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Commentary: Global house of cards

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   April 25, 2012 at 6:37 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) -- Rumor has it that a new Broadway musical on Washington will soon be in production. It draws on "Jersey Shore" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," which was based on the real, live "Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas."

Real, live material has been cascading for weeks. From elite, take-a-bullet-for-the-president Secret Service agents catnapping in a Cartagena, Colombia, five-star hotel with pricey hookers while prepping security for POTUS about to attend a lackluster Latin summit with 30 heads of state, to U.S. Government Services Administration workers whooping it up with taxpayers' money at an extravagant Las Vegas "retreat," there was no shortage of whoop-ti-do material for Broadway.

The Las Vegas retreat ran $823,000, including $3,200 for a "mind reader," who evidently failed to tell them they were out of their minds to be charging the hapless taxpayer for "water bottles for the growing 'goody bag' and 'tux rentals.'"

Keeping up with the taxpayer-funded freebies, Leon Panetta, when he was director of the CIA, flew a C-37 (military version of Gulfstream V) for dozens of long weekends (Thursday evening through Monday noon, former CIA colleagues say) to his Monterey walnut farm in California where his wife lives.

When deficit hawk Panetta moved from the CIA (no media) to the Pentagon (where media are on duty 24/7) last August, weekends on the West Coast became a tad more normal (Friday evening through Monday morning) -- 27 times thus far for a total of $860,000.

In an apology that promises to do something knowing it can't be done, Panetta said he was still looking for a less expensive conveyance to his Monterey walnut patch "where it's healthy to get out of Washington periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight."

Hard to do when faced with the steady drumfire of photos of U.S. military scandals – 82nd Airborne paratroopers posing with Afghan police holding the severed legs of a suicide bombers; U.S. soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses; burning of Muslim holy books; the massacre of 17 Afghan villagers -- while fighting an ever more unpopular war.

Panetta also has to counter pressures to cut back on defense as robotic, cyber and Special Forces warfare demonstrated it can change the course of history more effectively than the deployment of 2 million Americans overseas during the decade the United States has been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Spurred by budget-deficit reduction programs, the world's top Western military spenders (including the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany) were compelled to cut back. Owed $1.2 trillion by the United States, China's spending went up 6.7 percent, or $8.2 billion. Russia's draft budget for 2012 shows a 53 percent increase on funds earmarked for defense 2014-18. This will include $750 billion for equipment through 2020.

Are Western capitalist nations broke? The Oct. 3, 2008, U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program was designed to address the subprime mortgage fiasco and authorized to incur expenditures of $700 billion. That was then.

Now, following the semiannual International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington last weekend, the hat was passed yet again by central bankers and this time $400 billion in funny money was raised yet again to bail out IMF's bailout needs.

The global house of cards, says Interinvest Global Asset Management Chairman Hans Black, including TARP and other U.S. bailout programs, such as the Long-Term Refinancing Operations, or cheap loan scheme for euro banks and similar bailout packages in Europe, as well as major stimulus programs in China and the United Kingdom, now approaches $15 trillion.

"In other words," says Black echoing widespread sentiment among the cognoscenti, "governments and central bankers have spent $15 trillion in the past 48 months in order to prevent what … would have been a sure-fire depression."

That's also the same staggering total of the U.S. debt that just went over $15 trillion.

"Social Media for Dummies" is a simple guide "to ease busy executives, managers, business owners and anyone with a real job into the insanely overhyped world of social media."

We now need a new edition. Suggested title: "Complete Idiot's Guide to TARP and LTRO."

And that's a potential global bestseller with a market of 99.99 percent of the 7 billion people now huddled on Planet Earth.

Governments and central bankers have run out of cliches and financial mumbo-jumbo. What is $1 trillion?

It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills. Or, if that's too hard to grasp, one trillion dollars, laid end to end, could make a chain that stretches from Earth to the moon and back -- 200 times.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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