I write about our dying empire just about every day in my links posts. But given the debt limit debate and Friday’s S&P downgrade, I wanted to look at four pieces that examine where we are more closely (note, all of these are well worth reading in full–do click through to read them).
There are two issues to grapple with: first, with the undeniable evidence that our government has become a clusterfuck, we have become incapable of taking obvious steps–like taking the profit motive out of our health care system or taxing the wealthy that just got a giant government bailout–that we need for the well-being of the country. At this level, S&P’s downgrade makes sense.
But then there’s the question of why we let a thoroughly discredited entity like the S&P be the one to dictate whether we merit our world leadership position or not. That’s not just a question of letting one of the agencies that created the bubble retain any position of authority in the world afterwards (though, again, the fact we left the rating agencies in place after the crash is another sign our governance has failed), but also why a nation-state would let a corrupted entity like S&P do so in the first place.
Therein lies the paradox here: the downgrade is at once a real measure of the collapse of our governance, one of the best symptoms of it, and a key piece of evidence of why our governance is failing. So what’s going on?
This column at Spiegel Online looks on this as a problem of culture. It argues the US has left “the West.”
America has changed. It has drifted away from the West.
The country’s social disintegration is breathtaking. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently described the phenomenon. The richest 1 percent of Americans claim one-quarter of the country’s total income for themselves — 25 years ago that figure was 12 percent. It also possesses 40 percent of total wealth, up from 33 percent 25 years ago. Stiglitz claims that in many countries in the so-called Third World, the income gap between the poor and rich has been reduced. In the United States, it has grown.
Economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, has written that America’s path is leading it down the road to “banana-republic status.” The social cynicism and societal indifference once associated primarily with the Third World has now become an American hallmark. This accelerates social decay because the greater the disparity grows, the less likely the rich will be willing to contribute to the common good. When a company like Apple, which with €76 billion in the bank has greater reserves at its disposal than the government in Washington, a European can only shake his head over the Republican resistance to tax increases. We see it as self-destructive.
The same applies to America’s broken political culture. The name “United States” seems increasingly less appropriate. Something has become routine in American political culture that has been absent in Germany since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik policies of rapprochement with East Germany and the Soviet Bloc (in the 1960s and ’70s): hate. At the same time, reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology.
Now, it is true that America’s political culture has been hijacked, and that those who have hijacked it used hatred as a way to convince others to act against self-interest. But that’s what (perhaps) distinguishes us from Europe; that’s what explains why we, a country with our own currency, can be in as dire a situation as Europe with its common currency. Moreover, I’m skeptical whether, mere weeks after the terrorist attack in Norway, Europe should really be lecturing the US about hate.
Craig Murray looks elsewhere–at the military we feed at the expense of feeding our own people. Read more