Davos: Opened exec wallets is the miracle cure for the world economy

DavosNo doubt every other outlet has given you about all you can stomach about Trump for the next four years, from golden showers with the world’s greatest call girls to a Secretary of Education who literally didn’t do her homework before her biggest test. Mulling over cutting social welfare programs while tweeting that a civil rights hero is a lazy parasite. There’s Russia celebrating Trump’s presidency and the fact that an inauguration for the biggest showman ever to take over the United States could only draw C-listers. And then of course the Women’s March (and Trump’s immediate tweet denying the actual attendance counts), about which I’ll be writing soon. But last week I spent some time, at the advice of my cousin,  checking out the Davos World Economic Forum. Because despite claims to the contrary, America’s current “greatness” is bigly due to its place in the middle of the global economy. While we’re busy Facebooking about inadequate bureaucrats and speculating about what might happen based on Trump’s statements (which is basically like playing a game of “choose your own adventure” at this point, what is the rest of the world saying about our shared economic futures?

China Drops the Mic at Davos

The PRC came out as the big player on day 1 of Davos, with Xi Jinping giving his first-ever speech at the summit. And he led with a strong warning to the world leaders threatening to institute protectionist policies. This is of course aimed at Donald Trump’s big talk about breaking deals with China and placing 45% tariffs on Chinese products to discourage trade, but it’s also pointed at the whole Western world responding to citizen discontent by putting up walls and tearing down trade deals that took decades to make and refine. As Xi said,

Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. Wind and rain may be kept outside, but so is light and air.”

Then Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, said America’s workers and middle class didn’t get screwed over by globalization; they got screwed over by the US government spending “14.2 trillion” on 13 wars over the last 30 years instead of spending it on building up its infrastructure and distributing wealth to its citizens. This is hyuuge since Jack visited Trump Tower earlier this month and vowed to bring 1 million njobs to America over the next five years by expanding his online retail service. Which would obviously be hurt by any penalties on Chinese companies. So what is it Trump — will you cost America 1 million jobs to satisfy your demonization of China? Because that would sure cancel out the big self-fellatiating you blasted out over saving 800 jobs at an air conditioner plant.

Davos Is All About Distribution

There were other topics discussed but all the experts seemed to echo Jack’s point about wealth.

A big topic was how to help the average citizens, whose frustrations have been palpable after a series of earth-shaking populo-capitalist protest votes. The consensus at one roundtable (“Squeezed and Angry: How to Fix the Middle-Class Crisis”) was that nations would all need to start taking notice and figure out how to redistribute wealth to its working and middle class citizens. They talked about how globalization wasn’t the problem but instead how nations hadn’t figured out how to deal with automation properly (and this after Keynes had promised we’d only work 15 hours a week thanks to technology ). How the growing wealth disparities in many countries needed to be addressed by individual businesses to keep their nations’ middle class from growing so angry that all business takes a hit and their nations shoot themselves espousing damaging global policies. Atlas will shrug not because the rich people decided to stop; Atlas will shrug because the workers will smack that bastard with a couple million 2-by-4s. Speaking of which —

Brexit and the EU

Theresa May, Britain’s new PM (after the xenophobic disenchanted workers shot heard around the world), followed her announcement a few days ago about Britain’s upcoming break up with the EU by doubling down and saying the UK will be renegotiating its own trade deals but is not looking to leave the global market. They will simply do it on their own terms (and though UK banks are heartened by May’s words, they’re still moving forward with their exit plans until they’re reassured that capital and business will be able to cross over to the continent). At Davos she also brought up the same point echoing elsewhere, that the people’s issues won’t be solved by closing borders but by the 1-percenters who run the companies that benefit from globalization doing a better job of sharing that wealth with everybody else. Which is nothing a nation can mandate but is a philosophy that must be embraced by leaders, though that’ll piss off some deep pockets. Better to redirect the blame at the devious practice of trade and claim the government is to blame, yessir, it’s not those men behind those curtains with their 150 foot yachts and condor egg omelettes. It’s trade. Which, of course, was invented by the Jews and the Italians and the Chinese.

The EU, of course, had their say in the matter. European Commissioner for Economic and Financial affairs told the BBC, in response to May’s speech,

 You cannot have all the advantages of being a member of the club when you are out of the club. I think that our British friends who invented clubs can understand that.”

Martin Schultz, outgoing president of the European Parliament, lamented the fact that individual nations’ bad policies led to their individual failings and now they’ve just turned to Brussels as the scapegoat to keep their people from grabbing the Guy Fawkes masks and throwing molitovs. While that’s not completely true — certainly the concept of a centralized monetary policy center presiding over independent nations seems like a bad idea and the austerity plans forced down the throat of Spain and Greece have ruined those economies — the depiction of international alliances and contracts as everybody’s favorite excuse does echo thoughts shared from seemingly every other panelist there.

And more from outside America’s orange curtain

A lot more happened in Davos. Another big theme was the fact that the number of women in executive positions is rising, countered by the fact that it’s still woefully low and pay discrepancies still abound. There was talk about technology, from AI to the future of automization. Joe Biden launched a parting broadside at the calamitous cloud taking over America and called out the 1%  for not pulling their weight while Canada’s Justin Trudeau was voted most optimistic leader on the planet following his speech that no doubt pulled many a doomsayer off the ledge (and oh yeah, he killed it at his role as a feminist panelist). And Henry Kissinger, legendary American statesman, and a man who’s spoke with Trump more than a few times to advise him on global affairs, scolded him on his approach to Europe and the world in general.

But the overarching theme that came out of the Davos meeting of greatest financial minds in the world is simple: It’s our bloated bureaucrats and caviar-chugging oligarchs who are to blame for a disappearing middle class, not our international unions and accords. And it won’t be fixed by governments cutting social safety nets or dividing our nations like feudalist Europe redux, full of walls and bluster and dick-wagging from the ramparts. The onus to fix the problems falls largely on the shoulders of those captains of industry who have raked in the bucks by replacing people with robots (and this on the coattails of an Oxfam report that the 8 richest men in the world own as much wealth as the bottom half, even if they’ve all pledged to give most of their fortunes to charity). The government can’t force them to do so because that would elicit shrill cries of socialism from all the free market (read: Survival of the fittest and most lucky) champions. So basically, we need to foster a culture of caring and duty, where the wealthiest people want to restructure their corporate policies to put a little less in their pockets and a lot more (relatively) in the pockets of their underlings.

This is frightening because America seems to be headed in the exact opposite direction. We’ve named the gilded-toilet-guy to the top seat; a man with the interior design sense of Liberace on meth is now the front point of our American arrow forward. No doubt he’s been an inspiration to a whole generation of men who dream that they too could one day be 70 years old, own a few golf courses and marry a slew of foreign supermodels if only the Mexicans weren’t keeping them down; men who think that swindling contractors and evading taxes isn’t reprehensible but actually just a sign that he’s smart (even if they would likely be the ones swindled). Altruism for the greater good seems to be at an all-time low under Trump; the message, loud and clear, is go get yours and fuck everybody else. The Senate has already voted to cut insurance to all but the wealthiest and healthiest so that they can save a couple hundred a month (and fuck that working class family whose kid has cerebral palsy, get ready to go into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to Trump’s banker friends).

While another topic at Davos was about reining in institutional fraud to reinstill trust, Trump names a lawyer with a longtime history defending Wall Street from the SEC to HEAD THE SEC. Oh, and to make it even more interesting, the new SEC head’s wife is a broker at Goldman Sachs. But I’m sure he’ll come down on one of the biggest perpetrators of the great finance swindles of the mid-aughts all the same, regardless of how it might affect his wife…

Finally, the idea repeated over and again that no nation is an island and we can’t abandon the alliances and routes built over centuries of goodwill and multi-beneficial cooperation flies in the face of Trump’s “America First” inauguration speech.

So while we march and protest — a noble pursuit, and necessary to make a statement from the start that we won’t roll over, that we will be heard — we need to realize that at best we’re the world’s dick. Sure, we’re fun and get a ton of attention and can fuck whoever we want, for the most part. But without the rest of the body, America is just a fleshy, inanimate appendage.

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Ryan Ariano

Born and raised in Baltimore, Ryan has been kicking around the west since the first Clinton White House. Having worked all over SoCal in the surf industry, Hollywood, marketing, journalism and finance, he now hangs his hat just outside Jackson Hole where he can fulfill an addiction to ascending and descending mountains.

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