Get ready for Armageddon

The world’s last superpower is on a joyride to oblivion. An exclusive excerpt from Mark Steyn’s new book, “After America.”

Get ready for Armageddon

Diego Azubel/EPA/Keystone Press

Previously on Apocalypse Soon?.?.?.

It was the worst of times, it was the not quite so worst of times. The predecessor to this book was called America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, and, given the title, you may be tempted to respond, “C’mon, man. You told us last time it was the end of the world. Well, where the hell is it? I want my money back. Instead, you come breezing in with this season’s Armageddonouttahere routine. It’s like Barbra Streisand farewell tours—there’ll be another along next summer.”

Well, now: America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It was about the impending collapse of all of the Western world except America.

The good news is that the end of the rest of the West is still on schedule. The bad news is that America shows alarming signs of embracing the same fate, and then some.

Nobody writes a doomsday tome because they want it to come true. From an author’s point of view, the apocalypse is not helpful: the bookstores get looted and the collapse of the banking system makes it harder to cash the royalty cheque. But Cassandra’s warnings were cursed to go unheeded, and so it seems are mine. Last time ’round, I wrote that Europe was facing a largely self-inflicted perfect storm that threatened the very existence of some of the oldest nation-states in the world. My warning proved so influential that America decided to sign up for the same program, but supersized. Heigh-ho.

It starts with the money. In “The Run Upon the Bankers” (1720), Jonathan Swift wrote:

A baited banker thus desponds,

From his own hand foresees his fall,

They have his soul, who have his bonds;

’Tis like the writing on the wall.

A lot of writing on the wall these days. Who has the bonds of a “developed world” developed to the point that it’s institutionally conditioned to living beyond its means? Foreigners with money. So who’s available and flush enough? The Chinese Politburo; Saudi sheikhs lubricated with oil but with lavish worldwide ideological proselytizing to fund; Russian “businessmen.” These are not the fellows one might choose to have one’s bonds, never mind one’s soul, but there aren’t a lot of other options.

So it starts with the money—dry stuff about numbers and percentage of GDP. As Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado fumed to a room of voters in 2010, “We have managed to acquire $13 trillion of debt on our balance sheet. In my view, we have nothing to show for it.”

He’s right—and $13 trillion is the lowest of lowball estimates. But why then did Sen. Bennet vote for the “stimulus” and ObamaCare and all the other trillion-dollar binges his party blew through? Why did Sen. Bennet string along and let the 111th Congress (2009-2011) run up more debt than the first one hundred Congresses (1789-1989) combined? Panicked by pre-election polls into repudiating everything he’d been doing for the previous two years, the senator left it mighty late to rediscover his virtue. You would think that Colorado voters might have remembered that, like Groucho Marx apropos Doris Day, they knew Michael Bennet before he was a virgin. Alas, an indulgent electorate permitted the suddenly abstemious spendaholic to squeak back into office.

And, contra Sen. Bennet, eventually you do have something to show for it. It starts with the money, but it doesn’t stop there. It ends with a ruined and reprimitivized planet, in fewer easy stages than you might expect. Let’s take a thought by the economist Herbert Stein:

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

This is a simple but profound observation. Dr. Stein first used it in the context of the long-ago debts and deficits of the Reagan era. “The Federal debt cannot rise forever relative to the GNP. Our foreign debt cannot rise forever relative to the GNP,” he said. “But, of course, if they can’t, they will stop.” It was, as he later wrote, “a response to those who think that if something cannot go on forever, steps must be taken to stop it—even to stop it at once.” And he has a point: if something can’t go on, you don’t have to figure out a way to stop it, because it’s going to stop anyway.

Eventually.

As you might have noticed, since he first made the observation, the debt has gone on rising, very dramatically. But the truth is unarguable. If you’re careening along a road toward a collapsed bridge, you’ll certainly stop, one way or the other. But it makes a difference, at least to you, whether you skid to a halt four yards before the cliff edge or whether you come to rest at the bottom of the ravine.

In 2010, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), described current U.S. deficits as “unsustainable.” On that everyone’s agreed. So let’s make them even more so! On assuming office, President Obama assured us, with a straight face, that his grossly irresponsible wastrel of a predecessor had taken the federal budget on an eight-year joyride. So the only way his sober, fiscally prudent successor could get things under control was to grab the throttle and crank it up to what Mel Brooks in Spaceballs (which seems the appropriate comparison) called “Ludicrous Speed.” Let’s head for the washed-out bridge, but at Obamacrous Speed!

The Spendballs plans of the Obama administration took the average Bush deficit for the years 2001-2008 and doubled it, all the way to 2020. “We’ve got a big hole that we’re digging ourselves out of,” the President declared in 2011. Usually, when you’re in a hole, it’s a good idea to stop digging. But, seemingly, to get out of the Bush hole, we needed to dig a hole twice as deep for one-and-a-half times as long. And that’s according to the official projections of the President’s economics czar, Ms. Rose Coloured-Glasses.

By 2020, the actual hole will be so deep that even if you toss every Obama speech down it on double-spaced paper you still won’t be able to fill it up. In the spendthrift Bush days, federal spending as a proportion of GDP averaged 19.6 per cent. That’s crazy. Obama’s solution was to attempt to crank it up to 25 to 30 per cent as a permanent feature of life. That’s load up the suicide-bomber underpants and pass me the matches.

The CBO doesn’t put it quite like that. Musing on the likelihood of a sudden fiscal crisis, it murmurs blandly, “The exact point at which such a crisis might occur for the United States is unknown, in part because the ratio of federal debt to GDP is climbing into unfamiliar territory.”

But it’ll get real familiar real soon. A lot of the debate about America’s date with destiny has an airy-fairy beyond-the-blue-horizon mid-century quality, all to do with long-term trends and other remote indicators. In fact, we’ll be lucky to make it through the short-term in sufficient shape to get finished off by the long-term. According to CBO projections, by 2055, interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. But I don’t think we’ll need to worry about a “Government of the United States” at that stage. By 1788, Louis XVI’s government in France was spending a mere 60 per cent of revenues on debt service, and we know how that worked out for the House of Bourbon shortly thereafter.

So take your eye off the far prospect, and instead look about 14 inches in front of your toecap. Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military. You read that right: more on debt service than on the armed services. According to the CBO’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the government will be paying between 15 and 20 per cent of its revenues in debt interest. Whereas defence spending will be down to between 14 and 16 per cent.

Just to clarify: we’re not talking about paying down the federal debt, just keeping up with the annual interest charges on it. Yet within a decade the United States will be paying more in interest payments than it pays for the military—and that’s not because the Pentagon is such a great bargain. In 2009, the United States accounted for over 43 per cent of the world’s military expenditures. So America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have evolved from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers. The CBO numbers foresee net interest payments rising from nine per cent of revenue to 36 per cent in 2030, then to 58 per cent in 2040, and up to 85 per cent in 2050. If that trajectory holds, we’ll be spending more than the planet’s entire military budget on debt interest.

But forget mid-century—because, unless something changes, whatever goes by the name of “America” under those conditions isn’t worth talking about.

By 2010, about half our debt was owned by foreigners, and somewhere over a quarter of that was held by the Chinese (officially).

What does that mean? In 2010, the U.S. spent about $663 billion on its military, China about $78 billion. If the People’s Republic carries on buying American debt at the rate it has in recent times, then within a few years U.S. interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese armed forces. In 2010, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military buildup, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft carrier research and development program intended to challenge U.S. dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it.

Answer: Mr. and Mrs. America.

To return to the President’s declared strategy: “We’ve got a big hole that we’re digging ourselves out of.” Every politician’s First Rule of Holes used to be: when you’re in one, stop digging. If you don’t, as every child knows, eventually you dig so deep you come out on the other side of the world—someplace like, oh, China. By 2015 or so, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the U.S. Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers. As Bugs Bunny is wont to say when his tunnel comes out somewhere unexpected: “I musta took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.” Indeed. When the Commies take Taiwan, suburban families in Albuquerque and small businesses in Pocatello will have paid for it.

And even that startling scenario is premised on the most optimistic assumptions—of resumed economic growth but continued low interest rates. If interest rates were to return to, say, 5.7 per cent (the average for the period 1990-2010), the debt service projections for 2015 would increase from $290 billion to $847 billion. China would be in a position to quadruple its military budget and stick U.S. taxpayers with the bill.

The existential questions for America loom not decades hence, but right now. It is not that we are on a luge ride to oblivion but that the prevailing political realities of the United States do not allow for any meaningful course correction. And, without meaningful course correction, America is doomed.

Jonathan Swift’s “writing on the wall” comes from Belshazzar’s feast:

Babylon’s king is whooping it up when, in the midst of his revelries, disembodied fingers spell out the words “mene mene, tekel, upharsin.” They’re currency units: half-dollar, half-dollar, penny and two bits. Only Daniel the Jew understands what it means:

Mene: “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.”

Tekel: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

Upharsin: “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Today, the units are larger than in Babylon: “Mene mene, tekel, upharsin” is now trillion trillion, billion, half-trillion. But the upshot’s the same. We’ve spent too much of tomorrow today—to the point where we’ve run out of tomorrow: fiscally, our days are numbered; structurally, we’ve been weighed in the balances and found wanting; and geopolitically, the Medes are thin on the ground but the Persians have gone nuclear.




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Get ready for Armageddon

  1. Will somebody please get Steyn some smelling salts…and take those pearls away from him.  He’s clutching them so often they’re gonna break.

    It’s called ‘imperial overstretch’….happens to all empires. But we survived the fall of the Roman, British and Soviet empires…and we’ll survive the fall of the American one.

    • Who is your “we”? Not everyone survived.

      • ‘We’….the rest of the world….humanity….other countries.

    • Yeah, but some imperial declines were easier ones than others. The collapse of Rome plunged Europe into over 500 years of the Dark Ages. The Fall of the Soviet Empire was pretty nasty for its constituent states as well. For instance, Ukrainian GDP per capita fell from about $1600 to $600 through the 90′s. 

      The decline of Britain was coupled with economic chaos (both before and during the 30s), and two hegemonic wars. The postwar tranquility world that emerged was a nice one – but would it have been so nice had the Soviets or Germans succeeded the US as the dominant global power? What would a Sino-centric global system mean for democracy and liberty? 

      We’re humans – and we tend to demand more of life than mere survival.

      • Yes, they were all hard, but some were harder than others.

        And each occurred in very different eras….as is this one.

        Doesn’t matter what we ‘demand’, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    • He should trade the pearls in for some stones.  Nobody likes a scaredy cat.

  2. Anyone can be hypocritical. It takes Steyn to raise hypocrisy to a form of art.

    During 8 Republican years the official answer to over-spending was Cheney’s “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter”. And Steyn never argued against that. But when the “liberal” Obama avoided a disaster with a stimulus plan,… “Oh my God, it’s Armageddon!”

    And, by the way, Obama is not liberal. He is continuing the same disastrous “conservative” policies that doomed the Bush administration: tax breaks for the rich, over-expensive imperial wars, human rights abuse in Guantanamo, farm protectionism, civil rights trumping with the Patriotic Act, etc…

    • A quick search of the NR archives from the Bush years:

      http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/217420/majority/mark-steyn

      “But what happened to the other guys? “The Republican party,” says Arlen Specter, “is now principally moderate, if not liberal”–and he means it as a compliment. “I’ll just say this about the so-called porkbusters,” chips in Trent Lott. “I’m getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble since Katrina.”
      Well, to be honest, I’m a good half-decade past getting damn tired of hearing from Trent Lott. But the difference is that, as a member of the pork-funding sector of the economy, I pay for him; he doesn’t pay for me. . . .”

      - 8 May 2006.

    • As a Canadian/American living in the US, I get enough of Mark Steyn’s particular brand of BS.  Why do we have to have hyper conservative American opinion in MacLean’s magazine?  It makes no sense.  These are the people who BROKE the world economy.  We should not be allowing Mr. Steyn to profit off exerpting his book in a Canadian mainstay magazine.

      • Yeah let’s censor those pesky opinions that don’t align properly with Ontario orthodoxy.We’re so much smarter than those Americans that some of us go there to work.

        • Actually, Americans are coming to Canada to work. It was true two years ago, and it is still true now.

    • How is that you guys can post in our universe?   That is some fantastic technology, jumping through the multiverse.  Obama is not liberal?  It must be cool where you live. Damn!

      • Romney is the liberal according to his running mates.  It’s all so confusing…

    • I accept your premise. Now what’s your argument?

    • You bring up a strong point, and you back it up magnificently, but you forgot a crucial factor in your in-depth analysis:
      Kevin Parra Duque is a bigger idiot.

    • Actually he is more like a mutant Harold Camping.
      First it was teh libruls, then teh Klintons, then teh mozlems, now it is teh obama.
      Every time he predicts doomsday’s imminent arrival, and identifies the cause as the other he messes up. Just like Camping though idiot editors keep giving him print space on which to rant further.

      • …and you’ve pointed out so well where he has erred. Good for you!

    • Perhaps you could read something he’s written…and then rebut it? …oh yeah, but most people of a certain political persuasion – the ones who don’t like Steyn – don’t trade on facts or reasoning, only angry invectives and personal attacks on someone who shows them a glimpse of reality.

      • It is what is missing that is important.

        • Yes, Lensy, an argument,that’s his point! Perhaps I should accompany you everywhere you go to explain how the world works.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this, but I don’t have the breadth or depth of knowledge to feel like I’ve got a good handle on it:  What happens if the US gov’t just decides to default?  Decides to say, ‘Yeah, we’re not paying the interest on those anymore.’

    Their credit rating drops through the floor, obviously. But then what? Do the services and goods that the US citizens create suddenly become worthless? I don’t think so.

    So what really happens?

    • I’m not sure either, but you aren’t a super power anymore, because US GDP isn’t funding the army and navy, loans are.

      Compare to England (not even Britain anymore) today – lots of news about domestic riots, don’t hear too much about the Royal Navy ruling the waves.

      • spain defaulted on its debts in 1575 and lost it’s super power status
        debts it created in foreign wars

    • If you default on your debts, no one loans you any more money. Since the US is living on borrowed money and has been for some time, their standard of living will drop like a stone.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eih67rlGNhU

      • Except that the government doesn’t buy their TVs, their houses, their food, etc.. the people do that privately. If the gov’t paid for all that what you say would make sense.. but they don’t. This is where I’m having the problem. Sure, the gov’t wouldn’t be able to afford purchasing anything outside of America, but how does that affect the people?

        • People don’t buy anything if they don’t have jobs…consumer spending is already way down in the US.

          A bankrupt govt means capital flight…wealth and companies going elsewhere…along with jobs.

          • Why do companies leave though? Does the American worker become useless because the government defaults?  Do their lands produce less resources?  Capital flight? Maybe.. but again, who cares? It’s not like they don’t have a surplus of empty, decaying factories in the US already. Nor like they don’t have a ton of the things you need to fix factories up and get them running again.

          • Cheaper labour overseas,  labour that doesn’t go on strike, no unions….if someone annoys you, or isn’t fast enough…they can be replaced within minutes. It makes the product cheaper…which means more sales.

            In manufacturing that’s all that counts. Skilled labour is another matter….but the majority of people in the world are unskilled.

        • If the government defaults and the currency becomes worthless, then the people aren’t buying anything, period.

          Look up the effects of hyperinflation in 1930′s Germany. (Weimar Republic)

    • Historically major powers have defaulted on their debts before. The French and Spanish were notorious for doing so. The impact of defaulting was that the risk premium of lending to the defaulting country went through the roof. You may thing – so what? Just don’t borrow. However, there are two situations in which virtually every country borrows: 

      One is during wartime. And indeed, Britain emerged as the dominant global power in the 18th and 19th century largely because of its ability to finance wars at low interest rates (France had the larger population and economy). Being unable to borrow would cripple American military power. The second is during economic downturns. Never being able to use fiscal policy counter-cyclically would be dangerous for any economy. 

      Neither of these scenarios would be very good for us. Absent American military primacy, you would likely see heightened competition among the other great powers. Global leadership has many benefits they would like to seize (for instance, a default would likely cost the US its position as the international reserve currency – unleashing market forces to balance out the current account deficit). And of course the centrality of the US economy to the global economy is obvious. 

      • Same type of comment as I just left Emily.  They already have the massive army, including huge stockpiles of weapons they haven’t used yet, and then there’s the nukes.  A country with as many nuclear weapons as America has is not going to be crippled militarily because other countries won’t accept their dollars.  To be honest, I’m not even sure they’d lose primacy.. when America speaks, people would listen.

        As for being unable to borrow, that only applies if they need to buy things from outside the country, but if the government is spending counter-cyclically to counter a recession, than isn’t internal spending better anyway?  That’s the odd bit, because they’re not tied to any standard, at the end of the day you don’t go to the government and say, “Give me the gram of gold I’m owed for this currency,” the value is all in our heads anyway, so what’s to stop the American people from just going “Who cares what they say, we think our money’s worth the same as it always was to each other..”

        Price of imports sky-rocket, true, but wouldn’t that just drive people to start making use of those empty factories to produce the crap on their own?  

        I guess the limits would hit when it came time to acquire raw materials that they don’t naturally have access to.  Of course, that’s when I turn around and look at that military again.

        • The thing is, these things don’t happen instantly.  Americans don’t make most of what they use.  And while it would be great if an american farmer decided “hey, you know what, i’m going to accept the same amount of US$ for my crop as always to help out my fellow americans”, he doesn’t have to if someone else in the world is willing to pay him 100x as much in US$ because the rest of the world feels said currency isn’t worth as much anymore.  Ultimately it’ll be a cushion, a 100x deflation in currency value probably won’t equate to 100x inflation in food cost.  But there will be a large amount of inflation.

          As to your ‘existing arsenal’ argument, there’s maintenance costs.  And absent a real economy to tax, paying for that maintenance by printing money is a downward spiral because eventually the people you’re paying turn around and say ‘what you’re paying us today is worth half as much next year as it was when you paid us, this just isn’t worth it’.

          The limit in your scenario isn’t raw materials, it’s the same fallacy as a pyramid scheme, only your faulty assumption is you always have more money instead of there’s always more people to recruit, because money only has value when people’s impression is that it’s in limited supply and thus has value.

          • This is in reply to most of the above.

            The U.S. is defaulting right in front of our eyes.  There are several forms of default, the only difference being the legalese.  We are printing money (QE) to pay back debts.  In the case of an outright default, a refusal to pay debts, the currency’s buying power would collapse because its perceived “backing” is the alleged “full faith and credit of the United States government” which would have been demonstrated to be worthless.  Since we import damned near all of our consumer goods, the price of consumer goods would skyrocket.  If we defaulted instead by paying off the debt with newly printed money, as we are now, then…the cost of imported consumer goods would skyrocket.  This is why it is so important for government statisticians to lie about inflation.

            Why do you think gold is at $1850 an ounce?

            Since we don’t make anything here anymore, our employment is mostly government workers and service sector.  If consumer spending collapsed, who would need to be serviced?  Who could afford millions of government employees?  No one, that’s who.

    • I thought about your questions. At first I thought inflation was a more likely scenario than default. Inflation moderates debt repayment and acts as a tax of sorts (albeit on the poor, the old, and savers). The appeal of inflation is that politicians never have to say the words “default”, “tax”, or “cuts”. But inflation still leaves the crucial “But then what?” question un-answered.

      Now I think there is not an answer. And here is the way I choose to avoid answering. To me, if the default was the result of poor politics, then the question is political (not economic). It is just too hard to predict what politicians would do after they decided to default (or inflate). Certainly, the answer involves tears. But the politicians would probably decide whose.

      Interestingly, after thinking about your questions, I know less. :)

      • Thanks so much, actually.  I’ve always believed that the best questions are the ones that make us realize we don’t know as much as we think we did. After all, that’s when we get the chance to learn.

    • US dollar goes in the toilet probably as well since now that you can’t borrow you have to print money to cover things.  And just the assumption that you’re now unstable causes people to stop using you as a reserve currency, even if you don’t print money the demand is going down for the existing dollars.  This US dollar tanking thing probably throws the american operations of a few dozen multinationals into bankruptcy as well that have most of their holdings tied to the US dollar.

      As to the real worth of the goods and services created by the USA, that mostly comes down to farmers and maybe silicon valley (i don’t know if they’ve outsourced everything to india yet).  On the bright side, with a collapsed dollar, perhaps now things will instead be outsourced to the USA ;)

    •  Just nationalize money, putting it in direct control of the treasury, and then back the currency explicitly with a basket of goods/services produced within the country and then use interest charges to replace taxes. Use the treasury to reverse auction the right to lend money to banks with all tax expenditures being attached to those loans, then the borrowers would pass the cost off to consumers  but it would integrate taxes into interest and would therefore be much much cheaper for everyone. Things would actually improve as the skilled and unemployed workforce would begin producing actual goods and services again and interest would be used directly for government expenditures in the U.S. and not to finance China’s future army.

       I hope Mr.Steyn is right maybe it will lead to positive changes for future generations and stop the crazy perpetual war/debt cycle that has become standard in modern economies. It has got to end sometime since it is nothing but pure insanity anyway.

  4. Getcher “The End Is Near” signs here, folks! “The End is Near” signs, right here!

  5. Dear Canadians – The politicians won’t say so, but in the US we are probably past an inflection point. Just add those who don’t pay any income tax to the total number of government employees, government contractors, and contractor employees. To this majority, it makes sense to borrow 42 cents of every government dollar spent. The only countervailing force, a few think we might need to keep private enterprise on life support, so the area around DC can remain the highest paid in the country. Regardless of what any politician of any party says, this could end in a financial crisis (not the cordial debate we have now).

    Sorry for the rant. On a more serious note, can you please invade Arizona and make us a colony? It isn’t like Arizona is a real state. We have no southern border with Mexico. And the rulers in Washington DC will be glad to be rid of us. Be assured, we are more committed to your success than the Turks and Caicos Islands. In return, Arizonans will learn English, sustain ourselves on Canadian cuisine, and worship your gods. See an interview with Canada’s most powerful Mime MP on this matter at http://www.disunderstand.com . Thank you in advance for attacking us.

    • You keep whining about us taking on your state and it’s various obligations, why not just move here?

      • I tried when the US Secretary of State reported us to the UN because we wanted to check for citizenship before registering voters. I filed the refugee form from the IRB, but oddly never heard back from them. In any event, you can vote here now. There are only about three million eligible voters in Arizona and twenty-four million in Canada. With vote-by-mail, you can conquer us from the comfort of your own homes. It will be easy, really.

  6. Obama will be seen as America’s Nero.

     

    • No, as the guy who tried to clean up a mess when it was already way past the tipping point.

      Don’t blame Obama for 2 centuries of American imperialism.

      • I’m not blaming him for 2 centuries of American imperialism, I’m blaming him for what he’s done to try and remedy the situation.

        Increasing federal spending as a proportion of GDP up to 25 to 30 per cent is the tipping point for America.

        However, Rome survived Nero, so there’s still some hope for the U.S.

        • Congress has increased spending….who voted for all the wars?

          Who kept the 1000 military bases going around the world?

          Wasn’t Obama.

          No, Obama won’t be the last US president, anymore than Nero was the last Roman emperor…..but we’re getting near the end

          If they vote in any of the Repub loons that are running….the end will be sooner than anyone thinks.

          • And if Obama manages to win a second term he’ll make G.W. Bush look like a finacial wizard.

          • Either way, the US is bankrupt.

          • He already has. . .

          • Sarah Palin 2012. Unlike the Marxist 0bama she loves this country called America.

          • Sarah Palin loves Sarah Palin.

            And if you think Obama is a Marxist, you have no clue what a Marxist is.

      • Two centuries ago, our northern neighbor burned down our capital. Not very imperial of us. :)

        If there is imperialism, it may have begun with the Spanish American war in 1898. Or when Progressive President Teddy Roosevelt sailed the Great White Fleet around the world (he was also involved in the Spanish American war). Assistance in the defense of Great Britain in two world wars is not an example of Imperialism. Just sayin’.

        I agree we are everyplace, and poking our nose in other peoples business. And now we are paying. But it looks like we are coming home now. We’ll see how that works out for everyone. Just hypothetically, the real risk of imperialism probably occurs if the American Republic fails, not before. (IMHO).

        • LOL you invaded us as I recall, and that’s why you got your capital burned down. 

          There were 5 invasions of Canada altogether in fact. Even in the 1700s.

          I hate to break it to you, but imperialism is as American as apple pie.

          I’m not concerned about the shape of things after America fails…we’ll have a multi-polar world.

          • Still, our capital burned and the president fled. Maybe an example of failed imperialism.  And I think the British Empire was the imperial power in that mix-up, at least from our point of view. I’ve only read a little Canadian history from the Canadian view point. Perhaps you’d like Detroit back now, sort of a peace offering. I think it can be arranged.

          • LOL  nah…it was in good shape when we gave it back to you, and now look at it.

          • Just ask Mexico about American Imperialism.

      • He’s not cleaning anything up, didn’t you read the article? He did 180 degrees the opposite of what he said, and massively accelerated spending borrowed money.

        • Yeah, he has. He bailed out the crashing financial system and a couple of car companies…they’d be in a Depression right now otherwise.

          Raising the debt ceiling was to pay for what Congress has already bought…it wasn’t for future spending…but they’ll have to spend money to get people jobs.

          When you inherit a drain, and the water is already circling near the ring….there aren’t any good options.

          • Except…to plug it?? How ’bout that?
            If you don’t think Obama is a Marxist…then you don’t know Obama.
            Haven’t you heard the way he talks?: “at some point you’ve just made enough money” “we’ve got to spread the wealth around a little”

          • Do stop being silly….and get the teabags out of your ears.

      • Actually, I have said in the past, that Obama wasted his political capital with the health care thing. He wanted a legacy. He ignored the economy, at a crucial time. It was probably the worst time to be starting a complicated health care change.

        In this sense, he could very well be compared to Nero. Fiddling while the place burned seems an appropriate comparison. I think he is oblivious to how bad the situation was and is.

        • A decent single-payer health system would help the American economy….but to get anything done in the US you have to compromise it to bits….and then try to improve it piece by piece over years into the future.

          • I wasn’t knocking the what, I was knocking the when.
            It was the wrong time. His attention should have been on the economy. It also created uncertainty for employers, at a time that they didn’t need it.
            That is why the Nero comparison is so fitting.

          • Well, the health system is part of the economy….and fixing it needed to be done as soon as possible.

            If the US system has a Nero, it was Bush….who wasn’t paying attention at all.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus
            It remains to be seen if Obama’s health plan will help or hurt the US.

            What is certain, is that it has created uncertainty for employers. When there is uncertainty, they don;t hire or expand. A change like this should have been made during good times, not bad (horrible) times.

            Again, you argue around a point, for the sake of arguing. I am not even saying Obama’s plan is bad, I am just saying that if he had a clue as to what was going on in the economy, his attention would have been elsewhere. If you like the guy a lot, blame his advisers. Either way, his eye was not on the ball.

          • @modster99:disqus 

            Everything a leader ever does ‘remains to be seen’

            I’m not arguing ANY point….I’m saying the end of America is not the end of the world…in spite of all the hysterics.

            None of the leaders ‘know what’s really going on in the economy’….here or abroad.  If they did, they’d fix it.

            The best Obama can do right now is to help America down the ladder as gently as possible.

  7. “who’s paying for it.     Answer: Mr. and Mrs. America”

    Exactly.   My American cousins are so p!ssed with what is happening – they all know taxes need to be raised, the sooner the better.   They are disgusted (particularly the ones that vote Republican) at the pandering for votes by Republican candidates vowing never to raise taxes on anyone, even the wealthiest Americans.

  8. Good to see Mark Steyn’s column again. And it appears that if Mark were an American, he’d be a card carrying member of the Tea Party. Forget that as soon as Obama’s term started the rug was pulled from underneath him – and the rest of the world –  in the form of a recession brought on by successive Republican governments who allowed crooked Wallstreet power-brokers to grow so big and powerful that  they could pilfer with impunity and when the bubble burst they couldn’t be allowed to fail.  Forget that Dubya was so bent on getting re-elected he created an expensive war simply to get re-elected (because no US President ever lost an election in a time of war) – instead of watching the US economy head towards the cliff. In the US, Big Business can buy itself a dumb President ….and the dumber the better. (I can’t figure who was dumber  Dubya or the Gipper. A flip of a coin should do it. Heads. Dubya wins.)  So Obama did what every other leader in the western world (and that includes Canada) did – spend – because he (like everyone else) had too. And Economists, it seems, all agree. Good luck with your book, Mark, but I won’t buy it. 

    • Imagine how inconvenient it would be for Mark Steyn’s narrative if the McCain-Palin ticket won. (I wonder how that White House would have responded to the economic crisis.) He would have to go back to blaming all the world’s ill on the amorphous looney-left. For fun, if you can stomach it, go read some of his articles from 2001 – 2008.

      Mark Steyn is an eloquent writer, but he seems to see the root of all the western world’s problems as multi-culturalism and “the Left.” He also guest-hosts for Rush Limbaugh. It’s a great way to make money and sell books, but I don’t find him nearly convincing as he is clever.

      The USA may be in big trouble, but to place all its ills at the feet of the looney Left is just ridiculous and simple-minded. But it’s more fun to dress up as Thomas Payne and scream about wanting your country back than it is to engage in constructive discourse.

  9. Steyn, Boehner, Bachmann, Dubya, Cheney, bla, bla, bla.    The one thing you can count on from the extremists, right or left, is hypocrisy and the absence of accountability.  Low taxes on the richest of the rich was a great plan for the last 10 years, anything else was “socialism” or ” Un-American”. 
    Unfettered wealth chasing = America?   More like, we don’t have to pay our bills – U-S-A!  U-S-A!
    Empire’s take cash, a lot of it, just to maintain.   Obama inherited the wind of the greedy and pig-headed.  Yet I agree with a lot of the poster’s here, he’s a conservative on any other day of the week, big surprise.
    The US ceased to be a democracy a long time ago, as we watch our own Prime Minister emulate their woe-begotten ways.   In the meantime, a lot of bullets, missiles, planes, ships and well trained shock-and-awe artists are ready whenever, whoever you are.  

    As for Steyn, he’s been a clown ever since his first column after 911 – yes, the United States is about to endure some “correction time” – but pity the fool who tries to take them on, remember to bring a lunch.

    In the meantime, box office receipts are at record high’s, Dancing-With-The -Amerca’s-Got- Snooky is doing just fine and a moronic clowns like Michelle, Sarah, Rick and the rest are still at the top of the Republican hit parade.   When, not “if”, the sober majority of Americans wake up, get ready for fighting in the streets – Marley was right – a hungry man is an angry man.

    And we won’t get fooled again.  Amen.

  10. Mark looks at things much differently than do most folks, but the fact that debt is a problem in America, and the rest of the world, is obvious.
    It doesn’t matter who they elect, they are past the tipping point. Will it be ‘Armageddon’; who knows, but it is surely going to get as crazy as hell.
    Just look at how people are now asking ‘what if the US defaults’.
    Interesting and dangerous times.

    • But its going to change

      • True…and it’s going to change a lot…and in a very short time.

        The world has always changed…but it’s usually done so over centuries. Not this time.

    • I don’t think anyone is saying the world is going to end.

  11. Every declining empire in the history of the world that has a military that dwarfs everybody else’s will use that military to seize territory and resources in an attempt to save itself.  Guess who is in the line of fire of the US; yep, Canada.  We have the resources, the water, and the oil that they need plus we separate the main body of the US from Alaska, which also holds the resources they need.  At some point in the future, the US will annex Canada in the guise of security.  It will happen, so get used to the idea.

    • Why? What have we ever withheld from them?

      • Depending on the party in power in Canada, attitudes towards the US vary from ambivalence, friendly support, to outright hostility. Currently relations are friendly but the election of a left wing party such as the NDP could precipitate anti US sentiment up here and anti Canada sentiment down there. I have worked and travelled extensively in the US and the attitude of the typical American towards Canada is ambivalent at best. Any US politician can whip up anti Canadian sentiment at will if it will increase their chances of getting elected. There is an underlying attitude that Canada is sort of a satellite state due to the US carrying the bulk of North American defence. We are exceptionally vulnerable as we literally cannot defend ourselves against US aggression should it ever occur.

        Subject: [macleansca] Re: http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/08/18/get-ready-for-armageddon/

        • I agree with most of what you said. I just don’t see why they would invade. We sell them anything they want anyway. I don’t see the benefit of making us part of the states. (to them, or to us)

          • I’m trying to break the complacency that most Canadians have towards the US. History has shown that great empires that are failing will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the status quo. My favorite example is the takeover of Austria by Germany in 1938. It was so quick and bloodless that most people in either country did not even view it as a conquest. I would like to see a committment to the arming and training of a significant militia in Canada to the extent that any country such as the US would think twice about attempting a takeover. Every Canadian should be aware that we are vulnerable to aggression by the US and our complacency is our greatest enemy. There is an old saying that locks keep honest people honest and the same could be extended to: a credible defence keeps failing empires at bay.

            Subject: [macleansca] Re: http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/08/18/get-ready-for-armageddon/

  12. The most horrifying thing as we view the end of the American empire is that the citizens are unaware of the impending end — they have faith that if they just elect a global warming denier and general looney tunes character like Rick Perry to take them back in time to the 70′s everything will solve itself.

  13. If we are about to enter a new era where the United States is no longer consumming 40% of the world’s natural resources while having only about 5% of the world’s population, that would be a good thing. If Asians are willing to work harder than North Americans and Europeans, they should be rewarded for it.

    A good reason why General Motors is in trouble today is because of their overall work ethic. One of their top executives said, “We’re not in the business of making cars; we’re in the business of making money.”

    That’s insane! Canadians wouldn’t have the high standard of living that they have today if people weren’t productive.

  14. SOMETHING is coming.

    It will be UGLY. THINK “British Riots on steroids” as a likely scenario – just imagine the reaction of our “entitlement class” the first time the checks & food stamps don’t cash.

    Personally, I’m investing in precious metals – mostly brass, lead & copper. Textiles (kevlar) durable goods (ceramic plates) & agricultural commodities (rice & beans) would be prudent as well…

    There’s simply no way we get out of this without traversing some SERIOUSLY ugly territory.

    Si vis pacem, Para bellum.

    • LOL oh yeah….Wall St and GM and war contractors get big bucks,  but the food-stamp people have ‘entitlements’.

      Go drink your American tea, and leave normal people in peace.

  15. Is Mark Steyn some kind of drama queen? Is he afraid that he will have to push a broom for the rest of his life? 

    We are all taught to believe that Noah alone was the Wise Man, while everybody else was a fool, going about their business, hitting upon girls and hoping one of them would love him for the rest of his life. But you know something? You only go around once in life. You only get once chance to spread a little joy and pull your neighbour’s ass out of the ditch when he’s in trouble. 

    Après moi le déluge, if you’re lucky. Otherwise, you might have a flooded basement. 

  16. Every time I read a Mark Steyn article, I can’t help but imagine a man standing in a town square, ringing a bell while loudly proclaiming “Repent, repent for the end is nigh!” One can’t help but feel that his greatest desire is to witness the decline of western civilization just so that he can joyfully rub his hands in glee and tell everyone, “I told you so!”

  17. It is such a shame that no one knows or remembers that the sovereign right of the state is the issuance of currency. It is debt free and tax free. O what a wonderful world. Canada was built on this type of money. We were forced to convert before almost all of us were born. Look at old Canadian currency notes on line. They were signed by the Finance Minister and the Treasurer. Think it can’t work? Ever hear of a Canadian Tire note? It is created debt free and tax free and may soon have more value than a Fed note. In the 60′s we had the Social Credit party which understood these issues. The social credit money system was devised by a gentleman named Douglas. The social credit government in B.C. was the only government in modern history to leave office with a surplus. However, take heed if we don’t change we crash and burn. The choice is up to you.

  18. Why is Canada giving this American bloviator prime magazine space?

    •  Because we see a truly enlightened individual when there are huge idealists all over the media.  Sorry but somebody better stop spending our money.  That’s really all he is asking. Of course the idealist is not spending his own money so he cares naught.

  19. There are those who are so dumbed down that they can’t compute what Mark Steyn is saying.  He’s not talking nonsense.  He’s analyzed well what will likely befall future generations.  And, all of it is happening due to the stupidities of the most powerful. 

    There is a somewhat similar article written by Pat Buchanan http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=46533, who predicts that by 2050 Germany will have to import young Muslims due to not enough young ones being around to replace the old ones.  And, that does not apply only to Germany.  Buchanan predicts the death of the eurozone.

    So, perhaps we should pay better attention to what these men have to say.

  20. I suspect Mr. Steyn would not have forseen the same dire fiscal outcome had his Republicans won the 2008 election and spent about the same amount or probably more than Obama on efforts that would help the American people less. Spending so much to defend the world from Islamists was a great idea in AMERICA ALONE, and therefore in the Bush administration, but domestic spending by Obama fortells the end of times – for Steyn.

  21. I know I came late to this article, but I have to add that this is the most self-indulgent prose I have read in a while.  Steyn’s internal voice doesn’t seem to say “write what you would like to read,” but rather something more like “write whatever you feel like, you beautiful genius.”  His diction gives me the creeps.

  22. It’s absolutely amazing the comments I read,  I had no idea.  Mark Steyn is a national treasure and you trash him.  I’d trade you the entire Obama admin, the senate, and half of congress for one Mark Steyn.  Maybe you hate him so much because he’s right?  Hipocrisy, hipocrisy, hipocrisy, what about the uncontrolled increasing danger the left is currently creating?  They’re digging the hole twice as fast and you bring up Bush and Cheney?  How’s that helping?  We all know Bush was a progressive who spent fantastically.  Obama is a radical progressive who spends twice as fast.  How is that better?  Is logic really lost with you guys?  I’ll take Mark Steyn every day of the week.   He has more common sense and wit in his dirty socks than the entire leftist movement could ever hope to have.   Go Mark!

    • Not too late for the Republican ticket.  He could campaign on a one man government.

    •  I agree totally.  Wish Mark Steyn was running this country or America or preferably both. Lets hope Santorum can return some sanity to North America.  I keep waiting for Harper to do so, but…. still waiting. 

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