Unless you're over 70, you probably don't remember a time when the United States of America wasn't global top dog. The transition, well underway by the late 30's, was really cemented by WWII. When that one was over no one was in the slightest doubt of who was ruling the roost.
It's been a terrific run. The 50's, 60's and 70's were the grandest time to be an American, heralding real social, political and economic advances. Whatever was new today would be the basis for something newer next year. No one could even foresee that ending. But ending it is.
George w. Bush has caused enormous damage to his country. With the help of a Saudi guy, he's dragged the US to the far right and perched it precariously very near the end of the limb.
Six months ago there was very optimistic talk about how the next president would put America back on an even keel and, eventually, undo the damage left in the wake of a departing Bush. There was still time to set things right. It wouldn't be easy and it wouldn't be quick but there was still at least some time. Lately, however, it seems that hopeful optimism may have been misplaced.
Take Bush's tax cuts for the rich. When they were introduced, even John McCain opposed them. That was then. Now McCain favours making them permanent and even Clinton and Obama are talking about which cuts should be kept and new ones to be added.
Now the line is that these ruinous tax cuts are necessary to see America through its current fiscal crisis. Say what? Even the Washington Post which seems to oppose the tax cuts then goes on to make a bizarre claim:
"The direction of the tax debate is frustrating deficit hawks in Washington, who worry that none of the candidates is charting a course toward a balanced budget. Meanwhile, Bush and other politicians are telling voters alarmed by a sagging economy that keeping the cuts past their 2010 expiration date can help revive the nation's fortunes, a claim many economists say is nonsense."
Okay, the tax cuts are bad. But then the paper goes on to describe how wonderful the Bush cuts have been:
"The tax cuts, the signal economic achievement of the Bush administration, are among the three biggest federal tax reductions since the end of World War II, comparable in size to the Reagan tax cut of 1981 and the Kennedy tax cut passed in 1964, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation. By the time the Bush cuts are scheduled to expire, it's projected that they will have saved taxpayers $1.6 trillion."
They will have "saved" taxpayers money? Only if you ignore the fact that these cuts have been funded by enormous government borrowing. America's taxpayers, particularly the working and middle classes, are going to have to repay that money, with interest, to foreign lenders - every last dime of it. And the longer this madness goes on, the more debt those taxpayers are going to carry, with interest, and the more they and their kids and grandkids are going to have to pay.
It's sad really. The American people seemingly can't be trusted to accept tough measures necessary to restore their country. If Chretien and Martin had shown as little faith in us they would never have embarked on the road to balanced budgets and debt reduction. Imagine the mess we would be in today.
I think one thing is obvious. If no presidential candidate runs seeking a mandate to reverse America's fiscal slide there'll be even less chance of reform coming through Congress. Debt is a disease that has spread through the United States at all levels and America will have enormous problems retaining its place on the global scene if it doesn't deal with this problem.