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We need a cure for..

By Swarup Roy

When the USA sneezes, the world gets pneumonia The Anonymous American, a five- part article series appeared in Asean Affairs global magazine editions Nov/Dec 2009, Jan/Feb 2010, Mar/Apr 2010, May/June 2010 and July/Aug 2010.

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he idea for a series of articles analyzing what ails America (USA to be precise) came to me last year when the whole world was in the painful grip of the economic crisis and reactions to the crisis had one underlying theme, it was all because of the “greedy Americans” epitomized by their Wall Street brethrens. A fellow publisher from Sweden who has lived in Bangkok for more than 20 years summed up the situation like this “some Americans cannot pay their mortgages because they could not afford to in the first place as they came under the sub-prime category and now that these guys cannot make their loan repayments on time why

should we and the world suffer?”. As a speaker and moderator in international forums in Berlin, Zurich, Paris, Madrid, Vienna, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and Bangkok I was engaging with some of the best international thought leaders and trying to come to some sort of a personal understanding as to where this was all heading. The range of opinions were as wild as it could get, from “It is all China’s fault”, “this is a free market phenomenon”, “ this is following the Kondratiev waves (also called supercycles, surges, long waves, K-waves or the long economic cycle)” and ‘Obama is here to drive the final nail into the coffin”.

The Installment Plan: How It Has Taken America To Where It Is Today The Anonymous American November-December 2009 edition of AseanAffairs

So I decided to publish these opinions under a column under the pseudonym “The Anonymous American”. This was meant to spur a debate without the necessity of the author revealing his or her identity because anyone who was an American living in any part of the world is invited to contribute to this column and forum/blog of www.aseanaffairs.com So when we received a call on Friday 8th October 2010 at our Bangkok office from Goldman Sachs, New York, I was not at all surprised. The caller gave his name as Mark (the last name was not clear in an overbearing New York accent) and our Managing Editor, David Swartzentruber

“…AND TO THE BANANA REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS….” The Anonymous American January-February 2010 edition of AseanAffairs

THE “NOT SO” GREAT SOCIETY The Anonymous American March-April 2010 edition of AseanAffairs

spoke with him. It went as follows “I’m calling from Goldman Sachs and would like to know who the author of the column The Anonymous American is?” David’s reply “he is a top executive in a huge American company and a friend of our publisher. I believe he has written a few articles”. The man from Goldman Sachs: “there are five articles that have been written by The Anonymous American and we have read them all. I want to convey a message from our CEO and head of Goldman Sachs, Mr Lloyd Blankfein that he does not appreciate these articles at all. Thank you.” So Wall Street does not like these articles! Especially perhaps the second one in the series (Jan/Feb’10) titled ““…AND TO THE BANANA REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS….”” and the analysis of the role of the Federal Reserve, The US Treasury Department, The US government, Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and Lloyd Blank-

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” The Anonymous American May-June 2010 edition of AseanAffairs

fein’s declaration that ““Goldman Sachs is doing God’s work.” The Anonymous American invites everyone representing all sides to contribute to the debate including Wall Street and Goldman Sachs and its CEO Lloyd Blankfein and we would be happy to publish them all as long as it is within our publishing and editorial guidelines. All the five articles are reproduced here for you the reader to read, comment and share your thoughts and opinions with us. Let the debate continue. Write to us at opinion@aseanaffairs.com or participate on the forum/blog on our website.

Swarup Roy Founder & Chairman AseanAffairs

“there are five articles that have been written by The Anonymous American and we have read them all. I want to convey a message from our CEO and head of Goldman Sachs, Mr Lloyd Blankfein that he does not appreciate these articles at all. Thank you.”

“THE MALADY OF NATIONS” The Anonymous American July-August 2010 edition of AseanAffairs


OPINION

The Installment Plan: How It Has Taken America To Where It Is Today By The Anonymous American

It takes two to tango” as the old saying goes. Indeed, American consumers would not have been able to ascend to the lofty heights of the cliff off which they fell without the benevolent assistance of dishonest central bankers and corrupt politicians. They became entwined in a symbiotic dance of greed, envy, sloth, pride, gluttony, and lust. The bankers and politicians provided the consumer with the aphrodisiac that only they could manufacture and together they danced in an unbridled orgy of money and credit. That is, until the music stopped and it was time to pay the piper. Post- World War I America ushered in rapid changes to the industrial base and urbanisation of the middle class. Mass production of commodities became commonplace, and the abhorrence of debt was replaced by the need to have things at least as good and 74

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as much as your neighbor had, all packaged in an advertising blitz of both product and a convenient way to afford it. The American Dream was discovered and coined in a rising tide of consumption. Debt, once the pronounced stigma of enslavement, was sanitised by a man with pipe in mouth, arms crossed, admiring his newly washed Ford, and his wife piling laundry into her new washer, obviously sanguine at the welcomed relief of one more obligation to drudgery.

Prudence, step aside, The Installment Plan has arrived. This symbiotic relationship had a magical quality to it, especially at a time when not many people owned very much of anything - anything really neat, that is. The product was married to the The Voice of Southeast Asia

installment plan, and they had children - lots of children. The fury of consumption set in place a frenzy of research and development and the expansion of credit as it had never been seen before, only to be surpassed by the Post-War Era of the following war when the ephemeral quality of life produced a sense of urgency to produce, consume and reproduce oneself at an unprecedented rate. The result was parabolic: with your new house and attached two-car garage, you needed - two cars. What about furniture? Clothes for the family? Why not make them yourself, Singer proclaimed. We can look around us today and delineate the countless manufactured progeny of industrialised America, unparalleled in the history of mankind, with milestones each decade that took us to places unimagined. One must also consider the viability of markets for costly goods that otherwise could never have enjoyed a measure of growth relative to the markets for staples of convenience and perceived necessity. The sewing machine business, pianos, an Encyclopedia Britannica - give the kids an edge, no less. Even swimming pools and vacations fell to lure of the installment plan. At first blush, when one begins to appraise the value of early purchase rather than later or never, it seems a blessing beyond qualification. But I wonder how many readers cringed just a bit when I mentioned swimming pools? Yes, the bug had bitten and there was no end to the blessing, or was the concept folly? The enterprise of Credit became as big, or bigger, and definitely more profitable than the products that fulfilled the American Dream. By the era of television, viewers routinely endured a plethora of ads with jingles highlighting the acceptance of debt - “At Beneficial, We’re Here For You.” Soon, Americans were consolidating debt with more expensive debt so they could hold on to what they had purchased to satisfy that need to “keep up with the Joneses” in every respect. It didn’t take long for Barbie and Ken to realise that “... fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you...” if mom and dad are willing. In the beginning people bartered for goods and services. I don’t need to illustrate that exchange - it was however you wanted it to be. But what if you couldn’t agree on what was being advanced for exchange or you didn’t want what the other person had. Money solved the problem, and it could take the form of whatever society used as a staple item in quantities sufficient to satisfy a pre-determined measure of value. It could be salt, tea, tobacco or seeds. In cloistered communities and easily traveled regions, this could work adequately, but on a larger scale, logistical problems of freshness, perishable considerations, and quantities arose to make this difficult to maintain consistent value. Gold and silver were nice. Precious metals made into coins became popular in Western Civilisation by 700 BC when the Lydians first used them for local trade. Since coins could be assigned certain and stable values, people readily accepted them. However, as populations grew, it became inconvenient to trade and to store

large quantities. People wanted and needed Representative Money. This meant that what money itself was made of no longer had to be very valuable; it was backed by a government’s or bank’s promise to exchange it for a certain amount of silver or gold for the denominated currency. For example, the old Pound Sterling was once guaranteed to be redeemable for a pound of sterling silver. For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the majority of currencies were based on representative money through the use of the gold standard. Well, I will not dwell on what happened with the retreat from the gold standard, as much has been written and is known of the pitfalls associated with relying on relative values that vary in mysterious ways and affect trade and commerce with inflationary and deflationary variables that vex the markets and add instability akin to nitroglycerin. But this I use as an introduction to a more virulent source of misery to the consumer as Representative Money - The Credit Card - a pre-approved form of debt extension that has come to represent, not money or simple purchasing power, but enslavement - back to the good old days of indentured servitude. With the advent of the credit card in 1950, plastic money, there was no need any longer to strike a financed deal with the retailer for that item you wanted to purchase from him. Competition took on a new face, a freedom to present yourself in financial incognito, because the retailer no longer had access to your financial condition and vulnerabilities - you had your credit, and your pride, and the ability to consume anything you wanted, even yourself. Fast forward to the present time and it is not so difficult to weave this evolution of access, excess, and credit markets into the problems evident today, excesses that expanded exponentially to meet and create demand for everything, from the proverbial scoop to nuts of the past, to a $300,000 mansion that we can afford only long enough to get sick of that “swimming pool” before we have to vacate the premises for default in payments. This is at the heart of where we are today - more to buy, more of other people’s money to spend, until we are choking on scoops and nuts in forms we could not have dreamed of as part of the landscape of the American Dream. We live in a social structure where kids rival parents for advertising dollars, and quality is a victim of shrinking margins. We have Ipods and Nike shoes that all kids NEED, we have lead-laden toys, poisoned baby formula, and impotent drugs coming from our main facilitator, China. It’s all “soooo” good! It is debt, the Installment Plan, that seeming blessing of emancipation of so many decades past that has set us on a collision course with the likes of a forming iceberg large enough to sink the Titanic. But of course, we have struck it already, haven’t we? At some point, when its people and government act irresponsibly with debt, an exemplary country, the envy of the known world, can go broke, and it’s globally contagious.

WE LIVE IN A SOCIAL STRUCTURE WHERE KIDS RIVAL PARENTS FOR ADVERTISING DOLLARS, AND QUALITY IS A VICTIM OF SHRINKING MARGINS

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OPINION

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The Voice of Southeast Asia

*AN &EBs-AGAZINE


PERHAPS IT MIGHT BE ENLIGHTENING TO REVIEW WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT THE WORK

US Federal Reserve

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The Voice of Southeast Asia


OPINION

fabric of The Great Society, so too have the remnants of The Great Society been woven into the fabric of globalization. We now see the emergence of a new “New Deal”, one that will transcend the borders of sovereign states disposing of the last bastions of free markets at the behest of a corporate state whose only purpose for existence is to further enrich the elite by relentlessly disenfranchising not only the poor but the middle class as well. A truly “NOT SO” Great Society.

THE “NOT SO” GREAT SOCIETY

Part II

By The Anonymous American

The Nature of Things

A billboard on interstate highway I-70 in the State of Missouri, USA

Part I The Evolving Paradigm

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he eradication of poverty and the end of racial injustice embodied the noble causes espoused by Lyndon B. Johnson that ushered in The Great Society, one in which all would be protected from the human condition and all would enjoy the bounty of The Great Nation upon which God shed His grace. The questions of who would protect and who would provide were details obscured by a vision of a Utopia that promised everyone their cut of the spacious skies, the amber waves of grain, the purple mountain majesties, and the fruited plains. The Great Society was not the first great promise proffered to alleviate the pain of the masses and deliver to them “all things good.” There was JFK’s “New Frontier,” much of which formed the basis of the “Great Society” programmes, preceded by Truman’s Fair Deal, Roosevelt’s New Deal, and more. Yes, deals, deals, deals - step right up, everyone’s a winner - a basic tenant we all know is false, if not by reason, then intuitively. Nonetheless, a deal by any other name, (The Great Society), is still a deal, the essence of which comprises parties involved in a symbiotic exchange,

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Late US President Lyndon B. Johnson

satisfying their respective needs. It’s easy enough to understand the allure of such deals for the masses, but exactly what are the needs of government that are satisfied in pursuit of such lofty ideals? In reality, government has nothing to offer in the exchange associated with any deal because governments don’t produce anything. Whatever they offer must by

definition have been confiscated from the productive segment of society by means of taxation, coercion, or manipulation of systems and markets, better framed in simple vernacular as outright theft. The crowning achievement of governments throughout history has been to convince the masses of their need to be ruled. Times of crises, especially war, have always been prime time for governments to justify their existence and to consolidate power by assuming the role of protector and provider through which their “ultimate need”, i.e., government expansion, can be satisfied. In the United States, this process began with the Civil War and escalated through the two World Wars that followed. Neither conservatives nor liberals are without blame for government expansion that’s out of control. Conservatives point the finger at liberals, claiming that their policies favoring the interests of unions, farmers and other proletariats are the root cause, while liberals point fingers at conservatives for hawking the build up of both the military industrial complex and big business in the interests of national security and American hegemony. Simply put, it is the proverbial tug of war between the welfare and warfare states that provides The Voice of Southeast Asia

the placental fodder that gives birth to the “Deals.” In fact, US Government expansion is rooted in the success of big business efforts to lobby the government for the creation of unfair advantage in its favor. America’s history is replete with instances of industry leaders writing the laws to which they themselves would be subject. One of the most egregious was the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Authored by the very industry leaders that it was chartered to regulate, it resulted in not just unfair but even worse, monopoly advantage. Such efforts by industry accelerated until they came to a head in 1933 with Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act, the first piece of legislation to openly facilitate collusion between industry and government through the creation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Although the NRA was declared unconstitutional in a unanimous supreme court ruling in 1935, causing it to cease operation, many of the provisions it created were incorporated in the National Labor Relations Act passed into law shortly thereafter. Much of the legacy of the National Recovery Act was passed on to The Great Society and on from there to globalization. Today we see

that the center of power has been assumed by the government and that the government is used by a coalition of big businesses to operate and manage the economy. The casual observer can see evidence of this in every aspect of government. Indeed, Goldman alumni have infested Washington like cockroaches, while lobbyists and lawyers have been appointed to key posts in the agencies that were established to oversee the very industries from whence they slithered. The idea that such a construct was created for the benefit, as opposed to the exploitation, of the poor is absurd. During LBJ’s administration, the poor suffered most due to the good will of their benefactors. They died in the wars, were dislocated through urban renewal, lost jobs, and were subjected to the ravages of inflation far more than others, all for the benefit of special interests such as the military industrial complex, the construction industry and others. It should be apparent that the benevolent promises of government to protect and provide must ultimately be paid for by the majority of the citizenry, thereby draining the life blood of productivity. Today, just as the remnants of the National Recovery Act were woven into the

All the matter on the earth works in a cycle of transformation. Living things inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When we reduce certain things to carbon, they become useful nutrients for farming. All of us could cite at least one of a plethora of materials and particles that engage in this recycling of energy and matter. Within the framework of these processes, the earth maintains balance. When we witness the kill of the lion, we can recoil at the sight of its sometimes very cute prey, bellowing lowly as its life drains in the grasp of the lion; but the lion’s life and its progeny are nourished and therefore thrive. This is a cycle that we accept; however sorry we feel for the prey, few mature adults would deign to interfere with that process, for we not only understand it, but we fear the consequences of alteration. We know when the predator is ravaged by disease or poaching, its prey proliferates until it is devastated by its own numbers, spreading disease and ravaging its habitat until the fates of both intersect in disharmonious tragedy. The reader might ask what does that have to do with the subject? At that, I must pose a question. If I were to select at random one thousand people and ask them if they would like to have a billion dollars, what percentage of that group would raise their hands? With the presumption that the percentage is going to be hysterically high, if not unanimous, let’s expand the nominees to a whole country and hypothetically do it. For a while, we would become children again, holding hands as we skipped down the street, perhaps in unison belting out a tune like; “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain it would be. I’d stand outside with mouth open wide, Ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah…” I don’t think most readers would fail at realizing what would quickly follow; an example of bread would serve as a suitable metaphor – everyone would be buying the most luscious bread available, but no luscious bread would be available because everyone who baked it would now be retired, standing outside with his mouth open wide. Human nature is imbued with a natural balance just like the earth, it is -ARCH !PRILs-AGAZINE


OPINION

dispersed to us humans in degrees of aptitude, ambition and vigor, thus creating the foundation to engage in enterprise, which always finds a man at the top referred to as CEO, with a chain of command that cascades downward all the way to a guy who is refered to as the custodian. This may strike some as elitist, but that same practical awareness that we apply to the lion can also be applied here, and we all know intuitively that all of us are not endowed with the same attributes, and that our sense of fairness demands the objective application of reward for what we ourselves bring to the success of any endeavour. Of course, left to its own devices, all systems evolve to oligarchy, headed by those who possess the most aptitude, ambition and vigor turned tyrannical. That is why at basic levels some regulation within the structure of organised society is necessary, with safeguards that insinuate a degree of fairness, if not from altruistic springs flowing from the heart, then certainly from a historical perspective that suggests lopsided rules of a feudal system resulting in the disgruntled and disenfranchised eventually storming the Bastille to get some of that cake. This brings us back to consider the balance in government, because government is the sole entity on our planet that can force change by slight of hand and downright chicanery to proverbially rob us blind and convince us that we have just been healed. The main source of this chaotic imbalance is tandem: we find it in taxation first, which we have covered already, 54

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where, quite simply, funds are extracted from us for “things” that are deemed for the common good. It must be measured in a reasonable ratio of those tax dollars to a country’s Gross National Product, for this is the collective fruit of our labour.

IF MR. SQUIRREL HAS DONE MORE FROLICKING THAN GATHERING, AND HIS WINTER SUPPLY FALLS SHORT, HE HAS NO OTHER SQUIRREL TO BLAME BUT HIMSELF, NOR HAS HE ACCESS TO A BANK OR GOVERNMENT FROM WHICH HE CAN BORROW So, how is the common good determined and by whom? And if that common good is formed by a strong consensus, what is it worth to the common man and the generations of his progeny, in terms of assumed burden for what must be clearly judged as a gift to those who allocate the spending? If thirty percent of GDP is earmarked for public spending, a threshold that I judge precarious and near, with

the government able to borrow even more because it controls the system of money, endowed with the power to print as much of it as it pleases, we are euphemistically murdered by our money taxed from our left pockets, and much more simply dissolving from our right pockets under the weight of the inevitable resulting inflation, a progressive phenomenon borne on historical data, until we are reduced to the exact enslavement we thought we had escaped – serfs beholding to the lord of the manor. Finally, what appears TOO complex FOR ANY solution is RESOLVED in a simple allegory for living that we have all heard as children. Take a lesson from the squirrel: It goes: the squirrel spends his summer months sorting out the details of life, working hard gathering those nuts, eating a few, storing a few, then frolicking to his heart’s content, repeating the process until winter arrives, at which juncture he readies himself for a time of repose in the shelter of a tree trunk with all his stored nuts close by. If Mr. Squirrel has done more frolicking than gathering, and his winter supply falls short, he has no other squirrel to blame but himself, nor has he access to a bank or government from which he can borrow. How do we convince a government to adhere to that sound and simple principle before folks storm the Bastille? I think it would be easier to guide all the gentle readers on an adventurous expedition, using a ladder to climb to the moon, and oh my gosh, if all the raindrops were gum drops… The Voice of Southeast Asia


OPINION By The Anonymous American

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

he title of this opinion is borrowed from a famous depression-era song written in 1931. The first verse most will find familiar; it goes like this: “Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time. Once I built a railroad, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?” My intent is not to opine about similarities, perceived or real, between the depression era of the1930’s and the current economic debacle, but rather about the relevance of these lyrics to the current State of the Union. The post-war production capacity of the United States was second to none. America had taken a giant leap forward in technology as a result of the war effort giving her command and control of this sector, and she had set herself up as the owner of the world’s reserve currency. How could any other sovereign nation compete with the likes of America that now held the proverbial keys to the kingdom - money

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and technology? I do not repudiate the altruistic motivation of the Marshall Plan to lend a hand in rebuilding Europe, but the underpinnings of that wellspring of compassion are not entirely linked to the obvious devastation they suffered; perhaps it is characterized that way exclusively because the nuances of war are seldom revealed in the distasteful reality of economic opportunity – and reader be advised – war is unequivocally as much an industry as any that come to mind, without a cyclical aspect because there is always more than one raging, with ubiquitous demand attendant: for a wide range of ordinance, services, and then to rebuild. To REBUILD – what a mitzvah! A picture is worth a thousand words – let me illustrate one for you. Five men sit against a construction fence barrier: an American named Jack, wearing a hardhat and crunching on an apple, addresses Pierre, Hans, George and Luigi, who are all worried sick

about the future. Jack reassures them: “… don’t worry about nothin’, boys, we’re gonna put it all back just like it was, only better… the money…? no problemo, we’ll give it to ya for nothin’… when you’re on your feet, you can show your gratitude then… how…? …hey, whatever you need, you buy from us... you ain’t got no money, we’ll finance it for ya… it’s the least we can do… okay now, you guys, stop kissin’ me…” Yes, we became the world’s producer and we financed those who wished to consume. Sound familiar? How is it, one might ask, that we have found ourselves in a position that is not just far removed but 180 degrees out of phase with the position we held post WWII. John Adams once said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” While I believe that the vast majority of Americans are still a moral and religious people, clearly their leadership is not. The Voice of Southeast Asia

Regardless of their rhetoric, by their deeds you shall know them! The attempt of the Bush administration to dismantle the Constitution is now surpassed by the current administration’s flagrant disregard for its principles of freedom and responsibility for ones own pursuit of happiness. And where is Congress, the other branch of the Grand Triumphate, who also swore an oath to uphold the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Well, they’ve been busy searching out all those enemies, foreign and domestic, and really hit pay dirt when they stumbled into a mirror. Is it any wonder that the populace at large no longer trusts the government? Let us briefly refer back to the prelude of the song for which this article is titled. “They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob. When there was earth to plow or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job. They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead. Why should

I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?” Songs of the day always reflect the mood of the masses, that’s why they sell. Many would say that government is always brought into question during hard times because the people need someone to blame. True, but that doesn’t mean that government is not to blame. I would be the first to argue that the people should not have simply trusted; they should have questioned and done their own due diligence. They should come to finally understand that if a Deal, New or otherwise, appears too good to be true, that is what it is - too good to be true. America, the most powerful nation on earth, the world’s “Thought Leader,” had elevated itself to heights that transcended its need to engage in the menial labor associated with the production of real goods. We would usher in the economic paradigm of the service economy, one in which workers use their brains as opposed to their brawn. Menial tasks would be relegated to the sweat shops of newly industrialised and developing countries and Americans would enjoy the fruits of the labor of the new underclass of globalisation at the lowest possible prices. Indeed, for over thirty years the new underclass kept their mouths shut and toiled in the sweat shops while their sons and daughters attended Foreign Institutions of higher learning. Some were from well-to-do families who owned the sweat shops and therefore could afford to do so; others were taxpayer funded. I remember being on a layover in the Hong Kong airport on my way back from mainland China just a few weeks before the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. I was reading an International Herald Tribune article titled “Foreign Scholars, made in the USA.” It told of students from the newly industrialised and developing nations of Asia who studied in the US and then went to work for American companies such as IBM, only to return to their homelands to go to work for or create companies that would eventually compete with the likes of IBM. I then boarded my plane to head back to the U.S. where I sat next to a mainland Chinese student headed for America. We struck up a conversation as best we could, his grasp of English matching my shortfall of Chinese. The salient point I gathered from the encounter was that he had been granted a scholarship and stipend of 20K U.S. dollars per year to earn a masters at USC while teaching undergrads. He who could barely speak English would be teaching undergrads. He told me, as we say in America, that he was as poor as a church mouse, but since this was being paid for by USC, he would continue on to earn his PhD. courtesy of the US taxpayer. So, one must laugh at the current spate of China bashing, e.g., they don’t

play fair, they took our jobs, yada, yada, yada! Wrong! Americans have no one to blame but their own complacency and their leaders past and present, not for the loss of jobs to China, but for the gutting and wholesale sell off of both America’s industrial base and its competitive advantages afforded to Her as a result of winning WWII. Think about it! Our so called leaders have metaphorically defecated on the graves of our men and women who died in the service of their country. One should ask: had Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, Stalin or Mao come out on top after WWII, would any of them have been so benevolent, or should I say stupid, as to squander the keys to the kingdom? I doubt it! Bear in mind, China no longer needs GE; they can build their own turbines and boilers as well as engineer and construct their own power plants. The same is true in many industry sectors; technological barriers to entry are scant these days. It was pathetic to watch Western companies at the Copenhagen Climate Summit touting the technology they possess that newly industrialised and developing nations simply had to have, i.e., buy from the West in order to solve this grave problem posed by climate change. China’s response was most apropos in my opinion. Of course politicians will deny that they sold their constituency down the river in collusion with big business, pontificating all the while that they were doing good, not for America alone, but the entire world. You know, like Lloyd Blankfein who does God’s work; I wonder if he can cash in that chip with the SEC over the coming months. Regardless of the initial intent of Globalisation, whether benevolent or self-serving, the eventual outcome could be as ironic as that of the 1983 comedy movie “Trading Places,” starring America as the Duke Brothers, and Asia cast in the roles of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

MANY WOULD SAY THAT GOVERNMENT IS ALWAYS BROUGHT INTO QUESTION DURING HARD TIMES BECAUSE THE PEOPLE NEED SOMEONE TO BLAME. TRUE, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT GOVERNMENT IS NOT TO BLAME. -AY *UNEs-AGAZINE


OPINION

By the Anonymous American

Mitt Romney

“THE MALADY OF NATIONS”

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e have now come to the end of our five-part series, having offered what I hope has been viewed as a unique perspective of the economic and political trappings that have systematically stripped America of its vitality over the past 100 years. As I review the previous articles, there is a pervasive pessimism suggestive of little hope for positive change. This article wraps my perspective in a historical context reaching back millennia. I hope you find it entertaining and personally useful. And, I bid you adieu. During a speech, Mitt Romney opined on the health care bill in an extremely critical tone, including an overall condemnation of the entitlement mentality; he ended his tirade with this comment: “…and then they (Obama and friends) will cut Medicare benefits by $500,000,000.” Just keep this quote in mind as we proceed. In the beginning there were tribes that were consolidated by the most powerful chiefs or warlords into tiny nations or citystates, who then expanded their territories primarily on the basis of common language until vast borders were formed under the banners of sovereign countries. This persisted for millennia, with one potentate conquering another, from without or within, a steady flow of turmoil dependent on the nature of the ruler, be he benevolent to his subjects and respectful of his neighbors, or more often the case, tyrannical toward his subjects and full of contempt and jealousy for neighboring rulers. A study of history will reveal to the adventurous student a plethora of events costing countless lives in the pursuit of personal regal glory and gain. A change washed over the world emanating from the Renaissance of the 16th century. People engaged in rare human endeavor– they began to think; this lead to great inventions, engaging philosophies, art, and challenges to authoritarian rule of both the church and state. Legal scholars might claim that the first great leap in protection under the law was introduced by the Magna Carta of 1215, but it did more to ensure the rights of nobility than the average serf who was still at the mercy 80

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of a lord’s many whims and the king who brought inordinate influence on all legal matters. Henry VIII of England was a master in this regard. Eventually, through violent social and political revolution, most notably in European countries and/or their colonies, rule by the people evolved as the standard by which all men held the best and most fair chance to improve their lots in life. There were three notable forms of government that emerged over time to assault the “divine rights of kings.” Fascism not withstanding because it was little more than dictatorship with a complex ideology that quickly evolved to focus on the dictator himself. This I say noting it could be argued that fascism has already taken root in America. Nonetheless, absent a succinct ideology and plan, where simple discontent served as impetus to the revolt, some military strongman consolidated power and eventually filled the void with no small measure of violence. The anointing of kings by God was supplanted by the anointing of the masses bestowed on one who was perceived as one of their own. A good example might be the reign of Napoleon after the French Revolution. The other two forms held a distinction from the former: communism and democracy were fresh concepts borne on the provocative thought of the enlightened educated man. If we read a thousand books on these latter two forms of government, a litany of distinctions compiled in a scroll and unfurled from the top of the Empire State building would stream down 33rd St. to the Hudson River. Perhaps I exaggerate, but only to accentuate the point that from their diametric opposing philosophies, the latter two seem to be entrenched in a gravitational pull toward a center of commonality. Let me elaborate: failure or success are the great prognosticators for the survival of all things, usually. Communism over the decades proved to stifle initiative, creativity and productivity, leaving the USSR in shambles. This led to privatization of industry and a move to a quasi-democratic state, where the core of industry was fran-

The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 was a seminal act in the development of democratic forms of government.

chised to those at the top of the political rung, leaving in tact an oligarchic mix controlling the country, with the “hope” of individual success interjected into the game. The greatest spectator to this development in the breakup of the USSR was its cousin, China. I wonder if the visionary, Deng Xiaoping, turned to his colleagues one day in the mid-80s and exclaimed: “Comrades, this ain’t gonna work out - it’s time to make a fundamental change. Let’s compile a list of what all our kids might like to own and let the bidding begin.” Well… I wonder who else but those in power had money to bid. The Voice of Southeast Asia

Now let us turn to democracy as it exists in the United States today. I think it is reasonable to suggest that the political juggernaut subsists at the teats of corporate contributions via a plethora of lobbyists doling out any number of favors and dollars, and the political enterprise of Congress holding power by doling out favors and dollars to a broad range of special interests from those same corporations to the most powerful body of voters - now in or close to retirement. Why is the outraged American population surprised at the socialistic direction of our country? Does it not stand to reason that if every elected

official gets to his or her office and keeps it for an extended period of time by offering a little something to their constituents, sooner or later there won’t be much left to give? And from where does the money come to satiate the ravenous hunger of the constituent? “We the People!” Now, I challenge the reader to offer me distinctions in practical economic terms between America and China apart from the rhetorical chiming of ideology based on personal liberties and human rights, factors that could produce a robust debate on the nuances of those same attributes that are rapidly fading away in the America of today. So then, are we not, in fact, now racing toward the socialistic democracies of our own European cousins? One can only conclude that the outcome of democracy must always be a form of socialism, an eventuality engrained in the system, as much as socialism to survive must eventually capitulate to some form of market economy. Perhaps, then, the sentinels of economic study should not be as focused on the impact of capitalism on China as the impact of China on capitalism in determining the ultimate form of market economies in western democracies. And there we all meet – kissing cousins – in the middle - placating the populace while we chase a buck. This all brings me back to “good ole” Mitt and his ardent complaint against the cuts in Medicare, one of the most draining entitlements of U.S. coffers, as he offers his complaint against an expanding government health-care program. Being as Mitt has proven himself to be a very successful businessman, I will not

Deng Xiaoping

offer the accusation that Mitt is an innately stupid guy, but perhaps this behemoth contradiction indicates that he must feel that way about those who take him seriously. And over time, we can be sure that the health care bill will become as sacrosanct as Medicare for grandma, and the juggernaut continues. How shall we then live? We could become like the mule presented with two bales of hay equidistant from where he stands to his left and his right. The mule’s gaze begins shifting slowly from one bale to the other; days pass until he rests his weary legs curled under his weight; yet, his quandary to decide remains unresolved until he is too weak to move; his ribs begin to show; and soon he is dead. So what in the world am I saying? What is my complaint? I have none. There lies no hope beyond that vortex that pulls us down to some level of mediocrity and suffering. Have I given up? No. What is the solution? Stop kicking against a brick wall – you will only break your foot. Wise is the man who knows he has reached that brick wall. Complain if you must, but make no excuses and get to work on your own bale of hay. You may be a greedy selfish person who’s positive contributions are always merely accidental, or you may be a person who cares and shares, but at least you won’t be stuck like the mule and eventually euphemistically dead. On the outer limits of the rest of the world, like the proverbial fly in the ointment, the cycling of potentates in the form of kings, dictators, revolutionaries, and military juntas persists. Some things never change.

DOES IT NOT STAND TO REASON THAT IF EVERY ELECTED OFFICIAL GETS TO HIS OR HER OFFICE AND KEEPS IT FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME BY OFFERING A LITTLE SOMETHING TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS, SOONER OR LATER THERE WON’T BE MUCH LEFT TO GIVE? *ULY !UGUSTs-AGAZINE

Anonymous American  

Must read, the Anonymous American a series of 5 articles from AseanAffairs!

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