Friday, 2 October 2009

America the Undead

...because of the bold and coordinated action that we took... financial markets have come back to life... - President Obama

America's decline is both absolute and relative. Measured against its own historical apex and against the rest of the world, the country is diminishing irremediably. The feverish mania to see "recovery" in every uptick of the market masks an underlying despair. The Americans are not making anything that they weren't making a year ago, when the bubble collapsed, unless it's another, new and improved, bubble. In fact they are making even less: less cars, less houses, and even less movies offering the perennial escape from all the "lessons" they must learn to live with. As long as Americans regard Wall Street as their productive centre of gravity rather than as its balancing governor, they're doomed.
Speaking of movies and doom, it seems to me that these phantom Recoveries that keep turning up with such fanfare and elation are rather like those sightings of characters recently deceased in a vampire movie. Of course it always turns out that what was sighted was actually a vampire, not the recently departed at all. The hideous simulacrum must then be grimly dispatched with a stake through the heart if the dear victim is ever to find eternal repose. It then befalls the heros to seek out and destroy the original ghoul who is seducing and transforming the innocents. In the present case that vampire, that Dracula, is Wall Street, blood sucking architect of America's derelict economy, and invincible bubble leach. In the best movies, where audiences get what they want, the infernal thing isn't killed, just given a temporary hiatus pending its redux via the sequel. Somehow it comforts us to know that it can't be killed!
Not that they didn't try, Obama and his yes-we-can vampire slayers. First came the transfusions. But after pouring the life blood of millions of taxpayers into the veins of industry and commerce, alas, the prognosis was not good. The victims kept reverting to their old nocturnal roaming habits, still eager to resume their nefarious trysts with the demon. So then, onto the main lair! Obama and his team of Van Helsings had the sleeping monster in their power for a bit, last spring, right at the terrible climax: the stake was readied, the mallet raised, but then they lost their nerve. Damn it, he looked like someone they knew and loved - all their former colleagues at Goldman and Sachs, actually. Said the faltering Obama, "No, I can't!"
Well, no need to relate what befell our valiant vamp basher after that one moment of weakness. Now the POTUS is seldom seen in the diurnal glare, keeps mostly to the indoors, and wears his collar uncharacteristically high up, as though against the chilly air. And stranger still are reports of his old adversary, Sarah Palin, stake in one hand, hammer in the other, and never without her protective cross, stalking the twilit precincts of the capital with the zeal of a crusader. Expect no weakness from that quarter, Drac!