in birthrate caused by the unaffordability of kids.
Instead, the great powers are erecting a global regulatory regime to export their worst mistakes to the entire planet.
As they say on the State Department phone-sex line, it's going to get nasty.
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"America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It"
It's the end of the world as we know it...
Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer from a muezzin. Europeans already are.
And liberals will still tell you that "diversity is our strength"while Talibanic enforcers cruise Greenwich Village burning books and barber shops, the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn't violate the "separation of church and state," and the Hollywood Left decides to give up on gay rights in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.
If you think this can't happen, you haven't been paying attention, as the hilarious, provocative, and brilliant Mark Steynthe most popular conservative columnist in the English-speaking worldshows to devastating effect in this, his first and eagerly awaited new book on American and global politics.
The future, as Steyn shows, belongs to the fecund and the confident. And the Islamists are both, while the Westwedded to a multiculturalism that undercuts its own confidence, a welfare state that nudges it toward sloth and self-indulgence, and a childlessness that consigns it to oblivionis looking ever more like the ruins of a civilization.
Europe, laments Steyn, is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America alonewith maybe its cousins in brave Australia. But America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world's last best hope.
Steyn argues that, contra the liberal cultural relativists, America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the worldfor our own sake as well as theirs.
Mark Steyn's America Alone is laugh-out-loud funnybut it will also change the way you look at the world. It is sure to be the most talked-about book of the year.
Sales help fund JWR.
© 2009, Mark Steyn