La fable des termites et des conduites pourries

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La fable des termites et des conduites pourries

Nous avons attendu que la crise financière en ait temporairement fini avec nos nerfs pour proposer en lecture ce texte de Charlie Cook, du National Journal, mis en ligne le 2 septembre sur Government Executive.com, – sous le titre finalement très rythmé de Trouble, trouble, trouble. Ce texte constitue une sorte de “feuille de route” des problèmes intérieurs innombrables qui attendent le prochain président des USA. Un aspect intéressant de cette “feuille de route” est, après tout, que cette même crise financière illustrant la crise immobilière et la crise du crédit n’y apparaît que presque comme un post-scriptumThe list of national woes wouldn't be complete without mentioning the home mortgage debacle and the related credit crisis. These problems – which will take years to fix…»).

A lire aujourd’hui certains de nos auteurs bien en cour, on croirait que l'intervention habile, déterminée et puissante de l’administration Bush déboursant $700 milliards de l’argent des contribuables résoudrait la crise financière, les problèmes qui vont avec, les autres crises et les problèmes qui vont avec, c’est-à-dire toutes les crises et tous les problèmes pendants des USA, c’est-à-dire toute la crise du monde et jusqu’à la “crise du sens” de notre civilisation. La “feuille de route” de Cook le bien nommé a le mérite de nous rafraîchir la mémoire.

Deux points qui sont aussi deux images révélatrices et symboliques dans ce texte rafraîchissant (ou accablant, c’est selon), attirent notre attention parce qu’ils semblent parfaitement synthétiser la situation structurelle des USA. D’une part, l’image des termites et des loups, d’autre part l’exemple des conduites d’eau de New York.

• Sous forme de fable, encore une autre, cela pourrait s’appeler : “les termites et les loups”. On s’équipe, on se barde de législations, éventuellement d’armements, dans tous les cas d’anathèmes et de principes moraux contre les loups dont on imagine qu’ils sont là, à votre porte, prêts à vous attaquer. Pendant ce temps, les termites croquent les fondations sur lesquelles tout votre précieux édifice repose. C’est ainsi que sont décrits l’économie US et ses problèmes; mais l'image ne pourrait-elle également être présentée pour caractériser notre (celle des USA mais aussi la nôtre) perception de l’ordre moral du monde; nos valeurs objectivement universelles sous la menace des attaques extérieures des barbares, alors qu’en réalité ces valeurs, avec le conformisme et le virtualisme qu’elles installent chez nous, rongent notre équilibre, notre perception du monde, et jusqu’à notre psychologie elle-même? Cela ne pourrait-il être également le cas de notre puissance, tournée vers l’Ennemi extérieur (le barbare, suite), et dont le développement pléthorique, l’entretien inefficace, la gestion bureaucratique nous minent comme font les termites, et nous épuisent enfin?

• A l’extrait du texte sur la fable “les termites et les loups” (« On the subject of budget deficits, Gallagher is fond of quoting the late economist Herb Stein, who said that the problem isn't that wolves are at the door, it's that termites are in the foundation. Some of our country's problems are termites, not wolves. Unfortunately, as Gallagher warns, our system is geared more toward dealing with wolves»), — à cet extrait correspond une analyse récente de CNN.News (le 18 septembre) sur l’état des banques au cœur de la crise en cours, – cela, confirmant combien la situation est une marque de l’état présent de notre civilisation:

«…Why is this financial crisis different? The answer is simple albeit not sexy. The rot has set in.

»The world's investment banks are basically houses built on pillars of money. Sometimes those pillars are cash, often bonds; these days pillars are made up of derivatives, swaps, options and other frighteningly complex instruments. But these pillars are the strength that supports not only the bank itself, but also its debts and liabilities. Under technical rules the pillars have to be transparent and of a certain quality, so that investors know just how well propped up the bank is. In layman's terms – everyone can tell “the bank is safe!” If the pillars remain strong – the bank stays standing.

»What has happened is that the rot has got into the pillars and no-one noticed. If they were wooden it would be worms. The very financial instruments that make up the core of the banks are questionnable. No-one can say for certain how much these instruments are worth, if anything. No-one knows if counterparties to deals are financially secure and will be around tomorrow. The very structure upon which banks like Lehman depended became doubtful.»

• La deuxième image qui nous paraît rencontrer la situation du monde est celle des conduites pourries de New York. Nous avons déjà sollicité cette analogie pour une définition de la politique extérieure des USA. Là aussi, la même image peut s’appliquer à nombre d’aspect de notre civilisation: impossible d’arrêter pour observer et réfléchir, pour savoir où l’on en est, vers où l’on va; si nous nous arrêtons, la pression de la dynamique du mouvement de notre civilisation va disparaître et nos structures, qui ne seront plus contraintes par cette pression, risquent de retrouver leur état naturel présent et de se désintégrer, – car c’est bien là leur état naturel aujourd’hui. (Le passage sur les conduites pourries: «In a recent meeting with editors and reporters at National Journal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that his city's officials are afraid to shut off the water to allow close inspection of some fragile pipes because the water pressure might be the only thing keeping them from collapsing.»)


Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

By Charlie Cook, National Journal, 2 September 2008

One of the smartest guys in Washington is political economist Tom Gallagher, who monitors the intersection of economics, policy, and politics for the ISI Group, a Wall Street advisory firm. On the subject of budget deficits, Gallagher is fond of quoting the late economist Herb Stein, who said that the problem isn't that wolves are at the door, it's that termites are in the foundation. Some of our country's problems are termites, not wolves. Unfortunately, as Gallagher warns, our system is geared more toward dealing with wolves.

Many of the problems gnawing away at the United States are rooted in our "$53 trillion 'real' national debt," the term coined by former Commerce Secretary Peter Peterson and former Comptroller General David Walker to describe our actual national debt, including unfunded liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare. Exacerbating these problems is a gradually retiring Baby Boom Generation twice the size of the current senior population. The crush of debt being passed on to future taxpayers is unconscionable, prompting Peterson, now chairman of the Blackstone Group, to hire Walker and commit $1 billion of his fortune to raising public awareness and prodding policy makers to find solutions.

Beyond Medicare, the constellation of health care problems includes funding Medicaid, covering the uninsured, and dealing with rising insurance costs that are increasingly hurting U.S. competitiveness.

Then there is energy – its cost and availability, and the implications of our dependence on foreign oil. Closely related is the need to shift to renewable-energy sources that don't exacerbate global warming or ravage the environment.

Both political parties are playing ostrich. Many Democrats are dragging their feet on responsible offshore drilling and on nuclear power. Republicans are resisting tougher fuel-efficiency standards and, in some cases, development of alternative-energy sources. Until we acknowledge that the solution to our energy problems is all of the above, we are unlikely to get out of the current mess.

Next on the list are the mounting U.S. trade imbalance, our lack of competitiveness, and our dependence on foreign investment to prop up our credit markets. Even as our global interdependence grows, schools continue to turn out too many students who are ill-equipped to compete in the international economy. And don't forget the entrenched underclass, enslaved in a cycle of poverty from which few escape, and immigration policies that bar some of the brightest minds in the world from American graduate schools.

This month's one-year anniversary of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a reminder of our national infrastructure crisis. In a recent meeting with editors and reporters at National Journal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that his city's officials are afraid to shut off the water to allow close inspection of some fragile pipes because the water pressure might be the only thing keeping them from collapsing.

The list of national woes wouldn't be complete without mentioning the home mortgage debacle and the related credit crisis. These problems – which will take years to fix – are choking off the ability of businesses large and small to obtain credit to expand or hire workers, and they are making it difficult for people to buy homes and cars. When a credit-driven economy reduces access to credit, that is a real crisis.

A common denominator of many of these problems is government revenue, with the day growing closer when we will need to shift to some form of consumption tax, perhaps as a replacement for the personal and corporate income-tax structure. A consumption tax is a more efficient method of tax collection, and it would boost our trade competitiveness.

Finally, in the area of foreign policy, the United States faces threats posed by terrorism, a nuclear-armed Iran, and an increasingly belligerent Russia.

Clearly, a host of complex challenges will demand our next chief executive's time. But another of the really smart folks in Washington, ViaNovo lobbyist and policy strategist Billy Moore, argues, "History shows that new presidents can usually only accomplish three or four big things in their first term, and that reaching beyond this number results in fewer, not more, achievements."

So, John McCain and Barack Obama, don't say we didn't warn you.


[Notre recommandation est que ce texte doit être lu avec la mention classique à l'esprit,“Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.”.]


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