Our Blind Faith in the United States

When I heard on Saturday morning that Standard & Poor’s had lowered America’s credit rating to AA+, I knew for sure: This would become the double dip that economists have threatened since day one of the current crisis.

The Internet was full of warnings throughout Saturday, each more obscure than the other, that alerted readers to the risk of hyperinflation and — according to the enthusiasts among the commenters — complete world anarchy. The right tone seemed to be set for a continued crisis — until Minister of Finance Jan Kees de Jager spoke to the press in the course of Saturday. Smiling friendly into the camera, he calmly said to still have complete faith in the American economy.

Would there not be a second crisis after all? Was the [credit rating] reduction only one incident? Or was de Jager’s statement merely based on the thought that Dutch consumers’ confidence should not be damaged even more?

That last point, according to friends who think more logically about the economy, was rather plausible. Whether such an attempt for damage control still works well with the consumer, after you implicitly indicate to still completely depend on a country with a gigantic amount of outstanding loans and a deplorably ineffective new measures package, is of course the question. Well.

The comments of other European leaders did not reflect the calm in de Jager’s statement. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy both seemed to be fairly concerned; they planned an emergency meeting shortly after the news about the credit rating downgrade.

But even though Obama dutifully spoke to them that same night — and he generally has a realistic view of the somber economic state of his country — he subsequently made highly curious statements on Monday night at a fundraiser for his 2012 election campaign. The president of the United States said in his speech that markets, among other things, simply fall and rise. Economic recovery, therefore, is “not rocket science,” he proclaimed.

These words came from the man who, in the past weeks, had brought both the economy of his own country as well as the international community, albeit with indispensable help from tea party supporters in Congress, to the edge of the abyss. A couple of weeks ago, as we watched with frightened eyes the U.S. debt ceiling come ever closer, Obama justified the slow decision-making process — rightly so — with the fact that he had found himself in an extremely substantial and politically complicated situation.

On Monday night, he thought it was justified to wave off his numerous economic problems with a clichéd expression in order to raise more money for his reelection. All difficulties he said to have experienced in earlier weeks had now apparently disappeared like snow in the sun.

If the economy on which we are so openly dependent is led by this kind of leadership, it might be time to adjust our blind faith in the United States. Jan Kees de Jager said on Saturday that the policy of the United States justly aimed for discipline. That would indeed be a noble cause — a cause which we see little of in the Obama whose integrity often comes across as relative.

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