(Part 1 was here.)
Daniel Gross writes in Slate about the “Rise of American Incompetence.”
The dollar plunged to new lows against foreign currencies this week. There are plenty of reasons for its plunge, but at the most basic level, the dollar’s weakness reflects the world’s collective, two-thumbs-down verdict about the ability of the United Statesâ€”businesses, individuals, the government, the Federal Reserveâ€”to manage the global financial system and the world’s largest economy. Countries that outsourced their monetary policy by pegging domestic currencies to the dollar are having second thoughts. Kuwait last year detached the dinar from the dollar, and Qatar government officials last week said they were considering doing the same with their currency. International financiers are unnerved by the toxic combination of “misplaced assumptions about housing, a lack of necessary regulation and irresponsible use of debt with sophisticated financial instruments,” said Ashraf Laidi, currency strategist at CMC Markets.
Predictions of America’s fall are always exaggerated. We always bounce back. But our self-confidence is starting to seem a little strained this last decade. “We’re number one!” used to be an irritating, but essentially accurate chant. No longer.
The truth is we have fallen off our pedestal. London is now a more important city than New York. Shanghai and Hong Kong may be as well. Delhi?
It’s easy to draw up quite a long list of areas in which we are some distance away from the top spot. Health care? Infrastructure? Primary education? Thanks to Steve Jobs we still make the best laptops and peripheral toys, and thanks to Larry Page and Sergey Brin we still rule the internet. We still make the best movies and TV. We still run publishing for the world. We have far and away the best universities. Cars? No. Planes? Not according to the Pentagon. Financial services? That’s a big no.
Interesting, isn’t it, how many of the areas we still dominate are run by . . . dare I say it . . . liberals? Higher education and entertainment are two of our powerhouse industries. Banking? Hah! Google is a Democrat stronghold. In 2004, 98% of political contributions from Google employees went to Democrats. Bear Stearns? CEO James Cayne went 2.5 to one for Republicans.
We live in the age of the creatives in this country. The age of the manager, the MBA, the CEO, may be fading. I’ll export several million dollars’ worth of intellectual property in the next couple of years. Stuff I just make up while sitting on my front porch. A lot of American writers do the same. What’s Countrywide Financial exported? Incompetence. All by my lonesome I contribute more to America’s balance of trade than many major corporations do.
We’re leaving the “Age Of The Guys In Suits,” and are well into the “Age Of The Guys In Jeans.” Our future as a world power is in the hands of nerds, techies, writers, cameramen, animators, genetic engineers, designers, actors, artists, scientists. It’s all about human potential. As has been said, “the geek shall inherit the earth.”
You know what just about none of those people are? Republicans. Conservatives.
Enron to Iraq to Countrywide. The arc of Republican incompetence. Hollywood to Apple to Google. The arc of the ascendant and reinvented Democrats. No longer the Democrats of NOW and the AFL-CIO. It’s becoming the party of the Geekocracy.
And we of the jeans want very different things than the suits. We do want national health insurance. We want decent roads. We want bandwidth. We want parks and open spaces. We like a different sort of green. We like getting along with the rest of the world. We want equal treatment under the law for gays. We like that wall between Church and State. We don’t like censorship. We don’t own guns. We don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes so long as we can be sure it’s not being wasted.
We’ll always respect John McCain. But we’ll write checks to, and vote for, Barack Obama.