The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

If You Believe Either Biden Or Trump Will Halt Decline You’re A Fool

There are those, even some smart people whom I otherwise respect, who think that Trump is a way to halt and reverse American decline.

This is delusional.


As for Biden, his claims to success are based on statistics that only a toddler or an economist would believe reflect reality, leaving aside the fact that he’s overseeing the loss of the US dollar as the primary trade currency, which will hurt the US worse than an Israeli shoving a red hot metal rod up a Palestinian civilian’s ass.

I’m on team tariff. I think they’re often a good thing. But tariffs alone cannot fix the US economy. America has too many economic pathologies. Without crushing the rich, dropping housing prices, making Private Equity illegal, forbidding share buybacks, ending stock options for executives, massive anti-trust enforcement and huge number of other policies, the US cannot take advantage of being hidden behind tariffs, especially when China is now producing more scientific and engineering advances than America.

People want hope. They need it. And they will find it, or what passes for it. We saw that with Obama, the ultimate neoliberal wannabe, who immunized bankers from their crimes and helped them steal millions of houses with fraudulent documents, then expanded fracking and bragged about, not just giving up the last chance to slow or stop climate change, but actually lighting gas on fire to speed it up.

Then Obama bragged about how much he had increased oil and gas production. Bragged.

No one is coming to save you if you are American, or, indeed Western. LePen will me a garbage fire. Starmer is one of the most mendacious neoliberal politicians of the past 50 years, an impressive feat.

If you want to do politics, you have to stop pretending that you can fix the major parties, and go third party. Yes, it’s a long shot, but it’s your only shot.

More realistically, national politics isn’t going to save your ass. You’re going to have to do it yourself, ideally with the help of other citizens. Perhaps thru a church, perhaps through a neighbourhood association, perhaps through a maker group: whatever, find a way to get like minded non-idiots together and support each other and start making the necessary changes so that you, your family and your friends have a better chance of getting thru the bad times.

It’s up to you. Climate change will not be stopped. My bet is that it is now into self-reinforcing growth. If it isn’t yet, it will be. The West’s hegemony is collapsing. As I have written repeatedly, Europe is going back to what it was for most of its history: a peripheral shithole on the edge of the Asian continent. The US is losing its empire and when it no longer had dollar privilege or a military that other countries are in terror of, Americans will find out the cost of sending their industrial base to China because if you can’t make it, other countries are going to demand a pound of flesh to send it to you.

Hell is coming and both Biden and Trump lead there, just by slightly different routes.

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Remembering the Good Job Market Of the 70s


Open Thread


  1. Stormcrow

    Hell is coming and both Biden and Trump lead there, just by slightly different routes.

    This is essentially the same chain of logic that drove my decision to sit out the 2024 election.

    I will not vote for Donald Trump.

    When he came out publicly in favor of torture, in the run-up to the 2016 election, he resigned from the human species as far as I’m concerned. Although his public welcome of the endorsements of literal Nazis, during that same election, took him to the exact same place by a slightly different route.

    And Joe Biden betrayed every person who voted for him in 2020 when he simply blew off Covid-19. Which he did immediately after taking office, in early 2021. The same way Obama betrayed American homeowners immediately after he took office, in 2009.

    The 2012 election cycle was my own personal turning point, the point where I’d had as much of this abuse as I could swallow. No more. So I sat out 2012.

    I absolutely refuse to vote a second time, for a candidate who betrayed me the first. And both Biden’s and Obama’s betrayals were as clear-cut as they could get.

    I can’t say this does not bother me. But basic self-respect leaves me no option: I can do no other.

  2. StewartM

    I’m delusional then.

    Not that I think Biden is a cure for our problems–he’s definitely not–but one party contains the seeds to grow into something that might at least manage decline and climate crises (fixing it or even mitigating it are likely unrealistic hopes) while the other party will floor the accelerator to collapse, and will lock themselves into power forever.

    There are plenty of problems to fix even here; one being that the D party has become a collection of everyone anti-Trump, including neoliberals who still believe in some sort of democracy and rule of law but don’t want anything else fundamentally to change, and this grab-bag collection makes setting an agenda to agree upon difficult. The situation is akin to Hitler’s rise to power, while the SPD had elements in it to fix Germany’s problems, they were only the plurality of non-Nazis at the end. So presenting a clear alternative to Hitler was difficult.

    But like Hitler, you have two choices. In one choice, the chances may not be great, but you might pull through in halfway decent shape. The other choice sends you straight to hell (and you don’t pass “GO” on the way either).

  3. Poul

    The dollar still reigns supreme until China starts running large current account deficits.

    Trade clears globally. The US is still paying in dollars which end up in China en mass.

    The only countries which can use the Renminbi without using USD are all running trade surpluses with China. Else they will all have to sell USD to buy Renminbi when they run low on the Renminbi. And you don’t have a lot of that kind of countries.

    The primary export of the US is the dollar

  4. Ian Welsh

    BRICS are creating a mutual trade currency. In the meantime, nations are moving to paying in their own currencies with each other.

    The US had a huge trade surplus in the 50s and 60s and the dollar was the dominant trade currency outside of the Soviet Bloc.

    Americans are whistling past the graveyard based on an accounting identity.

  5. Revelo

    Switching from dollar as trade settlement currency can be done overnight if computers allow it and in a few years if computers have to be reprogrammed. And there is no theoretical need for any currency reserves if floating exchange rates. But savers, whether individuals or states, do need a place to store wealth. Since USA runs consistent trade deficits, it must allow foreigners to save in dollar terms by buying investable USA assets, such as USA government bonds, USA corporate stocks and bonds, USA real estate, USA direct business investment, etc. Dollar can only lose its “reserve” status if none of the preceding list of savings vehicles is attractive to foreigners. What would truly destroy dollar “reserve” status is confiscation of foreign owned real estate and business investment in USA, export controls that make dollars useless to foreigners, etc. It’s a very long way from where we are today to that situation.

    At some point, world will be sated with dollar investments and USA trade deficit will disappear. Accumulation of previous trade deficits will then constitute percent of USA wealth owned by rentier foreigners. Return on that wealth will be permanent tax on Americans to pay for trade deficits of their ancestors. For example, if wealth owned by foreigners (=accumulated trade deficits) is 100% of GDP and return on that wealth is 6%, then there will be a permanent 6% transfer of GDP to rentier foreigners. Compare with 1940-1980 era, when USA ran big trade surpluses and so accumulated vast ownership of wealth in other countries (mostly as direct business investment), which then paid rentier dividends to USA, with peak of dividends around 1980, which is when USA starting running big trade deficits.

    Ownership and thus rentier exploitation of USA by foreigners is, IMO, less of an issue than concentrated ownership of USA by USA local rentier elite. Local rentiers are almost always more of a problem than foreign rentiers, in the post colonial era. If rentiers as a whole are euthanized (return on wealth reduced to under 2%, break up of highly concentrated wealth) then saving by foreigners likely be a minor issue, because any society capable of euthanizing rentiers is a society capable of confiscation and export controls, so foreigners unlikely to risk accumulating too much wealth in such a society.

  6. Jan Wiklund

    I’m not convinced the loss of the dollar as international currency will hurt the US economy in the long run, quite the contrary.

    When it is, the US doesn’t have to be competitive. It can just issue dollars, like the Spanish could ship silver instead of producing. The result for the Spaniards was that their industry – up to then partly world-leading – crumbled to dust, because their business community and their state didn’t need it. Shipping silver was more convenient. The result for the US is more or less the same.

    It used to be called “the Dutch disease” – one part of the economy, one that didn’t employ much people, crowded out the rest. Perhaps the name should be changed.

  7. GlassHammer

    “You’re going to have to do it yourself, ideally with the help of other citizens.” – Ian

    Our culture (mass media in particular) is pushing in the opposite direction of “cooperation”, “belonging”, and “pragmatic decisions” which makes “relationship building” a very difficult undertaking.

    Those around you start with a very “me first” level of thinking, a very degraded ability to listen, and a lack of experience with long term relationships.

    Try to work with others but expect frequent reversals in cooperation, being stuck at a low level of reciprocity for a long time, and less interactions with very short durations.

    See this is what makes a crisis event so hard to recover from. Starting with people in a degraded state is a much worse scenario than starting with resources/material in a degraded state.

  8. marku52

    My interest is in what happens to the USD when the US has some much more visible military catastrophe, such has having to sue for peace to China for losing the war over Taiwan, as it will? What kind of terms might China require?

  9. bruce wilder

    The skyrocketing U.S. national debt is an important tell, but the vulnerabilities in this house of cards may be in Europe and South America, where vast quantities of dollar denominated public and private debt exists with no claim on the power of a lender of last resort or fiscal sovereign, when a crisis arises. Eurodollar bank deposits and lending could implode uncontrollably when the inability of the U.S. federal government to tax rentier financiers and international business corporations is compounded by the rapid erosion of the rentier’s capacity to collect their due at the gates they keep. The multinational corporation’s dominance of global production and distribution and its role in the favorable terms of trade that the U.S., Japan, and Western Europe enjoyed was not lost on China’s planners back in the 1990s. Russia and Putin’s siloviki learned how difficult it was to escape the middle income trap while your country is awash in McDonalds and iPhones. The foundation of dollar dominance globally is the multinational business corporation extracting rents to fund vast seas of dollars sloshing around the global bathtub, largely outside the U.S. and legacy state-supervision. China and Russia are motivated to undermine that foundation and when it crumbles under the pressure of belt and road and Russian troops in Sahel and cheap Chinese EVs and a thousand other initiatives, chaos will follow in the global bathtub sloshing, possibly resolved by springing a big leak and drain away to nothing. Right now, China needs the dollar, prefers the dollar to giving up the power of renminbi capital controls to contain their domestic capitalist class, but opportunity shows on the Chinese and Russian horizon.

  10. Joan

    I am still on the fence regarding whether I will vote for Joe Biden or Jill Stein. I’ve never voted Green (I started out as an independent and voted dem the first time for Bernie).

    I hate Joe Biden, for both Gaza and I have a lot of friends struggling with student loan debt. So if I voted for him, it would be for the people in his administration and other appointees, such as a pro-worker head of the National Labor Relations Board and things like that. No fan of Kamala either.

  11. Soredemos

    @Ian Welsh

    The dollar dominance IS the ‘accounting identity’. The dollar isn’t going anywhere for a significant amount of time; it has too many advantages. It has attributes people like, even in a degraded state. Yves Smith pointed out recently how, yes, China is dumping Treasury Securities…to then buy US Agency Securities, which give slightly better interest rates.

    Eventually the dollar will lose total dominance to be merely one major currency amount several. Not the end of the world.

  12. Willy

    I struggle a bit finding an analogy for neoliberalism.

    Is it like casting crop seeds out onto a field to disappear until autumn, expecting a bounty which invisible hands will magically create? Or is it more coming back to your field decades later to decide you’re not a farmer, but a forester instead? Llike driving a new truck without care until it breaks down, reasoning that your next unmaintained truck shall last longer? Encouraging schoolyard bullies to dominate playgrounds? Pulling all umps and refs until every pro sport resembles the same prison riot?

    Anyways… I see it as a way for certain kinds of people to rationalize cheating with impunity, to do whatever the hell they want, to blame the ‘losers’ for any ethical, altruistic, socially responsible, community based ‘weaknesses’ they might have. I see Trump as being exactly that, while Biden at least seems to sense that this is wrong.

  13. elkern

    I’ve been a Green since I first read the Ten Key Values pamphlet which launched the US Green Party(s), so I appreciate Ian’s shout-out to third Parties… but, OTOH, good luck with that. Until we get wide-spread Ranked Choice Voting, Greens and other 3rd Parties are incapable of actually delivering on any platform promises and can only affect policy as electoral “spoilers”.

    I live in a Safe Blue State, so I have the luxury of voting for Jill Stein, but I may vote for Biden just to avoid the [remote?] possibility of Trump winning the popular vote while losing the Electoral College. Of course, this was exactly Trump’s path to the White House in 2016, but his brain is too “big” to bother with consistency, and he would gleefully risk civil war in an attempt to retake the Presidency.

    Biden’s Foreign Policy scares me, of course, but a 2nd Trump Admin would actually be run by the traditional GOP power-brokers – with their NeoCons in charge of FP – so it probably wouldn’t be any better. In his first Admin, Trump actually tried to run the Government, but that’s much less fun than making speeches in front of cheering crowds; if Trump wins, they will push him into the Bully Pulpit and keep those small hands as far as possible from the levers of real Power.

    If Trump regains the Presidency, I believe that the GOP will find ways to hold political power in the US for the next few decades, largely by changing election laws to cement their advantages (but also using some less legal means). I generally avoid calling Trump or right-wingers “Fascist”, but their perspective on Power certainly follows that model, and I dread living in a country which goes down that road.

    The thing I like most about Biden is that he really does want to rebuild US public infrastructure, which will have positive first- and second-order effects (new roads and bridges = lotsa blue-collar jobs = money pumped into local economies). The GOP has locked itself into actually believing that “Government Is The Problem”, so their domestic policy will continue to be More Tax Cuts for the Rich and some useless Culture War stuff.

    On balance, I far prefer Biden (and Democrats) over Trump (and Republicans), but I’m not foolish enough to “believe [that] either Biden or Trump will halt [the] decline” of the USA.

  14. mago

    Don’t know what the US dollar status has to do with the dismal and doddering presidential choices offered to a duped electorate, but it’s obvious that toxicity reigns.
    Not just here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but throw a dart at a map of the western world, or beyond for that matter.
    Interesting times? Si señor.
    Estamos chingadas.

  15. Seattle Resident

    @Joan, Biden recently approved a student loan forgiveness proposal of 7.7 billion. Doing something Trump would never do. Netanyahu and Likud are driving the bus on Gaza and Biden can only do so much. Trump would tell them to go full blown genocide on them.

    Agree with @elkern that if Trump scammed his way to power, the GOP would attempt to create a one party state, and a fascist one at that.

    I know that Biden won’t save us, but I appreciate his efforts to do things for main street Americans vis-a-vis infrastructure, student loans, enlightened judicial picks given the institutional opposition.

    With Trump, you have to fear being dragged off to the prison camp by the Maga SA/SS for being a political opponent or not a Christian as well as totally losing your ss and medicare.

  16. GrimJim

    The Great Collapse is already baked in — no one can stop it. Western Civilization will collapse, sooner than later. It will take the rest of the world with it, even if it does not end in nuclear war.

    That said, under normal conditions, we’d see another global civilization rise to prominence in about 1,000 years. Even with nuclear war, no later than 10,000 years (barring an empty-every-silo war, which means biocide). But we are not looking at normal conditions in the future.

    We are also dealing with complete Climate Collapse into Climate Chaos. As in, no more “status quo” for climate anywhere, any time. It will take a good 10 to 30 thousand years for a new climate equilibrium to settle.

    And that won’t be pretty. Whatever survives the Climate Chaos on the other end will have to deal with a new Ice Age, as that will be the new equilibrium.

    And glacial periods last for about 100,000 years. So, we are looking at, at least, 120,000 years or so before another global civilization will have a chance to arise.

    If humanity comes out the other end in a culturally adaptive form rather than some more “animalistic” for, (cf. Galapagos, Vonnegut). And even then, they will have a hard time of it, as most minerals and fossil fuels have been depleted. I’d expect them to attain something on the order of British or Polynesian wind and wet navy at best.

    But the surviving, that’s the hard part. As I’ve said before, I’m guessing that’ll be a big NO. I don’t expect much larger than a cat lor medium-sized dog to survive the Climate Chaos.

    But more currently, and to the point, the Great Collapse is going to happen. No one can stop it.

    Biden’s backers know this but hope to ride things out for a couple more decades. Why? I’ve no idea. Maybe they want to own more before they can die, some sort of great contest.

    Trump’s backers are just batshit insane.

    His oligarchal backers think they can control him, just as Hitler’s backers thought they could control him. They are wrong.

    His middle- and lower-class followers think he’ll enact laws that will favor their wallets. They are wrong. But he will give them everything they want in the White Nationalist playbook, as he is a fellow believer, though not a zealot.

    His Christians United for National Theocracy believe he is doing God’s Work; some believe he’ll give them the laws they want (he will, as they adore him for it, and they will never affect him or his family), while others believe he is fulfilling prophecy and will bring about the Rapture. They are right, in a way, but the Great Collapse will not be anything they dreamt of.

    No Rapture, just to start.

    With Biden, the PTB will do all they can to put off the Great Collapse.

    Under Trump, everything he will do brings it all that much closer.

    Before Trump — even with the stirrings of White Supremacy in reaction to Obama — I thought we had another 40 to 50 years before things really started going to Hell.

    After Trump’s first term, that sped up to 25 to 30 years.

    With Trump winning a second term, we are looking at thing really hitting the fan no later than 5 to 10 years out… but it all could start going sooner.

    If Trump loses, we have Civil War (not ACW style — Yugoslavia/Rwandan Genocide style). That quickly collapses everything in the US not held by the US Military. People forget how completely fragile our economy is currently.

    Take out the Internet, take out the major cross-continental highways and railroads, take out the top five international ports, and take out the major oil and gas lines, and what do you have?

    Complete collapse. Starving cities. Roving hordes. Mad Max world.

    Trump wins, that’s about 5 to 10 years down the road.

    Trump loses? End of next year, tops.

    The one chance will be when, the moment he calls on his “militias” and other loonies, Biden sends in the army and extirpates them. That’s the one chance. Massive show of force, decapitate the whole damn thing.

    Otherwise… complete chaos and collapse.

  17. Soredemos

    @Seattle Resident

    Biden is actively supporting the genocide. Don’t try and pull this ‘he has no power on this issue’ crap when it’s his government that keeps selling the bombs and providing political cover. The genocide (and it is genocide, full stop) would end tomorrow if Biden said “Enough.”

    Biden is going to hell, and I don’t even believe in hell.

  18. bruce wilder

    These “compare and contrast” Trump and Biden narrative analyses of a side-by-side projected future seem to me to be remarkably self-deceptive.

    Biden’s people leverage fear of and disgust with Trump’s persona to manipulate. But, if they really cared about anything you cared about, if they responsibly cared about good governance, they would have a better candidate to offer than the corrupt, senile, bloody-minded Biden. A genuinely attractive candidate — one with the moral character and mental capacity to be competent in office — could beat Trump handily. But, Biden’s people — or maybe the Obama-Clinton establishment — don’t want that; they want to feed at the trough, promise nice things but deliver excuses as they have for 40 years past.

    Just on the objective evidence, Biden (or “Biden” because face it, he’s not there) and the interests he represents are at least as much a threat of an authoritarian future as Trump. That “fascist” state is probably coming regardless of the candidate you vote for, just as the jackpot is almost certainly coming, whether suddenly or gradually and then suddenly.

  19. Joan

    @Seattle Resident,

    Thanks for letting me know about the newest student loan bill, I hadn’t heard about it. Here’s to hoping it goes through and the funds get to where they need to go.

  20. StewartM


    That “fascist” state is probably coming regardless of the candidate you vote for, just as the jackpot is almost certainly coming, whether suddenly or gradually and then suddenly.

    This opinion I can actually respect, though I do hold the hope that if Trump is defeated, the immediate threat from fascism will subside some (think of the Boulanger affair in France, 1889).

    But rather than a “Biden vs Trump” scenario, let’s do a ‘fill in the blank’ who will save us…

    Corbyn? Sanders? Who? Realistically, not even the best imaginable people (and most who are good are not good on everything, they will actively pursue some evil policies too). Nor as much as I would prefer either, I don’t think either would govern as effectively as Biden has.

    On a positive note, I read last night:

    “My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future.
    The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

    –Robert E. Lee, letter to Charles Marshall, September 1870, a few weeks before his death.

    All my adult life has been witness to the ‘ebb of advancing wave’, and though I likely may not live to see it advance again it may do just that.

  21. Seattle Resident

    I don’t think the “fascist ” state is coming from Biden, which is not to say you won’t have a continuation of neo-liberal policies. But you won’t see him jail, deport, or harm people because they are his political opponents.

  22. Soredemos


    I’m really inclined to care about the ruminations on progress from a guy who fought to preserve the slave power.

  23. Forecasting Intelligence

    Utter nonsense.

    Read Greer more Ian.

    Trump has the best plan to transition America into a self-sufficient great power over the next 20 years or so.

    Gut the federal bureaucracy that is killing the real economy e.g. the small to medium businesses that create real jobs in America, restore control over borders and end the mass illegal migration in the South, roll back on the overseas military commitments that America can’t afford anymore, use tariffs to get key industry back to America (or at least near shore it to friendly allies like Canada and Mexico).

    End the woke madness, the diversity obsession and restore pride in America and its military. Bring back a federal republic where states have real powers unlike our federal dictatorship.

    All this would be huge steps in ensuring the US doesn’t completely fall apart once its empire goes.

    As for climate change, its already baked in. Own it, deal with it and mitigate against it the best you can.

  24. Ian Welsh


    I respect Greer a great deal, but no one is right about everything or doesn’t have blind spots. Greer’s hatred of the PMC blinds him to Trump’s foolishness and incompetence. Trump’s also all-in on genocide and has spoken positively of torture.

    Trump’s the absolute moron who hit Huawei with sanctions, starting the serious China sanctions game, which has 100% backfired. Tariffs have their place, but export bans on something you’re ahead on which your competitors are happy to buy from you and aren’t seriously competing on are beyond stupid.

    Since I’ve been saying, for well over a decade (at least 15 years), that climate change is now unstoppable, I’m not sure why you’re acting as if you’re telling me something I don’t know or as If I’m saying something new to me.

  25. Forecasting intelligence

    Greer focuses on the substance of Trumpism, his plan and indeed record around gutting regulations that hammer the real economy, cutting illegal immigration that largely benefits the rich and the corporations and his attempts to withdraw from America’s overseas military commitments.

    All things Trump did or at least tried despite the resistance of the federal bureaucracy.

    Trump as a person is rather unlikeable and from my reading of Greer he is well aware of that.

    But given the crisis facing America his the best option versus Biden who is a continuity candidate.

  26. Forecasting intelligence

    A more interesting post would be for you yo outline the top 10 things you would do if elected US president in 2024 with the goal of salvaging what remains of American power and wealth.

    Then match that against the Trump and Biden tickets and work out who is closest.

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