The Current Discussion: What's the first thing you hope Barack Obama does as President-Elect?
Today will inevitably turn into a day of expectations, forward presumptions and various kinds of games, guesses and guarded spin. It will not be a surprise to read forecasts about the next election in 2012, even though Job Number One for the president-elect will be damage repair.
Notwithstanding the distractive and entertaining theater of expensive electioneering in American politics, the skyscrapers of debt are still on fire, even though the sitting administration chants “lend, baby, lend!” Somehow, these operators are detached from the raging fire in the other (and more real) markets for goods, services and labor where profits, jobs and taxes are generated. These burning twins of destruction have gone supra-national beyond the borders of the United States, or city limits of New York and London, and have spread to other capitals and financial centers—even the city-state countries in the Persian Gulf that are flush with cash. The Kansas farmer-turned-ethanol producer or the young aspirants of capitalism from Eastern Europe to South Africa, Korea and Bangladesh are also burning as plans of money flows and capital investment around the world have crashed and burned and in turn, an implosion of world trade and WTO has ensued. The daily hire rates of ships for movement of goods around the world, for example, have dropped some 75 to 85% on the Baltic Exchange within a 4-5 month period. According to an analysis of the Financial Times, Volvo of Sweden took 42000 orders for trucks in the third quarter of 2007, but only 115 during the comparable period in 2008.
Much of this alarming and very realistic flop is pegged to the report card of the sitting administration in Washington that, elections notwithstanding, shall have a further three months at the wheel of governance without heed to party politics or worry about reputation. That is not good news where militarist phantasms of the current president remain incomplete and might be used as a distraction from the economic implosion.
Hence, the first real step of the president-elect of the United States ought to be for a forceful demand for immediate resignation of the sitting president and his vice president. The president-elect ought to enlist the media and the electorate in this call for early resignation. Unlike other democracies, the United States does not have a legal system that allows early elections by a vote of no confidence. With popular pressure and a strong, cool-headed argument via the media, a quick resignation and a special caretaker governance scheme could be crafted for a transition period which, at a minimum, can mitigate further damage and unclog the path. It shall be serve as a clear and unmistakable signal and prevention of further systemic damage and shall put the world on notice that America is serious about turning the page. This ought to be followed by a simple and realistic pronouncement of forthcoming financial and economic policies, perhaps a modern New Deal, with plain acknowledgement of bad news and simple definition of work scope, looking ahead in a crisp timeline.
A mid-November meeting of the top twenty economies will be convened in Washington to reformulate the old Bretton Woods Agreements and converge upon a new model of financial and regulatory disciplines (alas, the Bush Administration has not invited Spain, the world’s 8th largest economy, on grounds of ideological gaps with the socialist prime minister). But who will listen to yesterday’s rhetoric of wild rides and stale old tales of freedom fries from George Bush? Amongst the attendees-- the debtors, the creditors, the novice capitalists or the undemocratic flush with cash, who will bother to analyse any initiative of a failed politician of almost peerless stature and his record? Will the other 19 take “debt printer-in-chief” Paulson seriously—or his vague ideas of changing botched banks into aimless, unregulated zombie enterprises?
In this rapid downward spiral of world markets, the speed of events could eclipse the patience of others in the world. Many countries simply do not have the means, or the ability, to wait for another three months for the Inaugural Ball and a subsequent three months for fresh policy to come out of Washington. Nor has the American society and its internal politics of sharp (cold civil war) differences, where more than 200 million guns are in private hands and a looming economic scenario, the means to impede tumble towards a modern Weimar Republic of American States in the 21st century.
The president-elect will not have executive power until Inauguration Day. But he does have the power of persuasion in his sail as well as the attention of voters in this election. A call for resignation might well be a radical step, but it will serve as the first strong, and most necessary, signal to the world that mitigation of damage to political, and material, capital of America is a matter of national (and not merely personal, ideological) policy-- something that is desperately in need of urgent repair.
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