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Will Biden share Bannon’s fate? Both men represent the end of the American republic

'Neither Trump, nor Biden, nor anyone else inside the American political system can be bothered to play anymore.' (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

'Neither Trump, nor Biden, nor anyone else inside the American political system can be bothered to play anymore.' (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


July 1, 2024   5 mins

All eyes are naturally fixed upon Joe Biden in the aftermath of last week’s “debate”. Will he stay in the race or bow out?  Yet there is another, smaller political drama playing out inside the American political system at present, one that is at least tangentially related to the debacle that took place a few days ago.

Steve Bannon is expected at some point today to report to a US prison to start serving his sentence for contempt of congress. His four-month sentence is not in itself the end of the world for Bannon, but there is perhaps a greater symbolism at play. In the early days of the 2016 Trump presidency, Bannon was often seen as the political visionary behind the operation, with many on the Right looking to his heterodox mix of issues and reforms.

For him to go to prison might, therefore, be seen as the end of an era in American politics. We are talking about a period of around half a decade, starting a bit after Trump descended that golden escalator. It was the era of people enthusiastically trying to reform the US political system from the right. Like mushrooms after rain, the success of Trump’s outsider campaign gave birth to a whole ecosystem of organisations and ventures intending whether to capitalise on or assist in the sea change that was surely about to take place. From organs such as American Compass and American Moment, to media ventures such as The Realignment podcast or American Affairs magazine, the early years of the first Trump administration had, at least for the Right, a real sense of “springtime in America”. This was the time where senators such as Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio talked a big game about the Republicans now being a “multi-racial working-class party”; Bannon might have been one of the first people to see a new dawn of opportunity opening up in the wake of Trump’s surprise presidential bid, but many, many others followed in his footsteps.

It is for that reason that Bannon’s trip to prison serves as a convenient bookend for an era that is now well and truly dead. All the hope of reform that existed in 2016 and 2017, the talk of “draining the swamp”, or reindustrialising, or putting an end to new and stupid “forever wars” — all of it ended up amounting to very little in the end. The factories did not come back, the swamp was not drained, and Trump’s administration got bogged down fighting a two-front battle against sabotage from within the state apparatus on one hand, and then its own dysfunction on the other.

“Bannon’s trip to prison serves as a convenient bookend for an era that is now well and truly dead.”

To therefore say that 2024 lacks much of the energy and optimism of the 2016 election would be a massive understatement. Eight years ago, Trump publicly humiliated all of his Republican primary competitors by pointing out that, as politicians, they were essentially for sale, ready to decide American policy based merely on who paid them the most. Today, by contrast, Trump has been reduced to the most high-profile beggar in all of the United States; he is reportedly in negotiations with the widow of Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson for a cash injection of around $100 million, in return for supporting future Israeli attempts to annex more of the West Bank.

Many commentators today seem convinced that the various attempts at lawfare against Trump have amounted to nothing but failure, but the truth is probably a bit more complex: while his polling numbers are still robust, the financial strain Trump has been placed under has in many ways turned him into a very conventional politician. Increasingly, the role of many of his supporters — including politicians such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, as well as Bannon himself — has become one of trying to explain that the King himself is a very good man, but one surrounded by evil and feckless ministers; if only the King wasn’t tricked and led astray by those around him, things would be fine. But this narrative can only survive for so long before people truly start losing faith.

Beyond the failures of the Trump administration, there is now a dawning sense that America itself might be fundamentally unreformable. The debt is skyrocketing, and nobody seems to have a plan to address it. The reality, of course, that unpayable debt can only really be dealt with in one of two ways: either defaulting on the debt entirely (which will never happen), or destroying the value of every individual dollar in the system to the point where any debt denominated in dollars becomes worthless. Such a situation would be a true social, political and financial apocalypse, throwing the country into chaos and destroying the savings and buying power of hundreds of millions of Americans. But nobody has an alternative; the problem is now simply too big to solve. Thus, American pundits and elites sit around discussing future plans, like opening new shipyards or colonising space, even as they all know that the system is bankrupt, both literally and figuratively.

Elsewhere, if Trump’s biggest “sin” in 2016 was denouncing the Iraq war (an act of sacrilege which was rewarded mightily by a grateful electorate), in 2024 he seems unable to really articulate a strong resistance to the next war that many in Washington DC now see as inevitable: a battle with China over Taiwan. With the shrinking of the fiscal horizon, the American political system is reverting to autopilot, hoping that more sanctions, more trade embargos, and more warfare will restore some semblance of control. The era of dreaming of meaningful reform is now mostly over. From Left to Right, there is a sense that the ship is sinking, and that it is simply too late to try to do anything

But another era in American politics is also coming to a close, one that in some sense ties together the future fates of both Joe Biden and Steve Bannon. That is, the era of small-“r” republicanism in the United States.

As far as Bannon is concerned, the partisan lawfare that has led to his prison sentence is merely a small piece of a much bigger resurgence of using the courts and the judicial system as a political weapon. America once had very powerful norms against this sort of thing. Trump may have violated those norms in spirit when he nodded approvingly to chants of “lock her up!” regarding Hillary Clinton, but when he ascended to the presidency, he quickly changed his tune: trying to go after political opponents would simply risk destabilising the entire democratic system, leading to a vicious cycle of tit-for-that prosecutions. Trump respected this basic taboo in deed if not always in word, but this clemency would not be repaid during Biden’s tenure. Lawfare and counter-lawfare, trying to imprison one’s political enemies only to be imprisoned in turn as they return to power, is a lethal kind of poison to any sort of republic or democracy. It is, however, simply the ordinary mode of business in corrupt oligarchies around the world.

Which brings us to Biden. If one considers his atrocious performance during the debate against Trump, and the near-unanimous consensus that the man simply isn’t lucid enough anymore, there’s only really two ways the Democrats can go from here. Either they let Biden stay in the race, at which point it’s merely natural to ask: who will really pull the strings here? Or they dump Biden and pick another candidate just before the Convention in August, but this too leads to the very basic question: is this really much of a democracy anymore? The Democrats conspired to prevent there being a real primary and railroaded Biden through the process; now they are suddenly discussing railroading Biden out and getting someone else to take his place.

Once upon a time, Benjamin Franklin famously replied to a question of what kind of system he and his companions had created for America with “a republic, if you can keep it”. And, despite some ups and downs, the American republic has had a pretty good run. Now, however, it seems very doubtful that anyone is really interested in the “keeping it” part. Neither Trump, nor Biden, nor anyone else inside the American political system can be bothered to play anymore. The game, it seems, is over.


Malcom Kyeyune is a freelance writer living in Uppsala, Sweden

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UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 days ago

I mourn the loss of what America was.

As for the ship sinking analogy, I feel more like a bus off the cliff. The ground is coming up fast, and these people still think steering somehow matters.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 days ago

When the media become partisan and lie to the public for years, bad things happen.

T Bone
T Bone
10 days ago

I love how Malcolm balances creativity and objectivity. He’s like an artist that just fell into journalism. Always balanced and entertaining.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

I agree. The author wrote a balanced essay, but I think it’s a bit too nihilistic. The American system is overwhelming flawed right now, but you can’t simply give up hope and abandon the project. There was some good news with Supreme Court rulings this week, with the Chevron case clawing back power from the administrative state.

T Bone
T Bone
9 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed Jim.

0 0
0 0
9 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

One should never give up hope. Nevertheless, the system that was put in place during the height of The Enlightenment and which Americans continually refer to in words normally reserved for a deity no longer works and one would be willfully blind not to see this. “So”, you may ask, “what do we do?” I have no formula. I/m not smart enough. The only answer that I could give would be that it depends upon (a) the willingness of the citizens of this country to acknowledge that we are faced with problems that cannot be addressed within the framework of a document which was designed in the 18th and (b)the courage to move forward to address them. Thus far, neither step has been taken.

T Bone
T Bone
9 days ago
Reply to  0 0

The US Constitution works just fine. It’s still working better than any system of government on the planet. A tall task for such a geographically large and pluralist nation. A couple recent court cases (especially Chevron) confirmed it.

The problems are real but they aren’t unique to America. The interest on the Debt is the biggest problem and its not really a “Constitutional issue.”

Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
9 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

The US Constitution works just fine. It’s still working better than any system of government on the planet.
hilarious!

T Bone
T Bone
9 days ago
Reply to  Stewart Cazier

Very convincing argument. You really proved your case.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

Indeed. I would go so far as to say the wisdom of our founding fathers in designing such a complex system to balance power between states and the federal government and between the branches of government is basically the only reason the whole thing hasn’t completely fallen apart.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I thought it was overly pessimistic and too economically focused on money. People are far too obsessed with ‘money’ rather than the things money actually represents, or is supposed to represent, that is the productive capacity and collective assets of a nation. The debt is huge, but the US has a huge supply of assets in terms of energy, land, and resources owing to occupying about 1/4 of the continent, and a huge supply of human resources and productive capacity thanks to the promise of freedom that continues to draw people to America. Bankers, financiers, and stock exchanges have had far too much influence for far too long. Equating monetary wealth with real wealth works for comparing individual people but not nation states. National power, productivity, and affluence are not a function of monetary wealth. Monetary wealth is a function of national power, productivity, and affluence, and the US still has a lot of power, a lot of people, a lot of resources, and a lot of everything else. America lost manufacturing capacity and high paying jobs to China and other places who took advantage of free trade principles and slave labor wages, exploiting the greed of America’s bankers and elites. That was a problem. Giving bankers, financiers, and corporations too much power was a problem. Taking it back through populist movements that put the fear of the people back into the risk calculations of elites is the solution. Wasting resources, not money, on pointless conflicts that accomplished nothing and served only the interests of defense contractors also hurt the US in real, rather than monetary terms. Spending money on global organizations like the UN, GTO, IMF, etc. to promote peace and integration led to our enemies trying to use those organizations against us, leading to a real loss of global power and influence. On the whole Trying to, and believing we actually could, build a global community peaceful and free from warfare through economic integration and military power was a foolish, if sympathetic, cause to put resources and effort into. Now, we can see how those resources and efforts have been wasted. Translating into economic terms, the return on these investments has been negligible, a total loss. Throwing away valuable resources and human efforts on hopeless causes is a problem. Abandoning those causes is the solution. The author is both oversimplifying the problem and overcomplicating the solution. Things like the national debt will fix themselves if the US addresses its actual problems and actual mistakes.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
10 days ago

The world will not know how to parse America’s fate until 2028. The person elected in that cycle will be the first post-Boomer president. What Mary Harrington so cleverly called the “Boomerdammerung” will by then be nearly complete and X-ers and Millennials will finally come into their own, two generations that have spent their lives adjusting themselves to the fecklessness of their narcissistic parents. There is cause for optimism that they will do better at sorting our problems. These are the generations that created news outlets such as Unherd and Free Press that are making legacy media much less relevant. It has been said that hope is a slender stem for so heavy a flower but, if they can keep the Gen-Z babies in their playpen, perhaps the future will not be quite so dark. I for one am cheering them on.

0 0
0 0
9 days ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

“There is cause for optimism that they will do better at sorting our problems.”
I hope. But I’m not optimistic (there is a difference). The likelihood is that they probably won’t “do better.” Any more than the Boomers (my generation) did, or my parents (the so-called “Greatest Generation”) did. When us Boomers were in our early twenties our parents were saying the same thing. It didn’t pan out, and that’s because eventually we were saddled with new sets of problems which previous generations never had to deal with. It will be the same for Gen X, Millenials etc.
But we can always hope.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
9 days ago
Reply to  0 0

As fundamentally pessimistic about humanity, I would stipulate the fragility of hope, the slender stem I noted. Perhaps another way to express my sentiments would be to acknowledge the permanence of darkness and the variableness of light across historical times. What gives me relative hope now is the very recent naissance of a cohort of young, intelligent, well-educated, thoughtful, and more principled journalists such as Freddie Sayers here at Unherd and Bari Weiss at Free Press who are fracturing the monopoly of legacy media in ways that are simultaneously revolutionary and deferential to the highest ideals of traditional journalism. They are illuminating recesses darkened by MSM. Of your assessments the only one I would question is an implied equivalence between Boomers and The Greatest Generation. There is a reason the latter earned that appellation, just as there is a reason Boomers have only ever been known by the term applied to them when they were babies, failing to ever deserve a more flattering one.

C Ross
C Ross
7 days ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

Your liberators will always become your conquerors.

Will K
Will K
10 days ago

I fear for my own safety, in this new USA. I feel the Government could crush me, if it wishes to.

Martin M
Martin M
6 days ago
Reply to  Will K

Have you done something to annoy it? If not, you’ve probably got nothing to worry about.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
9 days ago

Biden has been like this for years now. If you really want to understand the state of the American government and Democrat party, ask yourself one simple question. “If Biden is not running the show and has not been for a long time, who is?”
As far a Malcom’s point goes much will depend on Trump’s VP choice. Will he go with a genuine populist like Vance or will he pick someone that will reassure the establishment wing of his party like Scott?

Courtney Maloney
Courtney Maloney
9 days ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

“If Biden is not running the show and has not been for a long time, who is?”

Obama seems to be the popular theory. However, I very recently read commentary, on some post, on some platform, that Obama himself was a puppet. I suppose that makes sense when considering he morphed into everything he campaigned against.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
9 days ago

It’s basically a competing mix of loyal Biden Administration officials, Security State goons (think foreign office) and spooks, crazy activists, Obama’s people, and imbedded long term bureaucrats (think Civil Service). Sometimes they cooperate but other times they fight viciously for their own goals. It’s one of the reasons things are so chaotic. Every once in a while the fights will briefly spill over into the open. Similar stuff actually happened during Trump’s Administration. All you have to do is drop the crazy activists and replace Obama’s people with Bush’s people. Often times they would screw him and his voters over and just do whatever they wanted. It’s the reason he is so obsessed with attacking the federal bureaucracy this term. Right now the administrative state is running the country and there are no breaks on this train.

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago

Really? Who is Obama a puppet of?

Courtney Maloney
Courtney Maloney
7 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

I imagine many of the very same people obviously running the current show and mentioned above by Matt. I do also believe, however, that the string-pulling extends further to include the web of powerful domestic and foreign NGOs” and “nonprofits”.
Admittedly, I have difficulty rationalizing the extreme amount of cooperation then demanded between the various aforementioned. Yet, I find myself unable dismiss the idea as impossible after considering the monumental discipline required for the ideological capture of so many American institutions in an effort to socially engineer a culture that celebrates profound, degenerate indulgences and rejects, in total ignorance, the founding values that enable such an objective; all executed in stealth.
Ultimately, I’m a nobody from nowhere and folks like myself aren’t privy to names.

Martin M
Martin M
6 days ago

Yes, that’s always the problem. Things like this require you to come to the view that a group of people who have nothing in common are secretly working to a common end.

Courtney Maloney
Courtney Maloney
1 day ago
Reply to  Martin M

Precisely. Absolute madness to ponder an idea that functions similar to American fantasies about the US House and Senate, respectively and collectively; “publicly,” however. Lunacy!

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Scott, hopefully. When it comes to the need for a “genuine populist”, Trump himself has that part of the ticket covered.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 days ago

No country with a debt greater than its GDP can call itself a ‘republic’ or a ‘democracy’. It automatically becomes a bankers’ oligarchy. The USA and France are gone already. If what we expect happens in the UK this week then we’re next.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
9 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

That seems like a rather arbitrary place to draw such a fateful line.
And with both the US and France potentially on the verge of real populist change, I think you’re being far too pessimistic.
Come back in a year and tell us what you think then.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 days ago

The bond market will put a stop to meaningful change in France just as it has in Italy. You don’t have a democracy if someone else controls your currency.

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Staying out of the Euro was the best decision Britain made.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
9 days ago

The debt issue is the big one. Someone needs to have the courage to admit the State is bankrupt and cannot afford the luxuries of welfarism which wealth once enabled. We have to stop indulging in luxuries, wake up to reality and plot a path to sustainable national solvency based on individual responsibility . But who amongst our current crop of snake oil salespeople politicians has the foresight, ability and guts to do that?

Terry M
Terry M
9 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Where have you gone Ron Paul? Our country turns its lonely eyes to you.
Oh, wait, there’s RAND Paul. If only he could get elected Prez.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
9 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

No one with that courage will ever be elected into a position to do anything about the issue. Everyone rails about govt excess, but never about the programs that benefit themselves. A functioning political system relies on making it advantageous for even the wrong people to do the right things.

Charlie Walker
Charlie Walker
9 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

I may be misremembering but isn’t 2/3rds of US debt owned by the Chinese? All a bit awkward if the Chinese decide to more than just claim Taiwan!
But…. The Chinese play a very very long game, while the US has increasingly short term horizons…

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 days ago
Reply to  Charlie Walker

That’s not correct. I believe Japan still holds more, and foreign held debt is only 1/3 of the total, and in a real crisis, part or all of such debt can and probably would be dissolved by political fiat. Much of this debt comes from a time of greater geopolitical stability, when the US was still regarded as an unstoppable economic juggernaut. China bought them as part of an overall plan to drive economic growth through combining a large and cheap labor supply and direct government investment in manufacturing to create a competitive advantage and become the world’s factory floor. It’s the same strategy employed successfully by, guess who, Japan back in the 70’s and 80’s. The difference is that Japan had been an ally of the US by treaty since 1945 by then and had no significant military/expansionist ambitions. China is not and does, and that creates a different set of risk factors which the Chinese now must contend with. Long story short, mercantilist policies have proven extremely effective when used by individual countries in a global marketplace where the dominant players are all laissez-faire liberal in mindset, but this can only last until said mercantilist players are small enough to be ignored. It’s basic prisoner’s dilemma. Liberalism is technically good if every nation adheres to it, but there’s a strong incentive for each individual nation not to. US economic and military dominance overshadowed these factors for decades, but China’s growing strength and the US’s weakening have tipped the scales. This is why the globalist era is ending and why we’re going back to something more historically normal, a multipolar world with spheres of influence, balances of power, and economic nationalism (mercantilism).

Most countries have greatly reduced their purchase of US debt in recent years for obvious reasons. The US looks weak geopolitically and economically. In a real revolutionary government collapsing sort of crisis, part or all of this debt could be simply erased by political fiat. That sort of thing was basically unthinkable as recently as 2015, but today it’s considered within the realm of possibility, very improbable but not impossible given the right crisis, and things seem to be getting worse. It’s a risk for all foreign investors, but a much greater risk for countries who have significant conflicts with the US and allies like Russia and China. Canceling China’s debt has been discussed in regards to a Taiwan invasion scenario as part of a sanctions program comparable to Russia, and unlike Russia, China’s economy is so intertwined with the US that similar sanctions would be felt. Yes, the US would feel them too, but most experts believe that China still needs the US more than the US needs China. The effects on the US would be severe, similar to some of the supply shocks from COVID and from China’s ill advised zero COVID strategy, but in the longer term, factories can be built elsewhere, even if not in the US. The effects on China would likely be much harder for them to reverse. Besides the US, China’s other largest trading partner is Japan, which is almost guaranteed to join any sanctions or hostilities against China. South Korea, Vietnam, and India are also high on that list and might participate to some extent as well.

The Chinese know that, and are trying to reduce their holdings of US debt, but so is everybody else because the US looks geopolitically and economically weak. As we know from basic supply and demand, the more sellers you have, the lower the price. Further, high inflation is the absolute bane of bond prices. China is in a situation where they have pressing political need to sell during a time when selling means losing a lot of money on their investments. It’s yet another important lesson on the failures of globalism. Economic goals may or may not align with political needs.

Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
9 days ago
Reply to  Charlie Walker

No, the Chinese never owned that much, and both the proportion that they hold and the absolute amount has been declining for years. Even since they broke cover and made clear that they didn’t intend being an US vassal, they have been running down this achille’s heel to minimise their exposure.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

‘Someone needs to have the courage to admit the State is bankrupt and cannot afford the luxuries of welfarism which wealth once enabled’
So you think welfare should be stopped before unnecessary wars?
America is an abomination, they deserve to fail…

Terry M
Terry M
9 days ago

Best analysis I’ve yet seen from Malcolm. Bravo!
Some cogent items that the MSM fails to understand, such as:
Trump may have violated those norms in spirit when he nodded approvingly to chants of “lock her up!” regarding Hillary Clinton, but when he ascended to the presidency, he quickly changed his tune: trying to go after political opponents would simply risk destabilising the entire democratic system, leading to a vicious cycle of t*t-for-that prosecutions. Trump respected this basic taboo in deed if not always in word, but this clemency would not be repaid during Biden’s tenure.
As it was said in 2016, take Trump seriously, but not literally. He is stating his gut beliefs, not policy. And Biden’s puppeteers have gone down that dark road to a ‘lethal kind of poison.’
And congrats on understanding that Democrats are the real enemies of democracy, as you can judge by how they conduct their internal affairs:
The Democrats conspired to prevent there being a real primary and railroaded Biden through the process; now they are suddenly discussing railroading Biden out and getting someone else to take his place.
And who can forget the Dems blocking Bernie Sanders in 16, or coercing Biden’s rivals in 20? Their democracy talk is pure hypocrisy.
We are in a very, very dangerous time period, the worst since October 1962.

Robert
Robert
9 days ago

“The game, it seems, is over.”

I wish I could disagree.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
9 days ago

Bannon was ‘guilty’ of contempt of Congress, which is pretty much how the entirety of the nation views that legislative body. Biden, meanwhile, is responsible for how many deaths – American, Ukrainian, and who knows which others – not to mention the self-enrichment campaign born of using his son as the bagman for selling influence.
Bannon and Biden are equivalent characters in the same vein as the man who pushes little old ladies out of oncoming traffic and the man who pushes little old ladies into oncoming traffic both being characterized as men who push little old ladies.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
9 days ago

Not only the US has a debt problem, also the UK, most of the EU, Japan, many developing countries, and now China. The system keeps going on new debt, there would be no economic growth without new debt, and without it everything will crash, we live in giant ponzi scheme. That’s why a house valued at 100k in 1980 is worth a million today, that’s why stock markets keep going up despite the massive overvaluations, that’s why people could live on 25k a year in 1980 and today a couple needs 100k and still can’t afford to have kids. Of course the system is broken, but they will keep printing until there is no tomorrow, that’s why they desperately want to reduce interest rates despite the fact that 5% is not historically high, so they can borrow more and keep the system from crashing. US national debt is going to 50 trillion by 2030 or shortly thereafter, the politicians don’t know what to do, Trump has no clue either, if he brings in more tax cuts for the already rich, the deficits will increase The notion of growing your way out of the debt is a fallacy, it can’t happen and won’t. The debt was about 5 trillion in 2000 , went to 1O trillion under Bush, then 20 trillion under Obama, then 27 trillion under Trump , now it’s close to 35 trillion. Balanced budgets are no longer possible without triggering an economic depression, good luck with any politician who wants to do that.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
9 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

“Trump has no clue either …”

Have you been reading his mind?

I expect he’s saving the best to last.

Timing is EVERYTHING!

At least, I hope so.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
9 days ago

I’m sure the old man has it all figured out, like his golf handicap. Scary thought him saving the best for last

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
9 days ago

As an American and a Boomer, I abhor what has happened to my country and lay the fault with the Boomers and early Gen X’ers, the greediest and most amoral generation in our Country’s history. We have dried-up prunes governing, cadavers running our tech sector, and Gordon Geckos in every major financial house. The politican’s. senior bureaucrats, and academia sold out to the highest bidder a long, long time ago and that is never going to change. Our Tech “masters of the universe” are owned by China and well, it appears as Dr. Fauci. Grim, it is. However, don’t count out the Republic yet. I see real hope in the millennials, but my bet is on the Zer’s. and I will do everything I can to help them. In discussions, I have told them more than once that if I was their age I would be at the barricades trying to screw these “Elite clowns” as they have screwed them. We will see. The Clowns are cunning and have used caring, feeling, green, and any other decent human impulse to manipulate and sell their shit, including the horrible identity politics to all of us. I believe the world is starting to wake up.

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago
Reply to  Mark epperson

The Zer’s should have plenty of time to help, given that they are living at home with their parents, and have their moms to do the cooking sand the washing.

Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
9 days ago

America has no strong national reason to defend Europe.

Jo Jo
Jo Jo
9 days ago

My guess is Biden will withdraw ‘gracefully’ quite soon, aided and abetted by those around him, who will likely already be arranging/have arranged a replacement puppet. If only it could be a non-puppet such as RFKJr, or a similar politician.

Rob N
Rob N
8 days ago
Reply to  Jo Jo

If RFK Jr agrees to be the Dem candidate then he is clearly not any sort of solution. Currently he seems to understand that the Uniparty is the problem and needs destroying.

Martin M
Martin M
7 days ago
Reply to  Jo Jo

I think RFK Jr’s superpower is the ability to make Trump look sane by comparison.

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
9 days ago

Sadly, I can’t find anything wrong with this analysis.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 days ago

Humanity creates some things deliberately and some things inadvertently, and sometimes a combination of both. The global economy is one of the most complicated things ever created by man, and this author is greatly, greatly oversimplifying things.

For one thing, the US’s economic weakness, including the large national debt, isn’t just a problem for the US. In a global economy it’s literally everybody’s problem. The US still drives a huge chunk of global economic activity. If the US economy collapsed, so would a lot of other places. This is what happened in 1929 when few people even had any concept of a global economy and when the US was regarded as simply one of the world powers, not the preeminent global superpower. The US stock market crashed and that triggered the Great Depression that occurred everywhere. The underlying causes of the Great Depression in various places where it was more or less severe are still debated by historians and economists. If the US economy collapsed in the way the author suggests, the crisis wouldn’t be limited to the US. It might be nearly as bad in other nations. In some places it might even be worse. The Great Depression was arguably more severe in Germany, and we all know how that played out.

Secondly, the national debt is not well understood by most people. About half of it is owed in some form by the government to itself. Since the Federal Reserve is technically an independent organization, they can sell treasuries to the US government. It’s similar to how large corporations can shuffle money between the organizations they own in different regions, countries, and industries to gain economic and financial advantages. The national debt is a creature that is manipulated by the Federal Reserve and the government to control inflation and influence financial markets and various other purposes. The end result is that the Fed is printing money that the government spends on whatever its trying to do. Traditional monetary theory suggests that this should lead to high inflation as the money supply increases. That hasn’t happened, and the period of low interest rates, a skyrocketing debt, and continued low inflation has gone on for decades. The debt has been a political bogeyman and Republican talking point since I can remember. In Japan, they’ve had zero interest rates and even pushed interest rates into negative numbers just to try to stave off deflation, which most economists agree is worse than inflation, and they haven’t been entirely successful. Clearly, it’s more complicated than we thought, so other theories have emerged. Modern Monetary Theory argues that the debt is essentially a meaningless number. It’s a complicated field of study, but the basic contention is that inflation isn’t driven exclusively by the printing of money, and you can print as much money as you want and spend as much as you want while inflation remains low. The cause of today’s high inflation is not exclusively related to government spending and may not even be a decisive factor. Arguably, geopolitical conflict, the Ukraine war and the escalating US/China conflict, and fears of worse to come are driving the inflation as investors expect these trends of geopolitical conflict and the fracturing of the global economy to continue.

Lastly, the fact is nobody knows everything about how the global economy works. We only have a few hundred years of history to instruct us, and technology and political organization has changed enormously over that period, calling into question many of the conclusions we might draw. This is literally uncharted territory. We don’t know how high the US debt can go without some sort of catastrophic collapse. Yes the debt is huge, but so is the US economy overall, and the dollar is still the dominant reserve currency globally, so the US national debt might not reflect only the debt of not just the US, but the entire global economic system. Almost nobody would contend that American politics and economic policy isn’t relevant to Europe, or Japan, or China. If the US government lowered spending and stopped printing money, the effects wouldn’t necessarily be confined to the US.

It’s important to remember than money is just an abstraction. It is not the same as assets, productive capacity, natural resources, technology, or the human resources whose labor and creativity drive innovation and growth in societies. Money is supposed to represent those things in total, and the US, regardless of its present political problems, which are many and obvious, still has a lot of all those things. How high can the US debt go? Nobody knows. Most economists agree the debt shouldn’t grow faster than the the economy, but we don’t really know where the ideal ratio of debt to GDP actually is, and how much the use of the dollar as a global currency affects that ratio. Maybe the US debt is too high, and maybe it’s too low. We simply don’t know.
My belief is that the greatest threat is de-dollarization. If China and Russia succeed through BRICS+ in creating an alternative currency, the need for dollars globally is sure to decrease, which will surely decrease America’s ability to continually issue new debt denominated in dollars. It could result in inflation that the US has no economic method to stop. It is likely to result in a political intervention driven by angry Americans who will elect anyone who promises to stop the crisis. America’s isolationist tendencies, which are already pushing hard against political elites, will grow even more pronounced. America will withdraw from the global economy before they allow it to be turned against them. Is this fair given how much Americans have benefited from the global economy? No, it isn’t remotely fair, but what is? BRICS+ might be able to recreate something comparable, or they might not. What they create might or might not be any better or fairer than what we have today. Either way, it will permanently break the global economy as it currently exists. America will turn inwards, circle the wagons around its own assets, its own people, its own zeal for personal freedom, and play hardball. Part of Trump’s appeal was this. No more forever wars, no more world police, no more good guys in white hats riding to the rescue. Instead, it’s America first. It will be bad for all concerned, but as an American, I’m not worried about starving or running out of energy anytime soon. Some people probably should. This author seems to be on a growing kick America while she’s down bandwagon, and I can’t entirely blame him, but he should be careful what he wishes for. America has a darker side that the world has not seen, because it wasn’t really paying that much attention from 1776-1914. I don’t really want to see it again myself.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
8 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Excellent comments, there are so many moving parts it’s difficult to get a handle on it all, that’s why opinions by economists and others who spend their lives following and analyzing this stuff vary so much. Impossible to know where it’s all going, many people were catastrophising the debt years ago when it was under 5 trillion, now it’s heading towards 50 trillion. That’s also why all governments want moderate inflation, and fear deflation the most. Inflation is subtle, just 2% per year for 10 years results 22% decline in purchasing power, over 20 years it’s a 48% decline. So the value of money keeps eroding. As for brics replacing the US dollar, they may try to decouple, but this will be resisted by Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and many others who are part of the system. Most so called brics are actually very weak economies on a per capita basis, and have huge problems as well, compared to the west. China is extremely dependent on exporting to the US, Europe and others for their economic survival, they can’t break with the west, and they know it, China wants social stability in China and can’t allow an economic depression. People don’t realize how codependent the system is, there is no way to break away from it without courting disaster and triggering a global depression. No one will survive on their own with massive unemployment and social breakdown, and economic collapse. All these Trumpists who believe they can isolate from the world and do well on their own are dreaming a fantasy, and will be severely disappointed

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

First off, my fortress America prediction is predicated on the success of BRICS+ in creating an alternative currency leading to uncontrollable inflation and angry American voters taking drastic measures to stop it, such as cancelling foreign debt, closing international money transfers, etc. In a true crisis, there are extreme tactics which might be employed to stop the bleeding. Of course it would trigger a global economic depression, hence my warning. Americans will do it. They’ll elect someone who will push the economic nuclear button out of anger even if it makes things worse in the short term, which it certainly would.
That said, just because it could happen does not mean it will happen. It’s a plausible doomsday scenario, but it’s unlikely for the reasons you point out. As you say, BRICS+ quest to create an alternative currency will face strong headwinds and there are plenty of reasons to doubt it will ever be successful, not least of which the two biggest players have autocratic governments, expansionist ambitions, and are clearly hoping to use BRICS+ as a vehicle to build a large global anti-American alliance and wage economic warfare with the USA. The countries you mention will certainly oppose it, because if the US economy collapses, America’s closest allies will probably be dragged down with it. I don’t anticipate this happening. I just see it as one possibility. Another probably more likely possibility is that the world bifurcates into two opposing blocs much like the first Cold War. This will also have severe economic consequences and probably trigger a recession but won’t be as awful as my nightmare scenario.
As for the success/failure of America in the isolationist scenario, it really depends on the time scale we examine. In the short term, obviously it would cause a depression, but in that scenario, the crisis has already begun and we’re talking about extreme measures and angry, irrational people. I cited Trump’s success as evidence of the success of this viewpoint and America’s isolationist tendencies. In American football we have a saying. The most popular player on a losing team is the backup quarterback. In other words, when the situation is bad, people look for whatever alternatives are available. If one thing isn’t working, they’ll try something else, anything else. Bad alternatives start to look better if the situation deteriorates enough.
Over the longer term, fortress America is viable, if not as efficient or wealthy as the America of 1945-present. There would be massive changes and likely a reduced standard of living in strictly material terms, but over the long terms, there is very little that can be made, mined, or farmed that can’t be made, mined, or farmed somewhere in the US, possibly at higher costs than elsewhere, but yes, America can be self sufficient in the same way Russia is. Russia was cut off from the US and all of Europe economically, and while it has hurt them, it hasn’t destroyed them in the way westerners thought.
Moreover, I believe a fortress America would crush the international aristocrats who have gotten us into the current mess, allowed China to exploit the system out of greed, ignored the middle class, allowed real wages to stagnate and decline, and presided over the greatest rise in economic inequality since the Gilded Age. This is why I’m essentially neutral on the possibility. Yes, it would be bad. Yes it would make us all poorer, but sometimes it’s worth making a sacrifice in the short term to accomplish things over a longer term and create an environment of change by making change mandatory rather than voluntary for those people and organizations who resist change. I don’t want to be ruled by international bankers. I want to live in a democracy and have some say in my own governance and have the people’s will and interests be respected by my rulers. Anything that gets us to that point is good. I don’t think it’s desirable or necessary to blow up the global economy and withdraw entirely, but I could be wrong. There are scenarios where I can see it happening and being the least bad option for the long term.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 days ago

Listen, this is just another battle in the ruling class’s war on the ordinary middle class.
First there was Nixon, and the ruling class dumped him.
Then there was Reagan, and the ruling class tried to dump him with Iran Contra.
Then there was Trump and the ruling class tried to dump him from Day One.
The problem, from the ordinary middle class’s point of view, is that we “don’t get no respect” from the ruling class.
Why is that, dear rulers? Is everything OK down in the engine room?

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
8 days ago

Weak

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 hours ago

this writing is callow, like much in Unherd, it is more gossipy than serious. It’s satisfied by an air of glib despair and stirred by a directionless polemic, appearing more as a projection of resentment with invidious sound bites

Last edited 9 hours ago by UnHerd Reader