I savor those laugh-out-loud moments when people demonstrate that they are so terminally confused that you just know that there is no possibility whatsoever that they will ever get a clue. I had one of those happy moments when I read David A. Graham's Is the U.S. on the Verge of Becoming a Banana Republic?
On the verge?
But rather than deal with this "on the verge" problem, let's think about what a Banana Republic is. Although there were once real Banana Republics in Central America, the phrase has come down to us as a broader metaphor with something like the following definition—
A money-making enterprise (aka. a plantation) shot through with corruption masquerading as a legitimate nation state, especially a "free" and "democratic" nation state
Thus it only appeared that Guatemala was a legitimate nation in the 20th century, whereas the truth was that its "government" was a tool of American imperial interests, especially the interests of the United Fruit Company, which carried out its banana growing and export business in Central America. Hence the term.
Does the United States qualify as a Banana Republic in the metaphorical sense given above? You betcha! Only this time, we are in thrall to Comcast, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Lockheed-Martin, General Electric, Verizon, and a hundred other corporations. These special interests (and some others) basically run our government. They have captured their regulators. If you doubt this, take a good, hard look at the revolving-door corporate types Barack Obama has appointed to various positions in the Executive. Take a close look at all the laws Congress has passed over the past three decades. Look at who got bailed out and who didn't. You didn't, but Ally Financial (formerly GMAC) did. Our government is rife with corruption. Money talks, bullshit walks.
And that should be the end of the matter, but David A. Graham of The Atlantic is terminally confused about what we're talking about here. Young David wants to know whether America is literally a Banana Republic. In short, is America like Honduras when it was dominated by imperial corporate interests in the 20th century?
Unsurprisingly, his answer is "No".
There's a fruity phrase on many pundits' lips these days, and it has nothing to do with high-quality sweaters and slacks. Henry Blodget wants to know if the United States has become a banana republic. Ezra Klein thinks we probably are: "The fact that we wish we were not a banana republic witnessing a full-blown meltdown of our treasured system of governance does not mean we are not, in fact, a banana republic witnessing a full-blown meltdown of our treasured system of governance." The foreign press agrees, and so does Andrew Sullivan. Neil Irwin isn't ready to say so yet, but he thinks that minting a $1 trillion platinum coin might do it.
So are they right? Well, it depends how you define the term...
In time, the term came to describe any Central American nation whose economy depended on bananas. It took on darker connotations of economic imperialism with the rise of United Fruit Company, an American agricultural giant that viciously exploited workers, aroused the ire of left-wing parties across Central America, and was reportedly involved in various U.S. government interventions that propped up right-wing, anti-Communist regimes. More broadly, the term "banana republic" is often used to describe any nation that relies heavily upon natural resources and agriculture — what economists call the primary sector — to prop up its economy.
But the U.S. doesn't meet any of these definitions. Domestic banana production is extremely low; our government is not dominated by a major overseas corporation; and the U.S. economy is actually heavily biased toward the tertiary, or service, sector of the economy...
Domestic banana production!!!
You know, you can't make this shit up. There are additional confusions in David's presentation, but I will spare you many of the details. For example, all those links in the first paragraph above refer to articles asserting that it is the "fiscal cliff" fiasco or the "debt ceiling" debacle or the "trillion dollar coin" absurdity which lead the writers to believe that America may be "on the verge" of becoming a Banana Republic.
Bonus Video — requires no explanation