Meme Watch: USA 2009 as Russia 1998

There are times when an idea, in any form of expression, seems to grasp the overall sense of the moment, and crystallizes it in some form. I think these ideas are even more powerful when they are apparently unconnected to any particular party, agenda, etc. In the internet age, we’ve taken to calling these ‘memes‘, as they tend to spread far more rapidly than before. Well, one meme is almost certainly finding its way into powerful Inboxes of both Washington and Moscow (not to mention Beijing et al), and that is the idea that the United States is essentially moving backwards developmentally – according to its own standards – through its poor, and dare I say corrupt, handling of the financial crisis. This idea, which has really been on the tips of everyones tongues for a while, was expertly summed up by Desmond Lachman, a former IMF stooge and now AEI stooge, in his WaPo editorial today (via Lachman is apparently feeling guilty in his twilight years for shilling advice that, once push came to shove, we ourselves immediately abandoned. But perhaps the greatest strength of his argument is the comparison of the United States, and its policy reactions in a crisis, to those of emerging markets. The comparison is especially apt in his discussion of the oligarchs, and how their private enrichment brought Russia to its knees in ’98. Now we see the companies which bankrolled political campaigns (e.g., AIG, Goldman Sachs, Freddie/Fannie), are given sweetheart deals at taxpayer expense. And the U.S. population, with its purported spirit of ‘no taxation without representation,’ simply takes it, just like their Russian counterparts did in 1998, without a fight.

Update: the idea that this is a ‘meme’ is supported by data – since it was published yesterday, over 12,000 blog posts have written about, or linked to, Lachman’s article.

Update-2: another article, again by a formal IMF official, expressing dismay about how we are essentially just like those poor people we always judged so harshly. These guys must really be ashamed for having pushed trash ideas for so many years.

The U.S. is Coming to Resemble an Emerging Market Nation, Washington Post (via

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