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Diane Francis

Diane Francis

Posted: July 27, 2009 11:23 AM

Economic Fix Is In, Political One Eludes


Good news, bad news.

It appears that following the fall's trauma, the world has been rescued from economic ruination following years of Wall Street criminality and the unbridled American credit rampage.
The good news is that these efforts were the result of an unprecedented, and grand, collaboration of nations. The stimulus and bailout strategies, while debatable, have nonetheless revived the pulse in banking and have saved developing nations and their lenders from catastrophic defaults on their debts.

Central bankers and policy experts held sway and the politicians inked deals that were, in some cases, unpopular or difficult to impose at home. But they did.

The result is that a Great Depression was averted and a Great Recession may have bottomed in March of this year. Or so stock markets are saying.

Not so fast...

The bad news, however, is that the world's politicians remain a pretty mediocre bunch, with few exceptions, which means that the next global crisis cannot be averted without addressing the world's leadership deficit.

Here are a few of my summer examples of the deficit of political leadership. (Email me with your own or post them on my blog):

1. The US Congress, corrupted by a failure to impose campaign finance reform on special interests, from unions to wealthy entities, appears to be unable to pass laws to provide even a modicum of fair, universal healthcare coverage for its populace. This clash of special versus public interest is an impediment to economic recovery. American consumers dare not spend because losing their jobs means total financial ruin from medical bills if they, or a loved one, becomes seriously ill.

2. India, with more grinding poverty than any nation on earth, launches its first nuclear submarine. As millions are spent on armaments, India only provides grade 3 education for its females and 50% of the world's poorest children live there.

3. Canada, on the other hand, launches a special website and promises to buy an icebreaker in order to establish its sovereignty in the arctic, possibly the world's biggest and mostly hotly contested, treasure trove.

4. Italy continues to defy economic gravity with its non-government governments and its loopy leader, Berlusconi, who continues to frustrate law enforcement officialdom and champions of civil propriety. His latest shenanigans, involving call girls and under-age females, has not been enough to force so much as an apology from the shameless media magnate. But his indiscretions about undeclared assets to a hooker may just end up sinking him in the polls. Of course, under the Italian system leaders are immune from legal troubles if they remain in power. So he may ride out this latest scandal by continuing to allow Italians to avoid taxes and the work ethic, by letting them retire at 50 years of age and by controlling the national conversation through his ownership of the country's major media.

5. Even upright Germany has lousy leaders. The country's Social Democrat Health Minister Ulla Schmidt was caught holidaying in Spain with her government-paid limo and chauffeur because the limo was stolen. It's twice a case of champagne socialism: Not only is she a socialist-hypocrite for abusing taxpayer perqs, but Germany's rules allow cabinet ministers to use limos and drivers on holidays.

6. Then there's the Brits with their expense account cheating.

7. And New Jersey's money laundering fiasco.

Got more? Post them.