AS AMERICANS confront the impact on their own lives of the years of financial deregulation pursued by the Bush Administration, it is easy to lose sight of the profound effects that are now being felt overseas.
To some extent, the financial trouble experienced by banks and governments in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the developing world is their own fault. It is fully understandable that banks and investors in Germany, Japan, or Iceland would have been attracted to financial instruments issued by Wall Street firms, supported by government-backed U.S. bodies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, because of the big profits and safety they offered.
At the same time, anyone who buys a financial instrument that he doesn't understand is a fool, and a fool and his money are soon parted.
Nonetheless, there are at least two U.S.-based concepts that have been severely perhaps permanently damaged by this disaster.
The first is globalization, although it is a fact of life and can't go away, even if some trading partners wish it would. The second is the idea that the United States is the center of the economic universe again, a fact of life that some wish were not so, but can be only limited and not eliminated.
As a result of American financial mismanagement, the government of the United Kingdom has been forced to buy big pieces of that country's largest banks.
Governments across the world, from Japan to Australia to Russia, have been
forced to take drastic measures to try to save their economies from the effects of the American meltdown. Trade and financial relationships are such that globalization is here to stay. All that can be done is to take steps to see that in the future, U.S. melamine does not find its way into the world's financial candy.
As far as America's future as the central player in the world economy is concerned, that is not about to change despite the dismal performance of the administration and Congress. Even if the footsteps of China and India can be heard in the near distance, the U.S. economy last year was three times bigger than its nearest competitor, Japan, in terms of gross domestic product, and the dollar still is likely to remain the reserve currency of the world.
All this in spite of the fact that the administration is borrowing heavily overseas to try to cover its deficits and the new $700 billion bailout. So, even though the U.S. economy has messed up big time, the rest of the world is stuck with it.
All the more reason for America to get its financial house back in order.