Open Letter to the Next US President

From Bernard-Henri Levy, in Huffington Post:

In just fifty days you will be, in theory, the most powerful man in the world.

I say “in theory” because your first challenge will in fact be your country’s decline in power. It’s been so long that we have been hearing about this decline – and now it has finally happened.

He is speaking of global American influence and soft power. American cultural evolution – the kind of cultural innovations that led to jazz, the art in MOMA, and creative breakthroughs in science – has been battered by the conservative culture wars for nearly two decades now.  The cultural creatives Richard Florida suggests will save us? They actually keep a pretty low profile in the age of government-manufactured fear. We create our own culture, locally. The larger landscape of ideas in the US? Well, I guess people can read the damn blogs.

I remember when the (almost O’Reilly conservative) Time magazine reported on US cultural innovation as if the creative culture was something to celebrate. After 20 years of institutionalized, deceitful pontifical moralizing by the philandering Gingriches and the drug-addled Limbaughs, many Americans have lost their original consciences. Perhaps even more sadly, their aesthetic adventure – replaced by high-end consuming that salves the fear. But does not heal the loss of soul.

An international viewpoint and yes, cosmopolitan values are now crucial to an emerging global community. I can only hope that the energized Palin-McCain Republican minority that plays on fear and isolation is a last gasp of the old regime. Many political observers fail to see that the social conservatives are all about distracting their base – and progressives – from the issues that matter to our lives. In the meantime, the real “elites,” the Wall Street CEOs who did OK under the rigged regime of Bush central planning, are the ones benefiting from the bread and circuses distractions of Palin’s bastards. Levy goes on to say there are 3 priorities America must leverage, or its game over:

As long as the world continues to rely on America in the areas of scientific innovation, training the elite and allocating its assets, the important elements will be safe. This from now on will be your task. And your very first priority. Either the United States under your administration sets in place a true research policy, helping its universities retain their lead and reforming in depth its stricken financial system. Or it doesn’t do anything, lets the market play itself out, and delays the implementation of the intellectual, moral and technical reforms its banking system needs – and it will be replaced by others. In a word, Mr. Future President, it will be by using the intangible and in the wider sense culture that you must begin.

Innovation has been democratized now, but let’s hope that some cash is left over from the Wall Street-Fed-housing-credit collapse-broker/dealer/insurance and bank failures to invest. Maybe smaller IPOs are the way to go. And just because American middle class can no longer afford a decent college doesn’t mean the international appeal of US universities has declined. Just look at the emigre enrollment at the good schools! And finally, trust US to allocate your assets? It’s more like “buy US assets pennies on the dollar.” After losing FNMA, Freddie, Bear, Lehman, and Merrill Lynch, the trust may be done. See Krugman today:

And as the unknown unknowns have turned into known unknowns, the system has been experiencing postmodern bank runs. These don’t look like the old-fashioned version: with few exceptions, we’re not talking about mobs of distraught depositors pounding on closed bank doors. Instead, we’re talking about frantic phone calls and mouse clicks, as financial players pull credit lines and try to unwind counterparty risk. But the economic effects — a freezing up of credit, a downward spiral in asset values — are the same as those of the great bank runs of the 1930s.

The defenses set up to prevent a return of those bank runs, mainly deposit insurance and access to credit lines with the Federal Reserve, only protect the guys in the marble buildings, who aren’t at the heart of the current crisis. That creates the real possibility that 2008 could be 1931 revisited.

Now who do you want in the office when that 3:00 a.m. phone call comes in?

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