Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Bolsheviks Are Coming! (Part I)

Suppose you are an American. And suppose you spent the last 60 years laying in quiet repose in a freezer chest after expertly injecting yourself with enough glycerine to keep ice crystals from disrupting your cellular membranes. Lord only knows why the heck you did that, but that’s all past tense now. Anyhow, now it’s 2019 and for some other unfathomable reason your great-grandchildren dig you out of the freezer chest, defrost you, zap you a few times with a cattle prod to get your heart pumping, walk you around for a bit while feeding you strong black coffee and here you are again, good as new and ready for action.

Next thing you know your great-grandkids (or so they say) start telling you about life in America in 2019. They tell you that rent now eats up half of their incomes and that they can’t even dream of ever buying a house, never mind hoping to ever own it free and clear. They tell you that their college tuitions will take them a lifetime to repay and will probably eventually come out of their retirement savings (if they ever have any, which they presently don’t). They tell you that instead of leaving an inheritance their parents passed away leaving them useless, run-down property encumbered with huge medical debts for their end-of-life palliative medical care. When you wonder where all the children have gone, they patiently explain to you that it is now too expensive to have children, even with both mommy and daddy working full-time, unless mommy is a single mother, in which case the government pays her based on how many children she has with random men who aren’t allowed to live with her (and spend most of their time in jail in any case).

All of this unwelcome new information leaves you somewhat bewildered, but having been a man of the world with a wide mental outlook and a head for numbers you decide to zoom out a bit and take in the big picture, to see if you can figure out what the hell happened to your country. And you discover that the US government has gone well over $20 trillion into debt and is on course to continue taking on around $1 trillion in new debt every year just to stay solvent. You discover that something like half of that debt is owned by foreign countries that are actively arguing among themselves about the best way to unload it and stock up on gold instead. You are shocked to discover that federal, state and local governments have taken on some truly ridiculous amount of liabilities, to the tune of hundreds of trillions depending on how you estimate them, with no conceivable way of covering them.

And then you hear that the best and brightest hope for the US being able to claw itself away from the edge of the largest financial abyss the planet has ever experienced is something called Modern Monetary Theory, according to which sovereign governments can print money at will to make sure that their resources (natural and labor) are fully utilized and can do this with no negative consequences whatsoever. Being of an analytical bent of mind, you find it extremely hard to see how a country that owes trillions to foreigners, imports half of everything it consumes, no longer manufactures much of anything and would be forced to declare sovereign default shortly after it stops borrowing larger and larger sums can be called sovereign. The term doesn’t apply to what to all appearances is a permanent custodial arrangement with private transnational and foreign entities, with ¾ of the roughly $2 trillion of US cash, mostly in bundles of $100 bills (which few Americans have ever seen) held abroad. And so, although realizing that you are perhaps being a bit too quick to jump to conclusions, you nevertheless cannot repress the feeling that in this case unconstrained money printing will give exactly the same result as it has in every other case—Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, etc.—namely, hyperinflation and economic collapse.

Delving a bit into military matters, you discover that the US spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined, maintains a thousand military bases all over the planet, but hasn’t prevailed in a single military conflict since World War II. You also find that the US has fallen far behind both Russia and China in weapons development, to a point where most of what the US has is obsolete and completely useless. Finding it difficult to obtain useful information about the rest of the world from American mass media sources, you put your linguistic training to good use and find that around the world people are actively laughing at and ridiculing Americans for their boneheaded obstinacy in claiming military superiority when in fact they are now woefully inadequate on every level except when it comes to embezzling public funds—the one category where they are truly matchless. And so you reach an obvious conclusion: clearly, the United States has lost the Cold War.

Finally, you hear the worst news of all: the highest office in the land—the one in the White House—has been taken over by a tyrant and a usurper, a racist-sexist-misogynist-fascist-homophobe (yadda-yadda), a megalomaniacal vandal who was installed by the Russians. But this, you are told, is about to change: in 2020 there will be a glorious new election in which droves of young people will show up and vote for a thoroughly socialist administration that will destroy the old world order down to the foundation and erect a brave new world in its place. Scores of companies will be nationalized and forced to serve public needs instead of trying to be profitable. There will be free health care, free education, open borders and a guaranteed income for all. And Modern Monetary Theory will pay for all of it. In the process, greenhouse gas emissions, cow farts and all, will completely disappear; hot air exhaled by politicians will contain only noble gases; cows will be reprogrammed to produce soy milk. With help from magic elves, cars will be powered by wind generators and solar panels. Chains of tradition shall be rent asunder and a perfect new world shall be born full of racial and gender equality and guaranteed positive outcomes for everyone. Being well versed in history, you do not have to think too hard about what this new political movement should be called: Bolshevism. And since you already know how that story ends, you climb back into your freezer chest to wait things out.