Minyan Mailbag: An Outsider's Assessment of the US
External viewpoints should always be included in all worthwhile discussion and analysis of the US economy...
I read your missive from January 25th, in which you leveled criticism at President Bush because of what you observed in the State of the Union address. I like to hear what foreign observers think about our American political process. When I observe other countries, such as yours, I am bemused by your peculiar customs. One such custom that is hard for Americans to appreciate is the way Parliamentary speakers are shown such patent disrespect by audience members as they shout and heckle the speaker. I have seen that in Britain as well. Other countries have exciting meetings of parliament, such as Indonesia, where their gatherings are considered a good excuse for honing their martial arts skills. But Americans prefer civilized debate and believe in showing respect for the speaker by at least letting him have his say. So if you think that the polite applause and passive listening to Mr. Bush's speech is an indication of lack of vocal opposition to his policies you just haven't been a very attentive observer of our political scene. He gets the harshest criticism of any president I have seen (dating back to LBJ).
I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of the fiscal policy fiasco's of the US. I wince at the proposals the President has put forth which spend more money, and I am sure that a day of reckoning is coming for the liberal spending policies of this country. I wish President Bush would stand up to it and require people to deal with it intelligently. But alas, it is actually Congress and the voting public that have the loudest say in this disaster. Anyone who thinks that he is responsible for the US' condition is not aware of the legacy he inherited from previous administrations, or how limited he is in setting economic policy direction. Your statements about fiscal policies reinforces my viewpoint that foreign observers seem to take more interest in our policies than we do in theirs. This is not to our credit, but is somewhat understandable as our economic well being is often more important to them than theirs is to ours. But it also means that their viewpoint is colored by their own perception of how they are affected by our policies.
I am personally interested in where one can live in peace without being too adversely affected by the fallout that will eventually come from these policies. I haven't found where that would be. Could it be Australia?
You have made some interesting points that we can discuss, frankly, as always. There are a few misconceptions about us "outside commentators" when it comes to any sort of criticism of US Policy. I don't write to attack or smear anyone, I just write what I see, hear and feel as it relates to the Precious Metals markets. What was written and discussed was fundamentally about the US Dollar and its perception overseas. That Mr. Bush copped a bit of flak is just collateral damage. Hey, if it was JFK saying the same, it would still be the same commentary. That it emanates from Australia is irrelevant and maybe not "living in the dream" presents a more unbiased view?
I thought I'd just address a few of the small points you raise before getting into the meat of the sandwich.
- "Patent Disrespect": Calling out a liar, cheat or thief is not disrespectful, it is the duty of our elected representatives.
- "Polite Applause": 76 standing ovations is not polite applause, it is nauseating theatrics. A standing ovation should be heartfelt. I have never heard a person speak who was worth more than two standing ovations... and believe me, I've heard a lotta people talk about a lotta different stuff.
- "Civilized Debate": There was no debate regarding sending troops to Iraq. Civility was never a factor. How civilized is a scorecard of X thousands of dead Iraqi civilians and X thousands of US troops killed or maimed by a war that was never ratified by the United Nations or the US Congress?
- "Harshest criticism since LBJ": Seriously? The bloke just got voted back in! Maybe there is more in the last 12 months or so as people wake up and "re-align themselves," but there was no public opposition to this war if you look at the media/congressional record until after more than 1000 US Troops had been killed. Self interest is the order of the day it seems.
That Mr Bush "inherited legacies" of other administrations is true but it is a hollow argument at best. It's true that he inherited a massive Government debt but he has had six years to turn it around and yet has only exacerbated the problems. Deficits and spending show no sign of altering course; in fact it is accelerating. Maybe his offsider, Mr. Cheney, has convinced him that "Deficits don't matter." They always do, eventually. Yes, he inherited a self interested voting public but used that to his advantage as seen by the recent election results. Fear and Greed are the two driving factors in everyone and he played the cards well. He may not be responsible for getting the US into the economic position that it currently is in but he has done bugger all about fixing anything. Not one spending bill was vetoed in six years and dishing out tax cuts doesn't help balance the books. Nothing has been done to address the $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities due over the next 20 odd years. This is not the action of a leader with vision, rather one only interested in the "now" and bugger what's coming down the track.
You are correct in contending that people overseas take more notice of US Policy than US people take of policy anywhere else. That's a sad fact and we should have a think about why that is so. It is totally true that I take more interest in the US economy, politics and policy, than I do of anywhere else in the world including Australia. The Precious Metals market is denominated in US dollars and therefore, anything that may affect the value of the US dollar is important to me and my world. It's my bloody job to take more than a fleeting or cursory interest in matters of the USA. I make or lose money depending on my analysis, perception and timing regarding such and, quite frankly, I've been doing pretty well. Maybe I do get a good picture, albeit from the other side of the creek. I just call it as I see it and make no apologies.
Australia is affected by the US economy more than the reverse and that is true of many other countries. That is a scary thought in itself, especially seeing what is happening in the US economy. Everything from Interest rates to agriculture is affected especially with the recent Free Trade Agreements that the US is trying to tie smaller producing countries to (including Australia). These FTA's are lopsided at best, always to the advantage of the USA with the prime example being massive US Government farming/agriculture subsidies and handouts, whilst simultaneously demanding Australia drop all trade barriers on same. Tying up Canada and Australia is pretty smart when one looks at natural resources, but one gets the impression that the USA is using economic clout and military menace to force FTA's which do no more than protect US consumers' ability to buy stuff cheap at everybody else's expense. This is nothing like a "Free Market."
It appears that US policies, both Domestic and Foreign, are all about appeasing domestic interest in the short term only. Going to war was about oil price and supply as well as regional "presence" and "security. Getting out of war will be about protecting the public from the realities of war – dead soldiers, sacrifices made across the nation including massive destruction of capital via ever increasing costs of battle. Wars are supposed to hurt the parties involved, economically and socially, that's why they are bad! At present the US has not been "hurt" by this war. Sure there are a few thousand people grieving but the rest of the country is partying on cheap imports and massive debt-loads. These are domestic concerns with massive Global implications and consequences that the rest of the world certainly is aware of.
You bet the rest of the world takes an interest in the Policies and practices of the USA no matter how our perception may be colored, it is real. External viewpoints should always be included in all worthwhile discussion and analysis of the US economy, as it is only the benevolence of the "outsiders" that allows the US economy to continue on its merry way.
The place is New Zealand.
Just the way I see it from across the creek.
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