Recently came back from a trip to Europe (France, Belgium and the UK) and I was stricken by the indifference to all things American, bordering on invisibility. In fact, there seemed to be a new way of thinking in which America was just an insignificant component of the whole and not the sine qua non. The dollar was refused everywhere; none of those countries even acknowledged its existence and seemed to want it dead. Upon hearing me speaking American English, many a taxi driver jokingly cautioned me that if I expected them to accept my dollars, then they would just as soon stop the ride then and there because the dollar was no good here.
I understand the inverse relationship between a weak dollar and exports, but there seemed to be something more going on there. Europeans seemed infatuated with themselves . . . and the Chinese. The Chinese are the new rage with Europeans and the latter seem too eager to oblige. Chinese tourism is at all time highs in Europe and Chinese is spoken all over the touristy streets . . .may be it’s just me but I even heard it at the Musee du Louvres in Paris and was drowned in it near the Manekenpis in Brussels. London seemed reluctant but not entirely.Yes, a weak dollar brings in more exports, and tourism, and investments, and everything else that foreign concerns could want from here, which in turn translates into US jobs. But where the bloody heck is our tourism? Where are our Chinese visitors? Where is our incoming foreign investment? Nothing seems to work the way that textbook Economics teaches. When things are this out-of-balance, there’s got to be some other force at work.
Policymakers are asleep and nothing is getting done in DC. Whatever our thing is . . .or was, all I know is that our thing ain’t thingin’ no more. Why just the other day I heard David Muir report on ABC News that very long lines form everyday at the American Consulate in Beijing, China just to get a visa to visit the US. Get this, Muir also reported that on average every Chinese visitor drops about $6,100 per visit to this country when they can get a visa. So, I ask again: where the heck are our Chinese Tourists???
It seems we lost our mojo and as a consequence, our long time partners are dancing with others. I don’t know how long this courtship between Asia and Europe will last before a marriage occurs, but somebody in DC needs to wake up and start leading again. Those cavalier and provincial anti-immigration political actors who can’t see past their own noses better take notice that the world is leaving us behind because they refuse to engage in it. We cannot be afraid. Human systems abhor a void. They tend to want to fill it. And when leaders refuse to lead, they tend to be replaced.