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The Death of American Leadership

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Vast numbers of people in the United States and abroad are hoping that President Obama will end America’s illegal wars, halt America’s support for Israel’s massacre of Lebanese and Palestinians, and punish, instead of reward, the shyster banksters whose fraudulent financial instruments have destroyed economics and imposed massive sufferings on people all over the world.  If Obama’s appointments are an indication, all of these hopeful people are going to be disappointed.

Obama chose as his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the man who helped Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, engineer the $700 billion dollar rip off of the US taxpayer, money that was gifted to the banksters who destroyed Americans’ pensions, jobs and health care coverage.

These banksters, and the negligent federal regulators that enabled them, should be put in prison, not handed hundreds of billions of dollars.

Obama’s National Economic Council is just as depressing.  Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is its head.  Summers recently declared that he had no inkling that a financial crisis was about to hit.  Why did Obama put a person without a clue in charge?

Summer’s colleagues are just as bad. Obama has appointed Diana Farrell, lead author of a phony study that claimed offshoring of American jobs is a win-win game for Americans, as deputy director of the National Economic Council.  Farrell is affiliated with McKinsey & Company, a firm that helps American corporations offshore their operations.  In his book, Outsourcing America, economist Ron Hira tore Farrell’s McKinsey report to shreds.

Why not appoint Ron Hira and Nouriel Roubina, who predicted the crisis, to the National Economic Council?

The discouraging fact is that even when faced with crisis in the economy and in foreign policy, the American political system is incapable of producing any leadership.  Here we are in the worst economic crisis in a lifetime, perhaps in our history, and on the brink of war in Pakistan and Iran while escalating the war in Afghanistan, and all we get is a government made up of the very people who have brought us to these crises.

The era of American leadership has passed.  America’s shyster financial system has brought economic crisis to the world.  America’s wars of aggression are seen as serving no purpose except the enrichment of the military industries associated with Dick Cheney.  The world is looking elsewhere for leadership.

Vladimir Putin made a play for this role at Davos, where his speech at the opening ceremony was the most intelligent speech of the event.

Putin reminded the World Economic Forum that “just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasized the US economy’s fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects.  Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist.  In just 12 months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years.”

Putin made his case that the existing financial system based on the US dollar and American financial hegemony has failed.

Putin showed that his economic understanding was superior to that of the Obama team when he said that creating more debt on top of the “hopeless debts,” as Obama is doing, would “prolong the crisis.”

With another swipe at America’s failed economic leadership, Putin said it is time to get rid of virtual money, false financial reports, and dubious credit ratings.  Putin proposed a new reserve currency system to “replace the obsolete unipolar world concept.”

Putin said that a secure world requires cooperation which requires trust.  He made it clear that the Americans have proven that they cannot be trusted.

This was a powerful message.  It got a lot of applause.

Paul Craig  Roberts was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week, and columnist for the Scripps Howard Newspapers.

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Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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