Obama’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times today is puzzling. Its vagueness is disturbingly reminiscent of his 2008 campaign, filled with hollow platitudes but nothing new or concrete. The thrust of the article was, on its surface, two-fold: we need to increase our exports to Asia, while simultaneously forging closer economic ties in general.
Admittedly, it is hard to disagree with statements like the following:
“We need to rebuild on a new, stronger foundation for economic growth. And part of that foundation involves doing what Americans have always done best: discovering, creating and building products that are sold all over the world.”
The problem with this statement, as with most of the words that emanate from Obama, is that it is decidedly short on specifics. What kind of products is he suggesting we export? Pencils? Peanuts? The United States these days produces little other than pharmaceuticals, weapons and crops – all of which are currently exported, but clearly are not enough to remedy the record trade imbalances we are recording.
Interestingly, China is not even mentioned in the article, in spite of the obvious fact that it is the world’s number one exporter, and is on pace to soon become the world’s largest economy. It has already surpassed the United States as being the world’s largest consumer of energy, a milestone which received far too little attention here in the States.
To me, the article reeked of desperation. The U.S. economy is, in many ways, being held afloat by the Chinese government. If not for the billions of dollars they purchase each day, the dollar would collapse. If at some point in the future China realizes it no longer needs the U.S. market for its products, these dollars will come flooding back into our economy, causing massive inflation and an economic crisis unparalleled since the Great Depression.
Clearly, Obama is aware of this. And, wisely, it seems he is attempting to forge ties with other members of the Asian economic powerhouse, realizing that our tenuous relationship with China is dangerous for our long-term wellbeing. The problem is, South Korea, Japan and other prosperous Asian nations are equally aware of the impending doom facing the US dollar, so Obama’s outreach could potentially be perceived as groveling – that’s certainly the feeling I got from reading his Op-Ed piece.
The fact is, we will be unable to dig ourselves out of this treacherous trade imbalance without having some sort of specialized product or service to offer. As it stands, we can offer nothing that members of the G-20 cannot find elsewhere – and likely of better quality. Obama hasn’t even proffered a hint as to what goods and services we might hope to export – he merely says, in Bush-esque simplicity, that “exportin’ is good. Hyuk, hyuk.”
Sadly, at this moment in history there couldn’t be a more obvious opportunity for developing specialized goods and services for a momentous change that is quickly and inevitably approaching: the green revolution. The evidence is mounting that climate change is not only real, but happening at a rate far more rapid than even the most pessimistic scientists had predicted. Even ordinary Americans are starting to wake up to the consensus that has been held by the scientific – and international – community for decades.
Regardless of the various forecasts of climate change that one ascribes to, it remains clear that green technology is the way of the future. The United States, led by a charismatic president such as Obama, could take advantage of this coming paradigm shift by leading the way with cutting-edge green technology. The Obama administration should be focusing on developing new and more efficient ways of harvesting renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. Instead, Obama talks about “clean coal” and nuclear fission, relics of our past which should be left to rot in obsolescence. Obama could create mandates for the production of high-performance, zero-emission electric cars, such as those that were in development more than a decade ago (as detailed in “Who Killed the Electric Car?”).
But instead, we receive nothing from Obama but the usual vacuous platitudes about the need to change and rebuild. In the meantime business continues as usual, and the United States continues its long dark slide into economic and political ruin.