Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Missed the Obama party at the Bridge Cafe yesterday. I have three classes on Wednesday. Started at 7 am. I did go there last night and the CNN big screen was still on. Sounds like the Blacks have finally had their day. Barack Obama is not really an American Black, of course; he has no Black ancestors born in the US. He is descended from White America, not Black America. Nevertheless, to his credit, he has always identified with Blacks in America, and he married one. Whatever we may think about Obama, the Blacks have the same right as any other group of Americans to celebrate the election of one of their own. It's their turn.

Lots of people in China ask me what I think of Obama. I tell them that I am nervous about his China policy, because of some of the things he has said about trade with China. Christ Patten (former governor of Hong Kong) expressed the hope that this was mere campaign rhetoric, but I am not very optimistic. Can't seem to find much comfort in the hope that a politician is not being truthful. But there are other factors that may deter him. The fact is that China has gotten rich because the Americans are consumers. Tariffs and other forms of protectionism would be an attempt to curb this consumption. But it isn't only the consumers themselves who are big spenders. The U.S. accumulates debt every year because of operating on a deficit budget. And the massive budget can only be financed by taxpayers who live east of the Mississippi, because it takes all of the taxes paid by all Americans living west of the Mississippi just to pay the annual interest on the national debt, which is over $National Debt and rising by the minute. The Americans are addicted to consumption, and it is this reality that is likely to drive American trade policy with China more than any other. Whether or not the current financial crisis can curb this addiction is an open question.

Republicans have always been known as the party of business. Some would say the "party of the rich," and I think Bush contributed to that somewhat. The Republicans have always defended the accumulation of wealth by saying that businessmen who are willing to take risks in order to generate capital, are entitled to reap the harvests of that capital. But now wealthy Wall Street moguls have taken risks. Big risks. Dangerous risks. Foolish risks. Predictably (or it should have been predictable), they crashed and burned, and now everybody in the country is being asked to bail them out. Clearly this changes the whole picture. They will never again be able to defend the right to keep the fruits of their risks all for themselves. I don't want to get off track; I don't think anyone knows the extent to which the financial crisis influenced the election, but it's hard not to believe that it was a significant factor. This is clearly a watershed moment in American political history, and it is a moment that the world is watching with great interest, because the whole world has been drawn into the sub-prime crisis, which many believe is the origin of the current global melt down.

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