Why Is the USA an Empire?
Many make the mistake of defining an empire by its legal structure or the formal way it projects its power overseas. That is too narrow a definition. Who is considered a citizen and what lands are possessed by the empire often are the basis of traditional empire definition. A better modern definition of empire would look at the flows into and out of a country to better define the scope of empire. Those who recognize America as an empire often begin with the 700 or 800 foreign military bases the United States has worldwide. Those who would call America an empire would often refer to this as Imperial Overstretch and consider this a main cause of the decline of empires generally speaking. I myself find the large standing military and overseas political entanglements a better definition of an empire society. Because the military budget itself defines and measures so much of the rate of economic decline and the rise of various forms of social decay and political control, that is the single best measure of empire as I see it. Control of large areas of land outside of the original nation state is just not the way Americans like to do business or see themselves; they like to think they are a democracy, not an empire. But post World War II America not only adopted a large standing army, it also projected its democratic image in a variety of world institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. However, the mixture of America’s elites (often Ivy League) among the areas of dominance in business, politics, law, media, and the intelligence agencies has created a ruling class. This ruling class has over time become ingrown and stifles social mobility among the various income groups. There are still success stories among the land grant college graduates and the military, but America is now more of a class based society than Europe; just the opposite of the situation around World War II, the hegemonic war that lead to US world dominance and empire.
How Did We Get This Way?
The start of the modern American empire was in 1944, when the Democratic Party Convention failed to keep the liberal Wallace as Vice President. He earned 63% of the vote, but the rules required a two thirds vote. Early the next morning, moderate Truman was voted in. Truman was determined to oppose the Soviets and use the atomic bomb, taking the Churchill side of the debate and setting up the rise of the Cold War confrontation. Then in 1947 the national security act was passed creating the CIA and the Nazi spy network in Russia was absorbed into the CIA. All this was opposed by the Secretary of War and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who wanted a traditional small army between wars rather than the large standing army of the Cold War. So Truman raised the military to 5% of the economy rather than the traditional 1% between wars that went back to the 19th Century. After Korea, Eisenhower then doubled that rate to 10% of the economy keeping the Eisenhower economy under a 2.5% annual growth rate. Oddly, in both 1953 and 1961 Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex even as he was their agent. Under Kennedy through Carter, except for the Vietnam War, the military was brought back down to the Truman pre-Korea levels of 5% of the economy. Then Reagan reversed course raising the military to 6.5% of the economy, supported by a tax cut deficit twice the rise in military spending to keep the economy from collapsing. Kennedy brought military spending down to 7.7% of the economy by 1965 that together with the Kennedy targeted tax cut investment tax credit created the sixties boom. The four years after 1965 had a 5.6% growth rate, the next four years 4.0% and the next four years 3.6% as the Vietnam War dragged down the economy under Johnson and Nixon through 1973. The next sixteen years of four presidential terms averaged about 2.5% growth in each term as the post-Vietnam oil crisis recession, the Carter 1978 tax, and Reagan military buildup weighed down the economy into mediocracy. The Bush senior term suffered from the 1990 tax increase and the post-Cold War and post-Gulf War recessions that elected Clinton in 1992. Then the drop from 6.5% military to 3.0% from 1965 to 1999 returned the economy to sixties like high growth rates under Clinton. Bush junior then ruined the surplus and the economy with a Reagan like military buildup to 5.0% of the economy with a too small tax cut. A suddenly surging military buildup, in fiscal 2008, doubled the increase of the military compared to years before and since, and leads to the financial collapse of 2008-2009. Deregulation of derivatives in 1999 lead to a ten-fold increase in derivatives that set the table for the financial collapse, but a quarter by quarter economy analysis shows the four quarters of the fiscal year 2008 were the worst economic quarter results in that period of several years either side of 2008. So the Iraq War surge, that actually began in July 2008, lead directly to the economic collapse, combined with the bank deregulation and lack of SEC oversight to make matters worse. The economic recovery under Obama was slow as he tripled troops in Afghanistan, keeping Bush levels of military spending, but picked up in his second term as the military budget finally went down. This link gives you a better detailed historical account of the American presidencies and supporting data: https://www.academia.edu/4044532/HISTORY_Presidents_Military_Economy_1910-2009_3p._2013
What Are Some Effects of Empire Levels of Military Spending?
As Toynbee (1972) noticed, 23 of 25 civilizations studied collapsed due to high levels of military spending. Control of the military budget is two way street, corrupting the political system while giving power to those who dole out the money. The social decay of empire is a result of the economic lost energy represented by the dead end purpose of military spending. Not meeting people’s needs as they multiply under a stagnant empire political economy structure leads to poor health, lack of social mobility, and high anxiety and crime. Just as Rome’s Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Bush fiddled while New Orleans was drowned by hurricane Katrina. Just as Rome once had a crazy emperor for four years named Caligula for his small boots. America now has a crazy president noted for his small hands. Empires tend to emphasize power and control in their social structure, while healthier societies emphasize achievement. Here are a wide variety of comparative aspects of an empire society including power/achievement, control/opportunity, win/lose, feudalism/ingenuity, boredom/excitement, high crime/low crime, football/baseball, bomb/home, forgiving/unforgiving:
Please cite this work as follows:
Reuschlein, Robert. (2017, November 5), “Why Is the USA an Empire?” Madison, WI: Real Economy Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.expertclick.com/NewsRelease/Why-Is-the-USA-an-Empire?,2017130884.aspx
Dr. Peace, Professor Robert Reuschlein, Real Economy Institute, Nominated Vetted 2016, and one of 76 Given Odds, tied for 31st for the Nobel Peace Prize 2017
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