Belmont Club

The Mandarins

China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in five years.  According to IMF official forecasts whoever is elected President in 2012 “will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.”

The IMF in its analysis looks beyond exchange rates to the true, real terms picture of the economies using “purchasing power parities.” That compares what people earn and spend in real terms in their domestic economies.

Under PPP, the Chinese economy will expand from $11.2 trillion this year to $19 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile the size of the U.S. economy will rise from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion. That would take America’s share of the world output down to 17.7%, the lowest in modern times. China’s would reach 18%, and rising. Just 10 years ago, the U.S. economy was three times the size of China’s.


That President is likely to be Barack Obama, who according to the Huffington Post, leads in ratings despite a dip in the polls. He will tread the sure path; the path toward progress charted long ago by those who knew what the future looked like: it looked like Europe. You know — the Europe that is bankrupt, demographically doomed and lacking even in the ammunition to defeat the Mohammer Khadaffy. So what matters now is for the custodians of the future to protect and extend the “historic gains” from the resentments of the “bitter clingers”. Maybe it really doesn’t matter who is elected in 2012 since, as Nancy Pelosi argues, so many matters are settled.  She says it a “fact is that elections shouldn’t matter as much as they do” because the “shared values” are already enshrined. But what shared values?

It is safe to say they are shared values of the party in power, the one ensconced in office for many decades: the Party of Incumbency, neatly divided up between the Republicans and the Democrats.  Just how stable their grip is on power was illustrated in November 2010, an election accounted “earthshaking” by the media. Of the 435 seats open for election only 54 incumbents lost their bids. Almost every old face was returned to office.  The very people who have led America to the pinnacle of its present success are returned time and again.

The party of incumbency has won as it has always won. The media focuses on the “tight horse races” and the drama, but it hardly ever reports the fact that the same old, same old people are in charge of things for decades at a time.  The machine on both sides is remarkably stable. Since 2002 only 23% of House Districts have changed hands. The modern princes have fiefdoms whose security would have been the envy of a medieval noble. Primaries in either either party are rarely contested. Whoever comes out of the primary is almost certain to win. And incumbents are almost certain to win the primaries. In 2010 only 4 incumbents, 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans, lost their primary races. The Party of Incumbency has been in office so long it’s a closed club. We can readily understand why Nancy Pelosi doesn’t think elections shouldn’t matter “that much” because they keep recycling the same people.  And so her appeal was to her “friends”, the members of her class.

To my Republican friends: take back your party. So that it doesn’t matter so much who wins the election because we have shared values about the education of our children, the growth of our economy, how we defend our country, our security and civil liberties, how we respect our seniors. Because there are so many things at risk right now — perhaps in another question I’ll go into them, if you want. But the fact is that elections shouldn’t matter as much as they do. … But when it comes to a place where there doesn’t seem to be shared values then that can be problematic for the country, as I think you can see right now.

But she ought not insult the public by declaring that the “shared values” of the Party of Incumbency on the Potomac to be about “the education of our children, the growth of our economy, how we defend our country”. If the IMF is to be credited, those appear to be the values of the Mandarins in China, not the friends of Nancy. For the Chinese Mandarins, national greatness is not yet an embarrassing concept. To the American Party of Incumbency, it’s “God Damn America”, to quote the pastor of an incumbent President. In their case the relevant values are likely to be “I, Me, Mine” and “where’s the stash?”

The truth is that IMF has misstated the problem. Whoever is elected President in 2012 from the Party of the Incumbency “will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.”  Otherwise America may recover and forge ahead. With that important qualification, the challenge remains.


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