Storm over the Atlantic

I’ve purposely avoided commenting on the impending election in the US. This is largely because, as I’ve previously discussed, a combination of a corporate dominated media, special interest corruption and partisan politics has made it all but impossible for any US president of either party to bring about any meaningful change. Washington is a snake pit of vying political factions who seem to care little about the rest of the country.

Mitt Romney’s main proposal is to try and solve the US deficit problem by cutting public spending. Unfortunately, as I discussed at length before, performing the sort of cuts that would produce a meaningful deficit reduction would upset way too many apple carts in Republican voting states (many of which receive more money from Uncle Sam than they pay in taxes…big government stay on our back!). And his corporate pay masters would be none too pleased either, as many US multinationals count uncle Sam as not only their best customer but their only one!

Instead he’ll make a few cosmetic cuts to welfare which will cause enormous hardship the countries poorest people (still reeling from Bush’s depression), but will be insufficient to actually reduce the US deficit, indeed the experience from Europe is that such cuts will in all likelihood increase the deficit due to the chilling effect it will place on the economy (depressing consumer spending and ultimately tax receipts).

Of course Obama’s proposal’s are equally unlikely to succeed. Many on the left claim that Obamacare is way too weak. Indeed it bares a striking resemblance to a health bill Romney himself introduced in Massachusetts state (and as Obamacare is actually scheduled to be revenue neutral, Romney cutting it, which might not be legal, will not achieve anything as far as deficit reductions go). While Obama favours the “right” sort of cuts (to the military or various special interests), he will also need tax increases to balance the books and it seems highly unlikely that he’ll push through such legislation. While he went into office with a majority in both houses he squandered his first term and didn’t act with the right sort of urgency to get the legislation he clearly favours pushed through.

Stormy politics

Of course it is strange that climate change has not, until a few days ago, figured much in the campaign. As the climate blogger Peter Sinclair has been pointing out, climate change should be at the top of the political agenda in the US. This year saw one of the worse droughts on record in the Mid West, which has pushed up food prices. The recent impact of hurricane Sandy is still being counted (best guess, $60 Billion!).

Now while we cannot blame either events on climate change alone, certainly the predictions of scientists is that as the planet warms droughts in the Midwestern United States should become more frequent, indeed as I previously discussed in a prior post, in the worse case scenario, the whole Mid west could eventually dry out and become a desert (as it was on previous occasions that the planet was warmer than today). Warmer waters in the Atlantic and higher sea levels will make for larger and more devastating storms coming ashore.

A few days ago, the Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, a prominent Republican and one time presidential candidate himself, all but endorsed Obama, largely citing the fact that at least Obama has something resembling a policy as regards dealing with climate change while Romney and many Republicans don’t believe in it (one struggles to understand how that is possible!).

This mirrors a similar situation in Germany in 2002, where the right wing challenger Edmund Stoiber was all but assured of victory. However, a series of storms and floods which hit the country wrong footed him. The media mentioned “climate change” and he mumbled something about “natural variation”. Unfortunately for him it turned out the Germans preferred to have a Chancellor (they re-elected a previously on the ropes Schroeder) who gets his advice on science from these guys in lab coats and things called “textbooks” not from the back pages of Der Spiegel or supermarket tabloids.

But it seems unlikely a similar situation will occur in the US, as the penny has simply not dropped with many Americans. More Republicans think demonic possession is real than climate change! They think they can negotiate their way out of climate change, or that the problem will simply go away if they ignore it for long enough. But of course, nature doesn’t negotiate and its a force we cannot ignore. Similarly, China will only negotiate as regards US debts up to a point. After that they will simply demand they’re money back and refuse the US any further credit.

The last war president?

So even if Romney can side step Hurricane Sandy and the inconvenient truth it leaves in its wake and still makes it into the white house, the chances are, something will come up during his presidency that will call into question the “default” strategy of most prior Republican presidents – make lots of speeches about “self starters” smaller government, etc., cut welfare spending….but otherwise spend money like a sailor on shore leave to the benefit of you’re rich buddies while passing oppressive laws that lead to yet more “big government”!

Romney might well get away with this, but I doubt it, as unfortunately the US is still reeling from Bush “junior” reign of error. Of course historically, Republican presidents have always had a get out of jail free card to use when they make a mess of the economy and run up a massive deficit (having been elected to cut it, not increase it). They go bomb some hapless third world country and go to the polls as a “victorious” war president. It worked for Bush (junior), Reagan and Nixon to name but a few.

However, Romney will struggle to apply this option as GW Bush spent most of the US treasury paying for his two wars and further the whole furore over the WMD’s that weren’t, means he also spent what remains of America’s post-cold war political capital.

The world we now live in is dominated economically not by the US or Europe but the so called BRIC‘s (Brazil, Russia, India, China). So if for example Romney tries to deflect attention from a flat lining economy by bombing Iran (either directly or via his proxy, Israel) he will likely find that some of the BRIC’s, notably Russia and China, taking steps to stop him, especially if this campaign of bombing threatens the supply of oil vital to their economies. They could easily bring America to heel either by threatening to cut off America’s line of credit, bringing in a trade embargo or China threatening to sell some of its $3 trillion dollars worth of US currency reserves (causing a run on the dollar and a collapse of the American economy). Or they could intervene through covert military means by giving the Iranians the sort of hardware needed (such as the Russian S-300 SA system or its Chinese copy) to shoot down American or Israeli jets, or take out a few US warships in the Gulf of Hormuz.

Indeed in some respects the worse case scenario for Romney in the event of war with Iran is to win. The Iranians might be so spooked by this loss and the BRIC’s so worried about loosing control of oil supplies, that they Iranians accept an offer from say China or Russia to station fighter aircraft in an Iranian airbase – meaning the outcome for the US of such a war is that they will now be facing off against another super power in the event of any future war in the region!

If there is one thing American’s need to realise it is that while they have a great country, they don’t rule the world and they can’t hide from either their own problems nor the world’s. As a country America needs to wake up and smell….. the stinky ruins of New York, and confront its problems.


3 thoughts on “Storm over the Atlantic

  1. Only too true, as we know, cuts just make things worse, not better.

    Another thing neither of the two main candidates seems interested in discussing, let alone stopping, is the enormous system being set up to spy on every American who uses any for of electronic communications. Land of the free?


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