|By John Kusumi |
Pre-September 11, I was ready to vote "no confidence" in the U.S. government. Post-Sept. 11, I am heartened by strong leadership and a changed political climate. Yet, the status quo ante (pre-Sept. 11) is a godforsaken political condition, to which no one should hope to return. No one aspires to return to Auschwitz, and no one should aspire to return to America's "lost decade," politically.
A lost decade exists from the end of the Soviet Union (1991) to September 11 (2001). Prior to that, the Cold War with the Soviet Union was America's defining pre-occupation. Two generations of Americans had this matter as the front-and-center, leading concern of politics. The saga was long running, tense, and expensive.
The ending of the Cold War could have been America's most triumphal and hopeful moment. It could have led to more optimism for the future. The world's people might have taken heart -- thinking about the economists' choice of "guns versus butter," was this not a time when enormous, vast, and mighty resources might be poured, now into butter instead of guns?
And, beyond economics, how about liberty, democracy, justice, equality, and inalienable rights? If America won the Cold War and is known to promote these values, one might expect world wide progress in these matters.
World wide audiences got none of the above. With world leadership unquestioned, it was America's moment at center stage. Did we show a sense of class and style? No. Having military, economic, and political pre-eminence, could we have afforded to be larger about it? --To practice what we preach?
Rather than reach out and provide leadership, America turned inward, leaving friends--and world hopes--twisting in the wind. We can follow the values; follow the private sector money; follow the public sector money; and in each case, see that we failed the world at large, and the free world in particular.
On values, America descended into a values-neutral, "stand for nothing" political correctness. Is someone having a life-and-death holocaust? The politically correct individual doesn't care. Political correctness leads to "Klingon" values, not human ones. (It in fact exists for organizational and institutional purposes, not human purposes, and is pushed by green-eyeshade types.)
Next came globalization, complete with its arithmetic error and faulty economics. Trade deficits, which used to be a stream of capital leaving the country, became a mighty river of economic red ink. Private sector money began to flow to communists, dictators, tyrants, and thugs.
Public sector money did not carry over from guns to butter. The guns money was actually borrowed, and we needed to first balance the federal budget, getting our fiscal house in order. Laudably, Bill Clinton did so. Clinton was able to cough up a multi trillion dollar surplus projection for the out years, and more recently, Republicans came along and said, "We'll take that." If the world was rooting for butter, the resources have instead gone into the pockets of three-martini baby boomers in America.
This, without even fixing social security first. Baby boomers also expect to retire, when Generation X picks up the tab. This will require a 40% tax hike upon Generation X workers.
We could not review America's lost decade without mentioning American working families. They were hit the hardest by globalization, as they watched their factories close and their jobs move overseas, at a needlessly accelerated rate. How wrong would it have been if, in the early 1800s, politicians looked around and said, "Hey--there's an industrial revolution. We don't need agriculture any more"? It appears, more recently, that American politicians looked around and said, "Hey--there's an information revolution. We don't need industry any more." It was wrong, and the dislocations handed to American families are unforgivable.
Post-Sept. 11, it is notable that budget deficits are back, as is an arms buildup. We have had a complete spinning of our wheels; political progress since the 1980s is non-existent. It is as if nothing has happened since the Cold War, except that there are new multilateral trade bodies, enabling the end-around of key American fundamentals.
Prescriptions for the above situation might include dropping the multilateral bodies; generational equity; fiscal responsibility; trade deficit awareness; and backing movements for freedom and democracy around the world. If we befriend the world's people first and their governments second, then the world's dispossessed will feel less attraction to the commission of acts of terrorism.
John Kusumi is a former Presidential candidate (Ind., '84); founder of the China Support Network; and CEO of XDC Software. The China Support Network continues and invites response at Kusumi.com.