I’m a USA watcher from way back and, unlike most Brazilians, I actually happen to know a bit about the country’s politics and history, having grown up and taken my undergraduate degree there. But even I’ve been surprised by the amount of doom and gloom coming out of Yankee mouths these days. To hear some Americans talk, you’d think the country has finally rolled up and died, exactly what every old-school Brazilian communist has been predicting for six decades now.
I’m getting kind of annoyed by all this whining. I mean, for pity’s sake, people! Just a few years ago, weren’t you all crowing about how wonderful and unstoppable your country is? Wasn’t the prognosis that the American Century would now never end? That you could, as a nation, do absolutely anything you want? Money and political will were no longer a factor for the great Yew Ess of Ay…?
The American economy has taken a big hit, but its fundamentals are still sound and there’s a long way to go before it’s anything near bankrupt. This means that now is the time to INVEST there, which is precisely why the dollar is going up and the Brazilian economy is in crisis. People are getting their affairs in order and seeing where to toss their cash and in that kind of climate, the American economy is still the best deal in town.
Americans seem to be freaked out because, since 2001, they’ve been told by their president and their media that they are by-God the only superpower in the world and they’ve interpreted that to mean that they can do anything they want, fuckscrew world opinion and screw costs.
Well, turns out that they can’t.
Remember back when the war in Iraq was supposedly going to cost the States only 25 billion bucks? And Afghanistan 5? The total cost is closing in a trillion now with no end in sight.
The Bush government was marked by decisions – on practically every level and in every sphere – that a drunken sailor in a whorehouse would have been embarrassed to make.
The current collapse of the U.S. economy is directly related to the U.S. housing boom, which was itself a result of Greenspan’s attempt to head off a recession after 9/11.
Remember all that “spend, spend, spend” rhetoric that was floating about back in those days? Well guess where a good chunk of that unsecured debt we’re talking about today came from?
And politically it was the same thing. With Americans reeling after 9/11, Bush gave them a showy little colonial war in Afghanistan. Though I was against that war, there was at least the chance to turn it into something marginally positive, seeing as how the Taliban were a truly slimy bunch of people and the situation there could hardly get any WORSE.
But then, that little war worked so well in making Bush look like a Commander in Chief, that he went ahead and pushed the CIA to fabricate data painting Iraq as a potential threat. Every pondered voice in Washington D.C. who knew anything at all about Iraq said “Wait a f**king minute. Sure we can tackle Saddam. That was never the question. We HAVEN’T because how the hell are we going to put Humpty back together again after we push him off the wall?”
One of the things that most Americans don’t realize is that the relative tranquility that’s occurred in Iraq has happened not because of the surge, but because the U.S. has frankly bought out the militias by officializing them. IIRC, each militiaman is getting a fair amount of USDA-approved hard cash straight from Unka Sugah every single day. This is supposedly going to kick-start the Iraqi economy and provide security at the same time. What it is, however is a colossal bribe. If and when it stops being paid…
But who cared back in the early Naughty Aughties? If you said “Hold, nay!” back then you were – what were the words? – Anti-American. A terrorist supporter. A traitor (this word was even applied to non-Americans, which just goes to show how high the jingo levels were running).
I think that this situation got started because Bush began his reign unpopular and knew that his government was doomed if people started having to make unpleasant choices which were perceived as his responsibility.
But it was allowed to go on for as long as it did because the American people simply didn’t want to face up to the realities of what it meant to be the last remaining superpower in the 21st century. They felt that such a status should logically mean that Manifest Destiny was finally achieved, that America was to rule the world from here on in and life was going to be one unbroken series of Hallmark greeting card moments.
And, sorry to say, the American media – which should have watch-dogged the whole affair – went right along with the fantasy as the entire country set a course into Never-Never Land, flags flying and bands playing.
The U.S. is going to need time to get out of the hole it’s dug for itself, politically and economically and it’s probably never again going to feel as strong as it felt back in 2003.
But you know what? It really WASN’T as strong as Americans thought back in 2003. Turns out the States CAN’T run the world as if it were an electric train set. The U.S. is a powerful nation, but when it comes right down to it, it is still just a nation – not a force of nature mandated by some higher power to bring goodness and wholesomeness to Planet Earth.
America is not now as weak as some people seem to think it is. It’s got a LOOOOOOONG way to fall before it even comes close to Brazil in terms of real crisis potential.
Take it from a Brazilian who lived through the military dictatorship, 3000% annual inflation and Fernando Collor: you boys don’t even KNOW what a real crisis is yet. Believe me, you don’t want to. Things here are going to get pretty grim if a recession starts up but what does that really mean to most Americans?
They’ll have to trash their SUVs and start driving economy cars again?
They’ll have to have to actually be able to conceivably pay for a house in order to get a loan for one?
They won’t be able to dream the idiot’s dream that they can waltz into another country and put all bad things to right in three months using only the Congressional chump-change fund?
All this current crisis means, folks, is that as a nation the United States is going to have to grow up and learn to live here in the real world with the rest of us. And the real world means real limitations on what one can do.
Americans have spent the last eight years in a fever dream of untrammeled power and wealth. They’ve been dreaming this because, as a nation, they don’t want to recognize the real state of affairs of the world: prosperity in the 21st century will increasingly mean half-measures and compromises with people and choices that you don’t really like.
The world is really NOT a black and white affair, despite what people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh might have you believe. Things are a hell of a lot more complicated than that and are only going to get more so. Sound-bites and Disney imagineering can only take you so far. In spite of the Internet and special effects, reality still exists and it will slap you hard in the face if you ignore it too long.
Now, enjoy your temporary dollar high because my bet is that by this time next year, things will have stabilized back around 2 reais to the dollar, which is where most sane economists think things should be.
Thaddeus Blanchette is an immigrant to Brazil who has been living in and studying the country most of his adult life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.