Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Lack O' the Irish

Ireland is the flavor of the month in the ongoing saga of EU bailouts – which really means that it is the most recent national economy to become enslaved to the gnomes of Brussels. It's all part of a master plan, of course – the strong con the weak into “joining forces”, which is, as anyone can see, a joke... then the weak stumble, and the strong accuse them of bad faith and deliver an ultimatum – either you turn your economy over to us or you'll never work on this continent again. Well, what's a country to do? They aren't used to playing with the big dogs... or playing by the rules at all. The siren song of being part of something strong, stable, and prosperous rang out across the land... and the foolish fell for it. And now they realize they've sold themselves into perpetual slavery. And guess who's in charge? Germany! Is this the Fourth Reich? Kind of looks that way. But hey, they're all socialists and materialists... and they all believe in Darwinism. So when the survival of the fittest comes down to cases, no one can complain when nature takes its course. The easy-going, laid-back countries of the sunnier clime were clearly destined to become the servants of the hard-nosed, frigid, austere denizens of the sub-Arctic regions. North always trumps south; this may be the most generalizable lesson of history.

And as Greece and Ireland go, so goes – or so it's expected – Portugal, Spain, and possibly Italy. Thus, the “PIGS” with an extra I. And like pigs everywhere, they're all headed for the sausage grinder. Of course, there is much feigned consternation on the part of the more sober countries about all this – why, we've cast our lot with a bunch of free-spending ne'er-do-wells! How could we have made such a mistake? (heh heh) Well, of course, it was not a mistake at all – any idiot could have told you that this bizarre marriage would never work. It would be like your thrifty sister marrying the town drunk – guess what their household budget's going to look like. Right, it'll look like the budget of the town drunk. So what we're seeing now is, basically, a set-up. The PIGS, or PIIGS, entered into this marriage with the cool, thrifty Nordic types expecting that they would be able to continue in their insolvent "manana" ways indefinitely... and the gnomes of the EU gave them just enough rope to hang themselves, at which point they pulled it taut. So now the town drunks are in the clanger, and the cool Nordic types are moving in and reaping the reward of their investment. All well and good. Europe has been without war, except for a bit of awkwardness after Yugoslavia broke up, since 1945. What it has in its place is a kind of intramural economic battle, of which the milestones were the establishment of the EU in the first place, then the anointing of the Euro, and now the liquidation of all the underachievers. It's just another empire; let's admit it. And whoever was foolish enough to fall for the scam deserves their fate.

But then here's Jack Markowitz speculating in Sunday's Tribune-Review that as Ireland goes, so we will go... if we don't clean up our act. He predicts a reduction in the minimum wage, less “progressive” tax rates, a national sales tax, new property and utility taxes, a reduction in the number of government employees, and – optimist that he is – keeping corporate taxes low, in order to sustain employment. This is apparently what Ireland has in mind – or, rather, what the EU has in mind for Ireland, since Ireland's economic fate is no longer in its own hands. And it's the U.S. should have in mind... or will be forced to have in mind in the near future. At least, that's his implication.

But here's the problem. Ireland is not making these policy changes of its own free will; they are being forced upon them by a greater power – one which they gladly aligned themselves with not all that long ago. Ireland is being transitioned to a bread-and-water diet for the foreseeable future... but not because they have a zest for bread and water (The Irish? Please.) but because they have no choice – or feel that they don't. The alternative is to go bankrupt and become a Jonah, and to be shunned by all decent people in all the rest of Europe forever. And surely the gregarious Irish want none of that sort of thing. So they will be forced to crawl in the dirt and eat dust, while others look on with amused grins on their well-fed faces.

So if Ireland is incapable of restoring fiscal sanity on its own, why would anyone think we can? And we don't have a Big Brother in the form of the EU to crack the whip, or simply move in and take over. That's the problem with being at the top of the economic heap – who's able to discipline us? And if self-discipline is totally lacking, then what's to stop us from descending into the pit, which we are clearly doing? I mean... can you imagine the political consequences of any American politician suggesting a reduction in the minimum wage, less “progressive” tax rates, a national sales tax, new property and utility taxes, a reduction in the number of government employees... all while keeping corporate taxes low? It would be political suicide, simply because no one takes budget deficits seriously. And you know what? I don't blame them. Budget deficits are just numbers on paper. You can't see them, or feel, or touch, or smell them. Who knows, they may not even exist! Now, one thing people _can_ perceive is inflation, or devaluation of the dollar, which are the same thing. That's nice and tangible. But what's a deficit, and what's the national debt? They're abstractions. So there is no political pressure to do anything about deficits per se... or even devaluation of the currency, until it's too late. On the other hand, there is a huge amount of political pressure when it comes to things like the minimum wage, taxes, government (i.e. union) employees, and corporate tax rates. Those are issues that get someone elected... or voted out of office. So those will be the issues that receive attention, while the esoteric machinations of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department fail to appear on most people's radar.

Now, one might accuse the American electorate of short-sightedness – after all, the deficit is, in the long run, going to create catastrophic conditions and hurt everyone. If you project the national debt, every American will eventually owe "someone" (or something) more than they can possibly earn in a lifetime. But people don't vote in the long run. They don't even vote in the medium run. They vote for what they want to have happen tomorrow... or next week at the latest. And when the catastrophe does come, well... it will be blamed on something else so no one will have to feel guilty, or responsible. It will be “fate”, just like the Great Depression... or “things going out of control”, like stock market crashes... or “our enemies”, like war and terrorism. Anything but accepting the responsibility ourselves – especially accepting it now, while it's not too late to prevent catastrophe, or at least minimize the damages.

Plus, let's face it, you're never going to get a bill in your mailbox for your portion of the national debt. Yes, it will be your responsibility... in a weird kind of way. But again, it's an abstraction. I mean, if the dollar is an abstraction -- which it is, since it has no backing -- then anything denominated in dollars is also an abstraction, and that includes the national debt. Right? I mean, in theory we could just all rise as one man and say, "We're not paying, and you can't make us." It's unlikely... but it could happen. It's worth a thought, at least.

And it's not as if no one out there is concerned. China has been counseling us for quite some time now about our profligate ways... and now the EU is starting to get a bit nervous. I mean, Greece and Ireland are one thing, but if the U.S. acted the same way? That could get serious. But of course, we go on ignoring all their pleas, because, guess what, they don't vote for American politicians; only Americans do.

But there is one thing that might save us – a source of discipline that the vast majority of Americans are unaware of. I refer, of course, to my favorite villain (well, one of them at least...) -- namely the international financial cabal, which, I have a strong feeling, is centered in Europe. It's not the EU, but the EU and our own economy fall under the same heavy hand. And I have been saying for a long time now that things are working out quite nicely for these folks – exactly as planned. We are hideously in debt and our economy is on the ropes, which is just the way they like it, because it gives them control. They are running the game (the casino analogy again) and we're the gambling addicts that don't know when to quit (especially when the house keeps loaning us more chips). But as I've also said, there has to be a limit to this scheme at some point. I can't imagine that there would be any advantage to letting us go down the drain completely. Again, it's like the Masai and their cattle -- they keep them alive for milk and blood; what good does it do if they're dead? Much better to have a vast slave army (the American public), hopelessly in debt, with leaders who are no more than glorified servants themselves – and collaborators as well. We have come very close to this state of things already, and all current trends seem to be pointing to a more solid, complete version.

Now, obviously, China has a role to play as well, since they took the initiative and bought up so much of our now shaky-looking debt. But do they want to take over our economy? I think they would rather concentrate on advancing their own. But certainly there has to be cooperation, on some level, between them and the European cabal. If they're going to work together to carve up the U.S. economy like a Thanksgiving turkey, it's a lot easier if they're on the same page, and have the same, or a similar, agenda.

We sit over here and laugh at all the problems the EU is having. But that's just on the surface. If you look at the totality of their economic challenges, and the totality of ours, it's clear that ours are much more severe, and much less amenable to cure. The Irish might actually adopt all the policies Markowitz describes! But we never will -- never in a million years. And yes, you can start with the fact that we're still fighting wars in pursuit of empire, and they aren't. They finally learned that lesson! But by the time we do, there won't be any “we” left to benefit. At that point, silly old Europe will rise again, along with its ally China... and everyone else of consequence (Russia, India, Brazil) will have to position themselves or remain free agents. And the Third World will, of course, remain locked in misery and squalor, because no one will care, any more than they do now. And we'll be... well, what will we be? Extinct? More likely, a sort of labor and resource pool... or one might even say a colony. It's enough to make you believe in the Myth of the Eternal Return.

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