Remember Humpty Dumpty, the old English nursery rhyme? It goes like this: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall/Humpty Dumpty had a great fall/ All the king’s horses and all the king’s men/Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again”.
Donald Trump is America’s new Humpty Dumpty. Whether he wins or he loses the election, his fall is not a matter of “if” but of “when”. As president of the United States he has failed spectacularly. He has proved to be divisive and incompetent. He has wasted the opportunity of the longest economic expansion in contemporary times.
Then, when disaster struck with a global pandemic, and the boom gave way to global depression, Trump panicked. He feared being branded as a loser. He wasted time and he denied that Covid-19 existed. He prevaricated and lied. Even with thousands of body bags piling up he refused to declare a national emergency. He tried to shift the blame to his predecessor Obama, to China, to Europe and to the United Nations.
Counter to any elementary logic, the president, while America topped the league for infections and deaths, even removed the United States from the World Health Organization. Now, just a few hours before voting, having incessantly flown around the country with his retinue on the presidential plane – an exorbitant privilege paid by American taxpayers – Trump has the nerve to declare that he is winning. He is asking for four more years of the same to “Keep America Great Again” – a slogan he quickly had to correct, having discovered that its acronym in Spanish sounds like a rude word!
As a matter of fact, he is not even a tycoon, as he pretends, having declared bankruptcy six times to avoid creditors and taxes. To run America and make it prosperous and more equitable for all, he really has no plan.
Who says so? Surprisingly it is not the “socialists” but a small group of seriously rich uber-billionaires. One of them is Ray Dalio, the founder and chairman of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. With a net worth of $ 18 billion, he is multiple times richer than Trump’s $2.5 billion estimated by Forbes magazine. But that is not the point.
Dalio, who according to what is known, regularly pays his taxes and has no qualms in disclosing his income, is convinced that for America the day of reckoning is approaching. “This is what happens when increasing debt, expanding wealth inequality, and the rise of a great power, combine to challenge the existing hegemony”.
The United States, with 9.1 million Covid infections and 230,000 dead, is still lacking a national strategy to contain the epidemic and to prevent social unrest. The American economy, for the time being, is being kept afloat with massive injections of “helicopter money”. But the philosophy of Mr. Micawber, the Victorian character in Dicken’s “David Copperfield” who optimistically said “something will turn up”, is no guarantee for the future. America’s budget is devastated, with enormous debts: federal, state and private.
Millions of Americans are out of work, with no savings. According to a frequently quoted survey, most American families do not even have $ 300 set aside for an emergency. Social unrest, for the time being, is being kept at bay by palliatives such as moratoriums on rents and mortgages, federal subsidies and debt on their credit cards.
President Trump blames China for the virus and the current economic ills. Dalio, in his forthcoming book The Changing World Order. Why Nations Succeed and Fail, begs to differ. “For as long as I can remember”, he writes, “people have said that China cannot succeed. Communism doesn’t work, authoritarianism doesn’t work. The Chinese aren’t creative. They have a big problem with bad debts and property speculation. Yet, every day we see China succeeding in exceptional ways”.
“Time is on China’s side and not on the United States’ side”, warns the hedge fund billionaire. And he notes that China’s economy during the pandemic has rebounded faster than that of the US. What’s more, the Beijing Mandarins, being able to offer higher interest rates, are in a better position of not having to print money.
The two nations, as a result, may find themselves drawn into a “capital war” that could sink the dollar and wreak havoc on the US and Western economies. The implication is grim. “Severe economic downturns with large wealth gaps, large debts and ineffective monetary policies make a combustible combination that typically leads to significant conflicts”.
From Moscow President Putin, addressing the Valdai Conference, a Russian-Eurasian equivalent to the Davos forum, sends a significant message to Washington. “The time when the United States and Russia decided the world’s most important issues is in the past”. China and Germany, he adds, in terms of political and economic weight, are now heading for superpower status.
The Kremlin ruler is a calculating chess player. He knows that Europeans are beginning to entertain some doubts on the effectiveness of the NATO umbrella and to the opportunity of aligning too closely to US policies. He understands also that the notion of a Europe led by Berlin, with an increasingly assertive China waiting in the wings, is met by EU with concern.
At the same time, with the American fiasco on Covid-19 and the systematic humiliation of the United Nations by Trump, Moscow sees an opportunity for expanding its regional influence in Central Asia, in the Balkans, and Eastern Mediterranean including Libya. Russia, with a GDP comparable to that of Spain, in economic terms is second league, but is diplomatically and militarily capable to play an outsize role.