2012: The Mess Gets Messier
2012 won't exactly be Morning in America. Or morning anywhere else, except in a place like Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is ushering in the sunrise of full-blown Sharia Law. Or in Iran, where the mullahs and the blood-lusting Ahmadinejad are ever-nearer to having nuclear weapons capability. One wonders if Iran's zealots have REM's It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) on their iPods for regular inspirational play?
Other than buoyant Muslims fanatics, the rest of us have a right to be gloomy. The propaganda about the economy turning the corner is just that, propaganda. America's trustworthy mainstream media reports that unemployment is down, but the numbers are cooked; they've been cooked for a long time. Go ask the underemployed and the discouraged not-looking- for-work-unemployed. As Pontius Pilate remarked: "What is the truth?"
Christmas retail sales might give the economy a bump, but Christmas shopping tends to do that regardless the year. The housing market is bottoming out? Maybe, but home prices continue to fall. That may be good news for buyers, but that's not much consolation for scads of homeowners who bought their castles at inflated market prices and can't unload their 5,000 square feet now without catastrophic losses. So, what's the truth?
President Barack Obama, on a much needed taxpayer financed break in Hawaii from the rigors of jacking up the nation's indebtedness (now in excess of $15 trillion), stirring up class envy, and keeping the swords of higher taxes and more regulations dangling over the heads of businesses and industries (uncertainty is a nice tool for the power-hungry), is not infrequently compared to Herbert Hoover, or more obscurely but more accurately, the incompetent James Buchannan, who flung open the gates to the Civil War.
But to compare Mr. Obama to Buchanan strictly is to do Mr. Obama an injustice. Mr. Obama's every fiber is infused with leftist ideology. Mr. Obama was foretold -- or at least hoped for; he's the left's long-awaited Anti-Reagan. The reactionary left lost the 1980s to the freedom-loving Mr. Reagan, who not only dramatically revived the U.S. economy but smote the Russian communists (who leftists and appeasers here and abroad argued were merely Americans' moral equivalents).
The eighties and nineties right through 9/11 were dark days for America's so-called progressives. Government wasn't necessarily getting smaller or less intrusive (physics; it takes a while for momentum to slow then stop). But statism was being discredited intellectually, morally, and practically here, in its milder forms, and overseas, in its virulent forms. Mr. Obama came not only to reestablish statism's credibility but to entrench it deeply... to so tighten its grip on the nation that no liberty-loving American could wiggle free (except, perhaps, by emigrating to New Zealand).
Should Mr. Obama and the left succeed in their ploy to reassert and bulk up statism on these shores, Mr. Reagan's glorious time will be reduced to a historical hiccup rather than a signal event that initiated a long term transformation -- to a nation truer to founding principles.
Which brings us back to present time, to 2012 and the tumultuous years that appear to lie ahead.
Mr. Obama must wonder about Napoleon at Waterloo, that is if he's got an ounce of historical sense and his golf games don't interfere. The left generally must appreciate that Mr. Obama's election (along with Pelosi's and Reid's ascendancies) was an opportunity, not a certainty of success. The left was -- is -- desperate to reassert itself, to again claim the mantle of complete dominance it enjoyed with FDR's revolution. Mr. Obama and his big government gambits are the left's throw of the dice for all or nothing.
Yet the left's doctrines and policies are failing, in the U.S. and Western Europe. The E.U. is disintegrating. Welfare statism has made Europe's governments top-heavy with obligations and debt. That plus wild spending by Mr. Obama makes the U.S. no better off. Keynesianism has failed the left again, but instead of jettisoning Lord Keynes's doctrines, Mr. Obama and the left wish to double down on them (let's hear again how much smarter leftists are than conservatives). European banks are at risk, particularly if Italy or Spain (or both) slip into insolvency. Given the interrelationship between many American financial institutions and their European counterparts, bank failure in Europe (or near failure) is very bad news for the U.S.
There's no telling what happens in Europe if the E.U. finally goes "boom." In less than one hundred years, Europe will have experienced three Magnitude 9 failures: fascism, communism, and now E.U.ism (throw in the collapse of monarchy and colonial empires as a result of World War I for good measure). There's no predicting how European nations would emerge from the calamity of ideological and practical crashes. If history is any indication, expect continent-wide convulsions and violence (as evidenced in Greece). Europe has a knack for producing strongmen -- tyrants -- when the going gets tough. That other ism -- nationalism, raging nationalism -- might just come back in vogue if Europe becomes squalid.
America's and Europe's ruling classes are praying (in their secular ways) that somehow, someway, their economies reignite. Nothing like increased tax revenues to stave off systemic collapses -- for a while. But Europeans, especially, have spent decades hobbling producers, incentivizing the takers rather than the makers. One suspects that Europe's miracles bag is empty.
The Chinese must be conflicted. A distressed U.S. and Europe leaves more room for the Chinese to maneuver in the global power game. China wants to be the world's dominant player (until its one-child policy finally brings profound demographic troubles). But China needs a healthy U.S. and Europe for its export-centered economy to thrive... to build a blue water navy... to incorporate all the military technology the Chinese steal from the U.S. in its weapon systems.
The coastal Chinese are doing well enough economically; inland, peasantry is the rule, not the exception. On the scales, China would be better off selling toys and cheap electronics to the West and using the cash to build its military capabilities -- and pacifying its peasants as best possible. For China, better an economically healthy West. But it's to be seen if the Chinese have the patience and time for a slow, steady climb in the power game.
South of China, North Korea, where a fat kid -- Kim Jung Un -- now sits on the throne (North Korea's not a monarchy, you say?). The fat kid's dragon lady aunt and uncle are the powers behind the throne. It's hard to say if the North's nuclear weapons are in less stable hands, but the uncertainty doesn't help.
Those are just snapshots of a troubled world. 2012 will be messy -- a dangerous sort of messy. Threats to the stability and well being of the U.S. are domestic and foreign and, perhaps, greatly historic. Ready or not, here it all comes.