14 March 2005

Pay to Play

The end of the Cold War left the United States as the only world superpower, but time passes quickly on the world stage; within two decades from our victory, we will face at least three other players --the European Union, India, and China -- on more-or-less equal terms. The Europeans hope to match us economically and better us politically, but they are not competitive militarily and their aging population and welfare state structures will sorely test them over time; India's population and growing economic strength will make it a power, but without a voice in the United Nations Security Council and a leadership presence in other international arenas, it will continue in the shorter-term to play political catch-up with the other competitors.

China, however, has already firmly-established its economic, political, and military foundations; in each of these areas, it is an already-strong competitor growing stronger over time. Thankfully, our competition with China need not become a zero-sum game like the Cold War, but make no mistake -- it will be a serious competition which we cannot lose.

A week or so ago, I argued that our choices as a society are undermining our ability to be masters of our own national fate. One of these choices is our collective impulse to save less and spend more, a tendency embraced at the moment by our political leaders from both ends of the ideological spectrum. A few thought that the connection seemed tenuous. Others wrote to let me know that I was not alone in feeling ill-at-ease with the situation; this morning's Bull Moose emphasizes the point in the context of China's recent escalation of the ongoing controversy over Taiwanese independence:
The Moose wonders when the right is going to be up in arms about the Red Debt Threat.

. . . .

Perhaps this is just verbal warfare that will never translate into an actual military action. However, if it did, the U.S. response may be constrained by a fiscal reality - America is increasingly a debtor to those very same Communist Chinese. It is an irony indeed that the conservative Bushie tax cuts for the wealthy are assisting their class enemies!

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine contained a rather complacent view of the China debt.

"Let's translate that into political terms. In effect, the Bush administration's combination of tax cuts for the Republican ''base'' and a Global War on Terror is being financed with a multibillion dollar overdraft facility at the People's Bank of China. Without East Asia, your mortgage might well be costing you more. The toys you buy for your kids certainly would."

However, the writer, Niall Ferguson indicates that it is in the Chinese interest that the dollar not slide so America can buy their exports. But, the Moose asks what if the rulers of China decide that they can, in effect, hold a threat of economic blackmail to stop American efforts to defend Taiwan?

It is clearly in our national security interests that we not be vulnerable to such a possibility. While the Bushies today suggest that they are concerned about the deficit, they its architects. The question is why Republican hawks have been so quiet about the irresponsible Bush fiscal policies that both make it difficult to expand the military and give aid and comfort to a potential foe?

The Bush debt is downright unpatriotic!
Since our last big victory, we've rested a bit on our laurels and, although we're still the dominant player, our physique has become somewhat flabby. Thankfully, the coming competition is not one where our make-or-break game will come at the start of the season; we have some time to train and any number of routine games ahead to prepare us. We're still at a point where we have the opportunity to recognize and correct our weaknesses before the competition begins in earnest.


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