The problem with pacifism, Michael Walzer once observed, is that “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Americans all throughout the Vietnam War were assured by the press that it was “unwinnable” — but Ho Chi Minh and Giap never believed it was anything other than winnable — and proceeded to win it themselves. Some authors have argued that the primary cultural impact of Vietnam was to permanently destroy America’s evil “victory culture” and permanently relocate the enemy to within its borders. We have met the enemy, and it will always be us.
But as the New York Times reminds its readers, nobody else has bothered to buy into the culture of impotence. “The senior leadership of the Chinese government increasingly views the competition between the United States and China as a zero-sum game, with China the likely long-range winner if the American economy and domestic political system continue to stumble, according to an influential Chinese policy analyst.”
Wang Jisi, “who has an insider’s view of Chinese foreign policy from his positions on advisory boards of the Chinese Communist Party and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, writes:
The United States is no longer seen as “that awesome, nor is it trustworthy, and its example to the world and admonitions to China should therefore be much discounted,” Mr. Wang writes of the general view of China’s leadership.
In contrast, China has mounting self-confidence in its own economic and military strides, particularly the closing power gap since the start of the Iraq war. In 2003, he argues, America’s gross domestic product was eight times as large as China’s, but today it is less than three times larger.
In other words, China intends to bury America and sell it the coffin. But why blame the Chinese for something Washington has done to itself? Shortly before his death, the late Steve Jobs met President Obama at a dinner in California, where “each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.”
But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.
Forget about it. Whatever it is. Just forget it. Go home and slather on the patchouli oil because it’s hopeless. That single exchange between President Obama and Steve Jobs summarizes the cumulative effect of the end of the Victory Culture. No only is America resigned to losing, its captains of industry are willing to tell President Obama to his face that it is no longer possible to win. But there is still one conflict that Washington is emerge victorious from. The War on Arithmetic. Walter Russell Mead says that by all accounts, Washington is losing the conflict to borrow itself out of debt.
The blue model continues to crumble in the face of harsh fiscal realities. The latest example: public sector pensions, where desperation over falling returns has pushed fund managers into riskier investments in private equity, real estate, and hedge funds. As the NY Times notes, this hasn’t worked out very well, especially for Pennsylvania:
The $26.3 billion Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System has more than 46 percent of its assets in riskier alternatives, including nearly 400 private equity, venture capital and real estate funds.
The system paid about $1.35 billion in management fees in the last five years and reported a five-year annualized return of 3.6 percent. That is below the 8 percent target needed to meet its financing requirements, and it also lags behind a 4.9 percent median return among public pension systems.
As Pennsylvania and many other states are finding, the investment equivalent of a Hail Mary pass can’t save unsustainable public programs from the assault of arithmetic.
Part of the reason liberals think they can beat arithmetic is that some of them believe you can create money for nothing. The wealth-generating paradigm of the Blue Model was summarized best, by of all people, by Justice Kennedy when he asked Solicitor General how he could justify compelling Americans to buy insurance under the Commerce clause. “Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?,” he asked.
The Solicitor General knew better than to answer in the affirmative. But had Nancy Pelosi been asked, she would have confidently answered that welfare creates net jobs. “Unemployment insurance, the economists tell us, return $2 for every $1 that is put out there for unemployment insurance,” then Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor. In that view mandating things is a virtuous circle. Spend more money, create more jobs. Tax away more money, spend more money. As Jesse Jackson Jr once put it, all you really need to do is require everyone to have an Ipad and a job.
Why didn’t the Chinese think of that?
Joe Biden, in a moment of candor said, “I never had an interest in being a mayor ’cause that’s a real job. You have to produce. That’s why I was able to be a senator for 36 years.” And indeed the academics and politicians who are the theorists of the Blue Model may share the view. Unlike the Chinese leadership, who may have some dim memory of where things come from, there are now a surprising number of people who think all commodities come from the store; and as for jobs, an equally numerous cohort may now believe that the best way to make money is to get it from someone else’s stash. You know, the Man’s Stash. That small-time grifter attitude, so deficient in intelligence and yet so rich in cunning, has suffused even the Obama campaign, which some argue is taking $3 donations so that stolen credit card numbers can be accepted as contributions.
One, the Obama campaign disabled the verification system. The verification system is turned on on web sites that accept credit cards, by default. I used to manage the website for the Texas Republican Party, so I know this from personal experience. Someone had to take the action of turning it off on the Obama site. Two, the Obama campaign can accept donations without the identity of the donor being positively verified. Three, not only can people in foreign countries donate to the Obama campaign in violation of federal campaign law, so apparently can identity thieves who have access to stolen credit card numbers. People who do not know that their credit cards have been compromised may not notice small amounts in the $3 dollar donation range that the Obama campaign has been targeting, when such donations show up on their statements.
Of course grift is how you get money. It surely is if a whole cohort of people know nothing but. What else would they do? Work for wages like the Chinese or extract oil from the ground like those horrid Red Staters? People are beyond that now. They’re beyond a whole lot of other things too. Keith Olbermann ran through 8 limousine companies because none of them met his exacting standards.
“Current went through eight different [limo] companies with Keith. Each and every time . . . he didn’t like them,” a network insider said.
“One time it was that the drivers talked to him, he did not like that the driver saw fit to speak to him. The other time he complained that the driver smelled.”
Olbermann couldn’t even be bothered to put pen to paper, in exchange for his luxury rides.
“He complained that he actually had to fill out the voucher — he refused to sign the voucher for the company to pay for the service,” the source said.
In case you’re surprised, just remember — Steve Jobs knew. He knew. That’s why he could answer with such finality. How America went from a country which bestrode the world in 1945 to what one author called a post-Vietnam nation of “extraordinary losers” will puzzle historians far into the future. Perhaps it can be summarized in one phrase. Think small and elect smaller.