Instead they choose to focus on "important" things, like who won Powerball. I had no clue this happened last week. Did you?
It is symptomatic of the national condition of the United States that the worst humiliation ever suffered by it as a nation, and by a US president personally, passed almost without comment last week. I refer to the November 20 announcement at a summit meeting in Phnom Penh that 15 Asian nations, comprising half the world's population, would form a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership excluding the United States.
President Barack Obama attended the summit to sell a US-based Trans-Pacific Partnership excluding China. He didn't. The American led-partnership became a party to which no-one came.
Instead, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will form a club and leave out the United States. As 3 billion Asians become prosperous, interest fades in the prospective contribution of 300 million Americans - especially when those Americans decline to take risks on new technologies. America's great economic strength, namely its capacity to innovate, exists mainly in memory four years after the 2008 economic crisis.
A minor issue in the election campaign, the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative was the object of enormous hype on the policy circuit. Salon.com enthused on October 23,
This agreement is a core part of the "Asia pivot" that has occupied the activities of think tanks and policymakers in Washington but remained hidden by the tinsel and confetti of the election. But more than any other policy, the trends the TPP represents could restructure American foreign relations, and potentially the economy itself.
As it happened, this grand, game-changing vision mattered only to the sad, strange people who concoct policy in the bowels of the Obama administration. America's relative importance is fading.
Where does the United States have a competitive advantage? Apart from commercial aircraft, power-generating equipment, and agriculture, it has few areas of real industrial pre-eminence. Cheap natural gas helps low-value-added industries such as fertilizer, but the US is lagging in the industrial space.
Four years ago, when Francesco Sisci and I proposed a Sino-American monetary agreement as an anchor for trade integration, the US still dominated the nuclear power plant industry. With the sale of the Westinghouse nuclear power business to Toshiba, and Toshiba's joint ventures with China to build power plants locally, that advantage has evaporated.
The problem is that Americans have stopped investing in the sort of high-tech, high-value-added industries that produce the manufactures that Asia requires. Manufacturers' capital goods orders are 38% below the 1999 peak after taking inflation into account. And venture capital allocations for high-tech manufacturing have dried up.
...Without innovation and investment, all the trade agreements that the Washington policy circuit can devise won't help. Neither, it should be added, will an adjustment in exchange rates.
It is hard to fathom just what President Obama had in mind when he arrived in Asia bearing a Trans-Pacific Partnership designed to keep China out. What does the United States have to offer Asians?
- It is borrowing $600 billion a year from the rest of the world to finance a $1.2 trillion government debt, most prominently from Japan (China has been a net seller of Treasury securities during the past year).
- It is a taker of capital rather than a provider of capital.
- It is a major import market but rapidly diminishing in relative importance as intra-Asian trade expands far more rapidly than trade with the United States.
- And America's strength as an innovator and incubator of entrepreneurs has diminished drastically since the 2008 crisis, no thanks to the Obama administration, which imposed a steep task on start-up businesses in the form of its healthcare program.
Washington might want to pivot towards Asia. At Phnom Penh, though, Asian leaders in effect invited Obama to pivot the full 360 degrees and go home.
This isn't a Democrat or Republican problem, it's an American one. It's well beyond time to put aside the petty differences between the side, and start fixing shit. Quickly.
I fear we are at a point that we as a Country are so focused on the minute details, that we are completely oblivious to the giant tidal wave poised to sweep over us.
Think for a moment what the linked piece above is saying- powerful economic coalitions are being built without any United States involvement. I'm sure the Asian Countries are laughing at us: "Sure, America. Keep buying those iPads and Droid phones. We'll keep making them, innovating the next generation of them, and taking your money."
In the meantime, we will continue to innovate very little, export even less, and be dependant on other Countries for virtually everything we consume.
At some point, some other Country will see the USA for the riches it has-agriculture, natural gas, oil, lumber, and wide open spaces, and come to claim it.
Hopefully that day is far off in the future. I worry it isn't as far away as we would like.