A recent study by UBS shows that, among the member nations of the Group of Eight, residents of Los Angeles need to work by far the shortest time — less than 10 hours — to pay for an eight-gigabyte iPod nano (which UBS calls an “ideal example of a globally uniform product”). Montreal comes next, 10 percent longer than L.A., followed by London (15 percent longer), Tokyo (25 percent longer), Berlin (50 percent longer), Paris (60 percent longer), and Rome (twice as long).
Bringing up the rear in its usual fashion is the G8 interloper, Russia. Muscovites in Russia’s capital city must work more than three times longer than Angelinos (a whopping 36 hours) to afford an iPod — and this grossly understates the Russian burden. Moscow, unlike virtually any other major city on the planet, usurps the national wealth to an obscene extent.
Its vastly disproportional wealth means that the picture is far more dismal elsewhere in the country, where people face double-digit unemployment and consumer price inflation and work for pennies per hour, just like in the most dismal third-world state. Recent studies show tuberculosis is running rampant in Russia, as is alcoholism and a wide variety of other social ills. As a result, while the other G8 members are world leaders in adult lifespan, Russia does not even rank in the top 130 nations of the world in that category.
Yet despite this manifest American leadership — and indeed, dominance over Russia — U.S. President Barack Obama will not lead. Instead, of all things, he plans to follow Russia.
A month ago, the heroic leaders of Eastern Europe got down on their knees and begged Obama not to renege on George W. Bush’s promise to give them a missile defense system and not to give in to Russian threats and remonstrations, which were obviously designed to keep the former Soviet slave states within Russia’s imperial reach. Having seen Russian tanks rolling into Georgia, who can doubt that the Putin regime has long-term goals of reacquiring the “sphere of influence” that brought so much terror and loss of life to Eastern Europe just a few decades ago?