David Fuller's view -
Contrary to widespread belief, the US is not facing economic and strategic decline in any foreseeable future.
It had already reclaimed its superpower lead before Donald Trump swept into office vowing to make America great again. With hindsight we can see ever more clearly that the Lehman crisis was a false alarm.
Loss of dominance has long been a staple of US discourse. John Kennedy decried the ballistic "missile gap" with the Soviet Union before the 1960 election, when Russia had just four missiles and the US had thousands with explosive power equal to 1.3 million Hiroshima-sized bombs.
Ever since I began covering the US as a journalist in the early Reagan years, there have been bouts of soul-searching. Paul Kennedy's theory of imperial over-stretch in Rise and Fall of the Great Powers was all the rage in the late 1980s, when the Washington clerisy thought Japan destined for economic leadership.
Edward Luttwack upped the ante in 1994 with Endangered American Dream, warning that the US was turning into a third world nation. This was just as the US was about establish its undisputed hegemony over the digital age.
US decline was a myth then, and remains a myth today. Putative rivals have all run into trouble or face structural limits that will be obvious within a decade. India's time has not yet come.
A decade ago the US was preparing to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) on a large scale. The terminals have since switched into export hubs. American shale gas is being shipped to Europe.
The effect is to force down the market price of gas in EU, depriving Russia's Gazprom of its lockhold on prices. Lithuania's "Independence" terminal can now import LNG, eliminating dependence on the Kremlin. Poland is following suit. That strategic implications are profound.
As Goldman Sachs said this week, US shale oil can go from zero to peak output within six to nine months. It can do so on a big enough scale to hold down global crude prices, and for long enough to bleed OPEC and the Kremlin almost white.
The Permian Basin in West Texas alone could match Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field within five years, topping 5m barrels a day. Fracking technology has cut break-even costs so fast that old "super-basins" are poised for stunning revivals. It is no longer a question of whether the US will become a net oil exporter, but how soon.
While the US "manufacturing renaissance" has been patchy, cheap gas has restored the fortunes of the plastics, chemical, and glass industries. The American Chemistry Council is tracking $130bn of new investment along the Gulf Coast, expected to create 460,000 jobs by 2022. The US unemployment rate is 4.7pc, near a half-century low
This is the recovery that Donald Trump managed to turn into a landscape of “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” in his dystopian inaugural address.
It is of course standard fare for opposition candidates to decry the decline of America during campaigns. What is different about President Trump is that he continues to push this line after taking office, presumably because he believes his own wild claims.
We all have to reach our own conclusions about Donald Trump. My view is that he matters less than we now think. His presidency may prove no more than a four-year embarrassment, leaving few traces.
His plans to slash science and technology funding by 20pc would indeed risk the sort of decline he rails against. But his budget is dead on arrival in Congress.
His contempt for allies and the multilateral bodies that vastly lever America's strategic power is folly but the US Senate is likely to take charge and run foreign policy on traditional lines. Grown-ups at the helm of the State, Defence, and Treasury departments will navigate the reefs. America's institutions and courts will contain Mr Trump.
Donald Trump won the US Presidential election for two very different reasons.
1) He recognised that vast stretches of America between the East and West Coasts contained plenty of angry voters, who Hillary Clinton once described unwisely as “the deplorables”. Job losses due to accelerating technological innovation were a big problem, especially for less skilled workers. For instance, people were working at Walmart for $9 an hour, while a little over a generation earlier their ancestors earned $30 an hour in steel mills. That was before globalisation and competition from developing Asian economies led to many of the US’s rust belts.
2) Most of the financial community and a considerable number of Republican business people were fed up with onerous financial regulations, high taxation and limited economic growth. The Lehman crisis was no “false alarm”, as stated above, because it could have triggered a depression without a massive monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve and also central banks in other countries. Unfortunately, Barack Obama was far more interested in regulation than economic stimulus.
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