Embarrassments of riches

What a time to be in the US. The panic on Wall Street is trickling rather than flooding down to “Main Street”, as the Presidential candidates said so frequently in last night’s first debate. (The Australian tabloid term “Struggle Street” would be considered way too negative to American ears.) The shops still seem full of people flashing credit cards, and the restaurants busy. (Perhaps they are tourists, buying with Euros. I have noticed that every time I so much as look at a piece of merchandise I’m offered a discount.) Although I did get a chill walking past Merrill Lynch HQ in midtown on Friday – following a meeting at Rockefeller Brothers Fund – to realise the only sign of life therein was a solitary security guard pacing the polished marble floor.

When you consider the possibility of Sarah Palin having the nuclear codes come January, the long global financial winter ahead of us, and let’s not forget the war, there is something of the perfect storm about the US right now. A strong theme of anger and embarrassment is running through my conversations with friends. One explained how she felt about her country’s situation like this:

It’s like if you had someone coming to stay at your house, and you had a totally dysfunctional family, and you just had to keep apologising for them all the time, because their behaviour is so embarrassing.

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