Jubilee year for deadbeat tyrants?

By Erik Jay
web posted September 4, 2000

In the fall of 1999, President Clinton told a gathering of global bankers that he supports a plan to forgive the debt owed to the United States by some of the world's poorest countries. "Unsustainable debt is helping to keep too many poor countries and poor people in poverty," the president said.

"I am directing my administration to make it possible to forgive 100 per cent of the debt these countries owe to the United States," he concluded, and in the year since those remarks, he has worked stealthily behind the scenes and under the media radar to engineer an unprecedented "Jubilee Year" for the world's deadbeat tyrants and oligarchs.

Longtime political observers theorize that the Clinton Administration is pursuing both legislative and executive "remedies" that could rely on either a newly Democratic Congress if the Gore ticket wins and has coattails, or a swift, pre-January 21, 2001 executive action such as was used to facilitate the Mexico bail-out. The Constitution, patriotism, and common decency aside, "if a president wants something bad enough," as Pops used to say, "he'll find a way to get it, then either take credit or deny, whatever serves him best."

(Pops was a Republican worried about Richard Nixon in 1974 when he said that; what he has said about President Clinton my remaining good manners prevent me from disclosing. But, while man's depravity in general has not changed one whit since the Pentateuch, the bottom of the barrel for politicians seems to have descended to even deeper, darker, danker territory in the last quarter century since Watergate, although that would have seemed impossible at the time. Now nothing seems impossible, politician-wise!)

As usual with his policy pronouncements, the President's "global banker"-vetted plan for the debt-heavy Third World was creative, futuristic and undeterred by the constraints of barriers and boundaries. Which is to say, in this case, that his plan might very well work in the 22nd or 23rd Century, on some other planet that's been absorbed by the Borg Collective. But it won't work on earth in the 20th and 21st with regular humans, that's for sure.

Now, by a plan that "works" I mean one that results in a permanent change for the better all around, a win-win outcome. Paying off someone else's debts certainly "works" for the debtor, but even then only temporarily since bad habits will lead the way to insolvency again and again. If people, or nations, are foolish or fraudulent with their money only to have their folly and fraud excused, that hardly works to educate them to proper behavior, now does it?

But going backward in time won't help, either. The Old Testament Israelites' tradition at one time was to forgive all debt every 50 years. If I had to guess, I'd say the tradition disappeared because it was, well, stupid. Just like forgiving 100 per cent of the debt to our Third World debtors; and that modern governmental act of largess is hardly cost-free, either. You and I get to pay the debts. Again.

Exactly what did our Congress teach bankers and S&L executives when it enacted $100,000 account guarantees? It taught them to take huge risks, because if the investments paid off, yippee! And if they didn't -- well, the FSLIC or the FDIC would cover it anyway. The execs didn't lose; proportionally, only a few depositors lost; the taxpayers, once again, picked up the tab.

So, by forgiving their debt, exactly what will we teach the graying tyrants and beribboned colonels and dour imams of the Third World's sorry gaggle of mostly one-party states? That if they don't pay their bills -- well, watch out! The U.S. and its global banking buddies will just have to give you more money! And that means more responsibility, buster! Better read this brochure, and we really mean it this time!

Exactly where did Bill Clinton and the bridge-builders of the new millennium learn how to handle our money this way? It's so stupid, I almost have to consider giving credence to some of the more paranoid viewpoints I encounter, from the kind of people whose internal warning alarms and built-in fuzzbusters go crazy at the mention of "global bankers" and such.

I mean, really, if my bank told me that my car loan is being forgiven so I can handle my account better, I'm going to have to poke around a bit for the real agenda, find out who thinks I'm beholden to whom and for what -- and why is this happening? It's like one of the steps of Borg-ification: when you're absorbed, you get the chic metallic makeover, complete with zoom eyepiece and all, and you turn over only (a) your earthly/otherearthly possessions and (b) your identity. You're not only absorbed, you're absolved.

America was a great world teacher once, because we instructed by millions of individual examples -- we all got down to the business of human progress, you might say, and there issued forth from this continent a mighty rush of inventions and patents and products and medicines and ideas and machinery and fine arts and, consequently, wealth and power. From the 1700s to the 2,000th Year of Our Lord, America has also grown less individualistic, more collective, and we now engage the world, we wield our wealth and power, not as a restrained republic of free people, but as an energetic empire.

Tyrants! Colonels! Imams! It is your Year of Jubilee! Enjoy it while you can -- for you will be absorbed...

Erik Jay is editor of "What Next? The Internet Journal of Contentious Persiflage" which you can subscribe to by visiting http://erikjay.com.

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