Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

China and Michele Bachmann: red states of mind bomb Washington

Fundamentalists in the government of China and fundamentalist Michele Bachmann resent the power of Washington and disdain its lack of ideological clarity. Both see themselves as capitalist revolutionaries—and they even sound like they use the same spin doctors.
Simultaneously, they danced over S&P’s downgrade of the US government’s AAA credit rating and offered the same suicidal advice.
China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency offered Beijing’s first response to the S&P decision:
“. . . the rating cut would be followed by more ‘devastating credit rating cuts’ and global financial turbulence if the U.S. fails to learn to ‘live within its means.’
“Xinhua said the U.S. must slash its ‘gigantic military expenditure and bloated social welfare costs’ and accept international supervision over U.S. dollar issues.”

Michele Bachman was no less condescending or ambitious:
President Obama is destroying the foundations of the U.S. economy one beam at a time. I call on the President to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and to submit a plan with a list of cuts to balance the budget this year, turn our economy around and put Americans back to work."

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America’s social safety net is embarrassingly generous—by Chinese standards—and its military superiority is grating. However, does China—a country that needs to create some 25 million new jobs a year—really want the United States to take radical action now to live within its means? Last year, China earned a $273 billion trade surplus with the United States—up by $47 billion from 2009. Do they think that was excessive?
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Does Michele Bachmann expect Americans (let alone her fellow travelers in Beijing) to endorse a plan to gouge $1.5 trillion dollars out of current government spending in order to balance the US federal budget this year?
Such a strategy certainly would turn America around. Without the slightest margin for hope, there is no way the American economy could absorb such a shock without destroying millions of jobs in the US, in China, and in other trading nations.
There is hope, however, that S&P’s shot across the bow will put more and more people on guard against extremist gimmicks of the kind espoused by Ms. Bachmann.
The center is not always right and a balanced approach isn’t the answer to every danger. Nevertheless, current economic circumstances don’t allow much room for error. Continuing stimulus, public and private investment, and a concrete path to fiscal balance should be the focus of national recovery politics. All three activities give Republicans and Democrats plenty to argue about—and use against each other—in next year’s election.

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