Letting unreformed economies rip can have predictable consequences – and others less easily imagined.

Reform is unlikely to come from those who will lose by it.

The Big O in the White House has been boasting this week that in Q1 2010, exports were up 17% from a year ago. But the Prezz omitted to say that imports are up by rather a lot more. Obama knows this perfectly well: earlier in 2010, he gave American’s one of his rousing speeches – the ones that say how we need to get over the River Jordan, but not where the boat’s coming from. Talking of the bad old ways of cars and oil and grubby overalls, the President told the Nation:

‘We can’t go back to that kind of economy. That’s not where the jobs are. The jobs of the 21st century are in areas like clean energy and technology, advanced manufacturing, new infrastructure. That kind of economy requires us to consume less and produce more; to import less and export more. Instead of sending jobs overseas, we need to send more products overseas that are made by American workers and American business. And we need to train our workers for those jobs with new skills and a world-class education.

Obama may give off cool, but I know body language – it used to be my job. And his calm air these days is contradicted by the eyes of a frightened jack-rabbit. You see, Barack doesn’t know where the boat is either; and I’m not sure he ever did.

The truth is that the USA simply isn’t adapting: and it won’t until the stagnant political, corporate and banking system starts to think laterally. The problem is that the people running that stuff have zero motivation to change – and every reason to pretend everything’s just dandy.

This is beginning to sound like anti-American propaganda, and as I’ve no desire to engage in that, I should put some figures on these assertions.

Basically, as a business the US is haemorrhaging money. According to its Bureau of Economic Analysis, before the train hit the buffers in 2008 it was having a boom costing $2 billion a day in trade gap. Now that some economic activity is rising, it’s already back up to a billion….but he economy is nowhere near halfway up the mountaintop where it was. Bizarrely, the last thing America needs right now is to come steaming out of recession, because the debt would just keep getting bigger and bigger.

As I hinted earlier, the downside of a country where financial snake-oil salesmen, corporate fat-cats and well-supported politicians are extremely well-heeled is that they don’t give a junk bond Ponzi whether the problem gets solved or not: they’re already in the promised land.

It’s not that different here in the UK. Is it likely a man swanning about with a £23,000 Patek Philippe on his wrist ever really cared about the jobs of Rover workers, or the country’s deficit? Has he now (like James Purnell, a decent man) joined a social organisation designed to cushion the pain that’s coming? Certainly not: he’s writing his memoirs at – I hear – a remarkable rate, the faster to cash in on his well-deserved notoriety. Out on his million-quid a pop lecture tours, does Transatlantic Tony ever worry about the country that gave him all these opportunities? What can I say beyond, “His father-in-law doubts it”.

The same question could be raised about everyone from Freddie Goodwin via Eric Daniels and Frank Lampard to all those ghastly conniving Sir Humphreys who just swindled Britain out of £85 billion: they’re under the net, through the tape, and over the bridge exploding behind them. For them, a life of asses-milk baths and honey pots awaits.

Call me wild, but I do actually think that while Obama is a very vain man, he genuinely would like a better America more at ease with itself at home and abroad. My guess is that, although almost as wealthy as The Man Who Can, Cammers the Toff also cares about his country and about kids being brought up in a decent, loving culture: unlike Gordon Brown, David Cameron doesn’t have to pretend he likes his family.

The problem is, nothing’s going to concentrate their minds. Not only have they been through a life in which hunger was a stranger, and not only do they fail to see the strategy required for regeneration, they lack the creativity brought on by stark-staring necessity. There are not a hundred Panzer divisions in Mexico or Calais waiting to impose an obscenely alien system. There is no Dunkirk or Pearl Harbor.

Only when fear stalks the Promised Land in which our leaders exist – and mutual disaster binds them together – will things be reformed. The same thing applies to communities: they’re at their best in bad times, not good.

What we must at all costs avoid is that other reaction to threats and poverty: pogroms, wars and revenge. There are some crazy people out there who clearly don’t like us, but they need a firm hand now – not massacres egged on by jingoism when it’s already too late.