An op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times by Kwasi Kwarteng, a member of the British Parliament, makes the case that the financial crisis and America’s debt problem signal the end of American empire. Mr. Kwarteng joins a long list of declinists warning about, if not exactly lamenting, that America is a spent force.
“America’s position today reminds me of Britain’s situation in 1945,” Kwarteng writes. “Deep in debt and committed to building its National Health Service and other accoutrements of the welfare state, Britain no longer could afford to run an empire.”
Kwarteng goes on to discuss the limitations of America’s foreign policy misadventures and to decry imperialism, which the native of Ghana says is doomed to fail. But his earlier comparison to Britain’s National Health Service may have been closer to the mark.
At a time of historic economic vulnerability, the Bush Treasury Department pushed through a $700 billion emergency TARP program to prop up American financial institutions and the Federal Reserve pressed the pedal on our money printing presses. The incoming Obama administration then pushed through a $787 billion stimulus program followed by $1.76 trillion (based on revised CBO figures) on the ironically named Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
As if on cue, the European debt crisis exploded, as it became clear that the welfare estate approach to economics is a house of cards that would eventually crumple under the pressure of added spending. In an era before trillions became the new billions, many were alarmed by the Bush administration’s $400 billion prescription drug bill, whose cost, like Obamacare, turned out to be far higher ($534 billion) than earlier estimates.