Obama to World: I'm Just Not That Into You

Mark Steyn on Europe’s increasingly troubled love affair with Barry:

…I would make a modest prediction that in 2012, after four years of the man who was supposed to heal America’s relations with a world sick of all that swaggering cowboy unilateralism, those relations will be much worse. From Canada to India, the implications of the Obama ascendancy are becoming painfully clear. The other week Der Spiegel ran a piece called “Why Obamania Isn’t the Answer,” which might more usefully have been published before the Obamessiah held his big Berlin rally. Written by some bigshot with the German Council on Foreign Relations and illustrated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the essay conceded that Europe had embraced Obama as a “European American.” Very true. The president is the most European American ever to sit in the Oval Office. And, because of that, he doesn’t need any actual European Europeans getting in the way — just as, at his big victory-night rally in Chicago, the first megastar president didn’t need any megastar megastars from Hollywood clogging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his minders that he didn’t want any other celebrities deflecting attention from him. Same with world leaders. If it’s any consolation to Gordon Brown, he’s just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for America, the engine of the global economy, to pull the rest of them out of the quicksand — which isn’t unreasonable. Even though a big chunk of the subprime/securitization/credit-bubble axis originated in the United States and got exported round the planet, the reality is that almost every one of America’s trading partners will wind up getting far harder hit.

And that was before Obama made clear that for him the economy takes a very distant back seat to the massive expansion of government for which it provides cover. That’s why he’s indifferent to the plummeting Dow. The president has made a strategic calculation that, to advance his plans for socialized health care, “green energy,” and a big-government state, it’s to his advantage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in America, overseas they’ll go from worse to total societal collapse. We’ve already seen changes of government in Iceland and Latvia, rioting in Greece and Bulgaria. The great destabilization is starting on the fringes of Europe and working its way to the Continent’s center.

We’re seeing not just the first contraction in the global economy since 1945, but also the first crisis of globalization. This was the system America and the other leading economies encouraged everybody else to grab a piece of. But whatever piece you grabbed — exports in Taiwan, services in Ireland, construction in Spain, oligarchic industrial-scale kleptomania in Russia — it’s all crumbling. Ireland and Italy are nation-state versions of Bank of America and General Motors. In Eastern Europe, the countries way out on the end of the globalization chain can’t take a lot of heat without widespread unrest. And the fellows who’ll be picking up the tab are the Western European banks who loaned them all the money. Gordon Brown was hoping for a little more than: “I feel your pain. And have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz? [One of the DVDs Barry gave Brown as a gift]. It’s about this sweet little nobody who gets to pay a brief visit to the glittering Emerald City before being swept back to the reassuring familiarity of the poor thing’s broken-down windswept economically devastated monochrome dustbowl. You’ll love it!”…

Writing in the Daily Telegraph of London, Janet Daley agrees:

…Mr Obama – who gives the impression of being considerably out of his depth in the economic maelstrom – talks of an “opportunity” to “reorganise our priorities”. He gave a major speech last week in which he actually seemed to suggest that the present crisis had been caused by America’s failure to develop a universal health care system and to attend to the impending environmental disaster of global warming (“we made the wrong choices”), and that by focusing on these matters a way can be found out of the country’s economic problems.

Is he quite mad? Does he really believe that the banking crisis and the recession were some kind of divine retribution for the absence of universal health care, and excessive carbon emissions? Or is he suggesting that a practical solution lies in spending money on health care and the development of alternative energy sources?

If it is the latter, then he is making a pitch for old-fashioned Roosevelt-style government-expenditure programmes which take money out of the productive part of the economy and bring state intervention into play in new dimensions of national life. It did not work for Roosevelt and it will not work now.

But maybe sentimental mythology matters more than historical reality: what Obama and Brown are both trying to do is to put themselves on the benevolent, morally attractive side of the argument by saying: we – your government – will act, intervene, take positive steps to help you. We will not stand by and let the hurricane winds of the economy blow you down. (Mr Brown has actually used the word “hurricane” to describe the crisis, as if it were a natural disaster which no one could have prevented.)

What neither the Prime Minister nor the President can admit is what is becoming more obvious every day (and which has been admitted by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key): there is precious little that any politician can do to resolve the present economic problems. The values of assets and property are simply going to have to fall from the grossly inflated points they reached under the debt bubble to what are generally accepted to be realistic levels. Then people will start to do business again – as eventually they must – and confidence will gradually return.

So are these politicians pretending that they have answers out of wilful deceit – out of the need to keep playing the game for partisan advantage? Or are they simply attempting to maintain some degree of public optimism about the future? (After all, an “opportunity” sounds better than a “debacle”.)

Well, I grew up with the Left and what this looks like to me is a power grab: a seizing of the moment by the forces which always believed in state domination. The Left sees an opening here, first for telling a critical lie about the historical origins of this crisis, which was propelled as much by the Left-liberal determination to spread prosperity through easy credit to the poor, as by the greed of bankers. And then, out of the wreckage, to restructure the economy along the lines that it always wanted, complete with central controls over the pay levels in private financial institutions.

We are being led to believe that public debate should be all about economic mechanics when it should really be about political principle: just how many freedoms do we want to lose while governments pretend that they are the solution?

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