A Banana Republic

In his legendary Graceland album Paul Simon has a memorable refrain- ” These are the days of miracles and wonders, this is the long distant call, don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry.” How appropriate for the times we live in. With the wave of a $ 700 billion hidden hand, the Bush Administration creates a financial miracle and brings an aura of wonderment to all those troubled lending houses.  That long distance call may be coming from China, which holds our future in those U.S. treasury notes. And the crying is that of a nation which sits on a 401K ledge hoping not to fall into the abyss.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the mega bailout probably will help avoid a Depression-like financial collapse, but it’s highly unlikely that this country will ever recoup its money after all those foreclosures are whisked off the books. Meanwhile, the national debt explodes to somewhere around $12 trillion. So one crisis is put to rest ( or maybe just delayed) and a new crisis is amplified.  If anyone believes that happy days are here again, I have a catchy phrase you should remember-“the fundamentals of the American economy are strong.”

It would be nice if the economy bounced back in 2009 and we gradually dug ourselves out of a hole. But we are now a banana republic – in debt to foreigners with a weak currency and a financial system that to say the least is shaky. Granted we are a pretty affluent banana republic, unfortunately weighted down by a respected but grossly inefficient political system. Sadly though, like so many banana republics, we are a divided nation populated by citizens who don’t want to make the sacrifices to save their country.

Sometimes banana republics are lucky and a leader rises to the top of the heap who is strong and determined to set things right, but usually in the process democracy gets lost in the shuffle. But in this country we really don’t want a leader who is going to shake things up, especially if that shaking means making our life a little uncomfortable or God forbid taking money out of our pockets. And so we go about our business, scared to death about the future but determined not to face head on the real cause of our decline – us.

Most banana republics usually end up in a state of perpetual decline led by boastful leaders who change little and beaten down citizens who have come to accept their fate. But the common denominator of all banana republics is that their future is in the hands of others, not the hidden hand of Adam Smith’s resurgent capitalism, but the hand of all those countries that control a piece of our economy and our country.

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