The day after the U.S. midterm elections, the Federal Reserve is yet again buying securities (it has bought more than $2 trillion of them since 2008), to keep down interest rates. U.S. interest rates have now been at historic lows for two years, a huge gift to the financial industry -- but one that has done little to help the broader economy. Not coincidentally, investment banking bonuses are at record levels, while unemployment remains above 9 percent (officially, that is: the real rate is probably 15 percent), home foreclosures are at record levels, and there has still not been a single criminal prosecution -- not one -- for the reckless behavior that caused the financial crisis.
It is blindingly clear that America needs different and better economic leaders -- preferably leaders not compromised by past errors and conflicts of interest. Yet the overwhelming majority of the Obama team, not to mention Wall Street and academia, is composed of people who were part of the problem, or at best remained silent. Well, I have a suggestion as to where excellent replacements can be found: outside the United States.
Others already recognize that talent and honesty know no borders. Recently, I spent a week in London while my new documentary about the disastrous decisions and systemic corruption that caused the global financial crisis, Inside Job, premiered at the London Film Festival. During my stay, I met with Ruby Films, which is run by a very witty, accomplished man who had previously managed the funding of independent films at the UK Film Council. All well and good; but now comes the interesting part: He's not British; he's Dutch. But the UK Film Council had concluded that he was the best person for the job.
The United States needs to learn this lesson, and in areas far more important than movies. It might be difficult for us to swallow our pride, but for some of the most important policy decisions facing the United States, the right people for the job might be foreigners.
This idea will doubtless meet resistance among U.S. academic and policy elites, in part because it is contrary to their own financial and career interests. But over the last several years, in the course of making two heavily-researched documentaries about the effect of American behavior on the world (the first about the occupation of Iraq, the second about the global financial crisis), I have come to realize that there has been a deep shift in how the world views America's economic, financial, and foreign policy elites. Washington's days as unquestioned role model for the world are over.