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Martin LeFevre: The Meltdown of America

Meditations (Spirituality) - From Martin LeFevre in California

The Meltdown of America

Is there any doubt left that genuine leadership in meeting the hydra-headed human crisis is absent in the American political system? If so, Friday night’s debate between McCain and Obama completely removed it.

The meltdown of the world’s financial system, emanating from the United States, received barely a mention. Sticking to the debate script that featured the warp and woof of America’s foreign policy, the candidates sounded like they were caught in a time warp, and woof! woof! is all that they had left to offer.

McCain’s condescending attitude toward Obama, and dismissive body language (he refused to even look at Barack, and often appeared to turn his back on him) are receiving a lot of media scrutiny. But what also stuck out for me was McCain’s reptilian tongue flicks. They reminded me of Donald Rumsfeld, and indicate which part of his brain he’s coming from. Coupled with a strange hissing he made when pronouncing the ‘s’ sound, the impression was positively creepy.

But by the next morning the debate was already backdrop to the Save America Bill being hammered out over the weekend in Washington. As the whole world watches, America melts down. But what significance does the collapse of the financial infrastructure centered in the United States have for the rest of the world? Plenty.

The arteries of the world’s financial system are clogged, with the flow of credit and capital seizing up. So what are we going to do? Inject another trillion dollars into the system. Americans are beginning to angrily ask for what—so the fat cats can get even fatter?

The trillion-dollar bailout bill is like going to the doctor when one’s bloated body is completely breaking down, and insisting that she inject you with a massive dose of the same drugs that enabled you to become obese and indolent in the first place. What economists, nationalists, and mainstream media mouthpieces don’t realize is the nature and depth of the crisis. And without a clear perception of that, no prescription will work.

Basically the US government is putting its own credit on the line in taking the incalculable “toxic debt” off the hands of the banks and lending institutions that avariciously incurred it. So much for free market capitalism, and for ‘letting the market do its work.’

Treasury Secretary Paulson can get down on his knees and beg Speaker Pelosi all he wants; the US government no longer has control of the situation. The Bush-Paulson-Pelosi-Reid plan won’t work because the Bush Administration has already destroyed the credibility of the US government. And by going ‘all in’ on a collapsing economic model, it insures that America will decline even more rapidly as the system continues to fall like a “house of cards,” as Bush himself called it.

There are three factors at the core of this crisis that aren’t being addressed by supposedly mature leaders and commentators in America. The first is that the present world order, for which America has been the main pillar and driver, is dissolving before our eyes. The second is that 20th century economic and political instruments (epitomized and led by the US Treasury and Fed) cannot be stretched to fit the 21st century global economy and polity.

The third factor, which is the most easily denied and avoided, is the most important. The ecological and economic dimensions have fused. Nature’s carrying capacity for human fragmentation and rapaciousness has reached a limit, and the depletion and destruction of natural resources (whether land, water, air, or oil) are now producing real-time economic consequences. America is but the most egregious example, and the leading edge, of this unstoppable trend.

The question is, how bad will the growing pains of the global society be? Much worse than they need to be if we keep trying to squeeze our 21st century actuality into the Procrustean bed of a 20th century political and economic infrastructure. That strategy isn’t merely a wasteful exercise in futility; it’s a dangerous diversion of the focus and resources needed to meet the dire, multi-faceted challenges facing humankind.

And yet what is the world getting from America? A trillion-dollar welfare program for the richest bankers and brokers at home and abroad, after flushing a trillion down the drain in Iraq!

To top things off in Friday’s debate, McCain got a pass from Obama and the American media for bizarrely calling for replacing the United Nations.

After making a chilling, uncontested statement in the debate that “Iran’s nuclear program is an existential threat to Israel…and we cannot have another holocaust,” McCain called for a “League of Democracies,” which would exclude Security Council members like Russia and China. He’s not just stuck in a Vietnam era time warp; he’s living in an alternate reality.

The Congress may buy the USA a little more time, and the malevolent Republican rule may even end with an Obama administration, but banking on either is a risk the world cannot afford to take. The question is, what’s going to replace the American system when it crumbles?


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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