The Global Leadership Meltdown

The global economic meltdown is severely testing every world leader, especially Russia’s Putin, Venezuela’s Chavez, and President Obama.  There may not be a New World Order in the offing, but current power struggles could portend a global leadership meltdown.  

Vladimir Putin, the only apparent fascist of the bunch, finds himself locked in a struggle with his self-appointed replacement, Dmitry Medvedev, who may be getting tired of being a puppet.  The financial crisis has hit Russia quite hard, and the military and security group known as the siloviki are clashing with economic liberals who are gathered around Medvedev.

It was Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, who in July 2007 wrote: "Russia has become, in the precise sense of the word, a fascist state. It does not matter here [that] Mr. Putin is wildly popular in Russia. Popularity is what competent despots get when they destroy independent media, stoke nationalistic fervor with military buildups…and ride a wave of petrodollars to pay off the civil service and balance their budgets.”

Indeed, activities like Russia’s military adventure in South Ossetia tend to overshadow the reforms that Mr. Putin made — such as a flat income tax of 13 %.  Russia’s stock market is worse off than Wall Street, having lost almost 80 % from its peak.  And now, finance minister Alexei Kudrin has issued a warning to the siloviki that the corporations in which they hold interests will see limits on government bailouts.  All of this is encouraging Medvedev to assert himself.  

Changing hemispheres and moving to the world’s most famous emerging socialist nation, Hugo Chavez likewise finds himself in some hot water.  Venezuela is, if anything, in deeper trouble than Russia.  Oil prices have plummeted to $40 per barrel, but Chavez had counted on at least $60.  And, as the laws of economics suggest it must in a country where government sets the prices of goods and services, inflation is running amok — more than 30 %.

Chavez’s response is that Venezuela needs more socialism.  His “national superintendent of silos and storage,” Carlos Osorio, said, “For the government, access to food is a matter of national security.”  So the Chavez government will tighten control of the food supply.  Shortages will continue because local farmers are not interested in producing food staples at government-dictated prices.

Chavez faces no more term limits, and he has no Medvedev to challenge him.  But the people can only take so much.  Venezuela is a textbook case of the failure of socialism, even as Chavez urges the U. S. president to take America further down that path.

And what about it?  Is that what Obama will do? Obama won’t admit to being a liberal, far less a socialist. But even with criticism beginning to mount, Mr. Obama holds to his spread-the-wealth ideology. Like Putin, he remains popular among the people, allowing him some time to see his plans through.  But like Chavez, something has to work — and soon.

Obama’s answer has been to spend trillions of dollars while proposing more trillions be spent on three pet projects:  government expansion into healthcare, education and energy.  The dirty little secret is that there is no money to spend on these or any other projects.  A few Democrats — Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold, to name two — appear to be off the Obama bandwagon along with all but the most liberal Republicans — and the stock market is at 1997 levels.  

Socialism and communism destroyed the Soviet Union and are now destroying Venezuela.  In America, Obama’s policies are taking us back to the “misery index” days of the Carter administration   It’s time to take a fresh look at the free market, which always works when given a fair chance. If these three world leaders don’t do that, they’re not going to be leaders much longer.  

Obama will be in office until 2012.  But unless he finds a way off the path he’s on and back to free-market capitalism, 2010 will be for the Democrats what 2006 and 2008 were for the Republicans.