Read After America: Get Ready for Armageddon Online

Authors: Mark Steyn

Tags: #Political Ideologies, #Conservatism & Liberalism, #Political Science

After America: Get Ready for Armageddon

after

america

after

america

g e t r e a d y f o r a r m a g e d d o n

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

mark Steyn

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Steyn

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Steyn, Mark.

After America / by Mark Steyn.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-59698-100-3

1. United States--Politics and government--2009- 2. United States--Economic policy--2009- 3. United States--Economic conditions--21st century. 4. Obama, Barack. I. Title.

E907.S72 2011

973.932--dc23

2011023444

Published in the United States by

Regnery Publishing, Inc.

One Massachusetts Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20001

www.regnery.com

Manufactured in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Books are available in quantity for promotional or premium use. Write to Director of Special Sales, Regnery Publishing, Inc., One Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001, for information on discounts and terms or call (202) 216-0600.

Distributed to the trade by:

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New York, NY 10016

contentS

Prologue

The Stupidity of Broke ........................................... 1

Chapter One

The New Rome ..................................................... 25

Chapter Two

Undreaming America ........................................... 45

Chapter Three

The New Athens ................................................. 103

Chapter Four
Decline ................................................................ 127

Chapter Five

The New Britannia ............................................. 189

Chapter Six
Fall ....................................................................... 211

Chapter Seven

The New Jerusalem ............................................ 269

Chapter Eight
After .................................................................... 279

Epilogue

The Hope of Audacity ........................................ 325

Acknowledgments .............................................. 351

Notes ................................................................... 353

Index ................................................................... 405

Prologue

the Stupidity

of Broke

There is the moral of all human tales;

’Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption—barbarism at last.

—Lord Byron,
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
(1812–1818)
The sun’ll come out tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar

That tomorrow there’ll be sun

—Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin,
Annie
(1977)
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 fare-well tours—there’ll be another along next summer.”

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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 check. 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 Senator 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.”1

the Stupidity of Broke 3

He’s right—and $13 trillion is the lowest of lowball estimates. But why then did Senator Bennet vote for the “stimulus” and ObamaCare and all the other trillion-dollar binges his party blew through? Why did Senator Bennet string along and let the 111th Congress (2009–2011) run up more debt than the first one hundred Congresses (1789–1989) combined?2 Pan-icked 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 abstemi-ous spendaholic to squeak back into office.

And, contra Senator 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.3

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.”4 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.

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In 2010, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), described current U.S. deficits as “unsustainable.”5 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 2020.6

“We’ve got a big hole that we’re digging ourselves out of,” the president declared in 2011.7 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 Colored-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 percent.8 That’s crazy. Obama’s solution was to attempt to crank it up to 25 to 30 percent 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.”9

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.10 But I don’t think the Stupidity of Broke 5

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 percent of revenues on debt service, and we know how that worked out for the House of Bourbon shortly thereafter.11

So take your eye off the far prospect, and instead look about fourteen 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 percent of its revenues in debt interest.12 Whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 percent.

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 percent of the world’s military expenditures.13 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 9 percent of revenue to 36 percent in 2030, then to 58 percent in 2040, and up to 85 percent in 2050.14 If that trajectory holds, we’ll be spending more than the planet’s entire military budget on debt interest.

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