by Danny Haiphong
The capitalist narrative, aggressively fronted by the Democratic Party in 2016, holds that “conditions in the U.S. were never better.” But all the objective facts say otherwise. “Imperialism's contradictions have been pushed to their natural limit.” By every social, economic and moral measure, conditions of life are deteriorating for the masses of people, while the rich suck up the wealth of the world.
10 Examples of How US imperialism Continues to Kill the People and Planet
by Danny Haiphong
“What has been called a "race to the bottom" by some scholars is really a permanent crisis in the system as a whole.”
The US state apparatus is no longer able to rule in the old way. Trump's rise to power has placed the two-party duopoly in a crisis of legitimacy that cannot be reconciled with the tools at the system's disposal. The system as a whole cannot offer reforms to appease the masses, nor can it conceal the long-standing unity between the two parties on the questions of war, state repression, and austerity. This system, US imperialism, is on a steep decline that has necessitated an intense focus on ideological narratives to move forward with its objectives.
One of the most pervasive narratives of the day is the idea that US imperialism's capitalist infrastructure is on the mend. For the last two years, corporate economists and media outlets have embraced a relative optimism about the state of the economy. Reports have asserted that unemployment has been dropping and median income rising. The Democratic Party campaigned in 2016 on the premise that conditions in the US were never better. Reality didn’t agree, and neither did the electorate. Here are ten examples of how US imperialism continues to kill the people and planet with no regard for the political and economic crisis being paved along the way.
1. US unemployment remains high: The measure of unemployment in the US is highly deceiving. It leaves out discouraged workers and those who have temporary, part-time jobs. This means that unemployment is actually a lot higher than the 4.3 percent being officially reported by Washington. In fact, the number of workers in their prime working years (25-54) who are employed is 1.7 percentage points lower than in 2008. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Black unemployment continues to be double that of Whites in 2017.
2. US wages remain low: In 2016, Oxfam reported that nearly half of the US population makes less than $15 per hour at their place of work. Twenty-five percent of these workers are without sick-time. To make matters worse, a recent Economic Policy Institute report found that capitalist employers reap an extra 15 billion USD per year in stolen wages. The precarious condition of workers in the US is little talked about in the corporate media. Yet for the majority of US workers, the so-called rise in median income alongside a lower unemployment rate has provided little relief from imperialism's race to the bottom.
3. US life expectancy has decreased: The US spends 18 percent of all GDP on healthcare but has some of the worst outcomes in the capitalist world. Healthcare in the United States is under the complete control of monopolies and corporations in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Not only are workers in the US working longer hours for less pay, but many of them cannot afford to go to the doctor when ill. In 2015, life expectancy decreased by one-tenth of a year. Preventable illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and drug overdoses were cited as primary causes for the change.
4. The rich continue to plunder the planet: Oxfam reports annually on the global wealth divide. And each year, the report reveals the extent to which the wealthy have consolidated most of the planet's wealth into fewer and fewer hands. In 2014, Michael Parenti criticized the conclusion that 85 billionaires had as much wealth as half of the world's population. He argued correctly that 85 billionaires have far more wealth than the rest of us, with concentrated wealth being the result of the private accumulation of surplus value from the world's working masses. The situation is far worse in 2017 than it was just three years prior. Now just six individuals possess more wealth than half of the global population.
5. The US is still the leading prison nation: More attention has been placed on the question of mass incarceration of late, especially since 2014. Yet despite all of Obama's PR gestures, such as the commutation of a few hundred sentences, the US remains a gulag state. The Prison Policy Initiative totals the US prison population at 2.3 million. Over half of all inmates identify as Black or Latino. Five hundred thousand prison inmates languish in prison for non-violent drug offenses. While just 5 percent of the world's population, the US possesses 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
6. The US continues to spend more on war than anyone else: The US spends over 600 billion USD per year on "defense," more than the next seven biggest defense budgets combined. This large sum of taxpayer dollars is distributed among 1,000 military bases and their weapons systems. Huge sums also go to lucrative contracts with weapons manufacturers. Saudi Arabia just struck a deal with the Trump administration that will total over 350 billion USD over ten years. Staunch US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia provide guaranteed markets for weapons contractors as they pursue wars of aggression in Palestine, Yemen, and Syria, to name a few.
7. The US continues to threaten Nuclear War: US military provocations both in the Korean Peninsula and along the Russian border have placed the planet on the precipice of nuclear war. NATO's exercises along the Russian border have yet to cease despite Trump's initial promise to scale back the Cold War institution during his campaign. Furthermore, one of the first military maneuvers made during Trump's Presidency was to threaten the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with a naval fleet armed with tomahawk missiles. The double edged sword of anti-Russia hysteria and military action in South East Asia points in the direction of a possible nuclear war between the US and the powers of the East; the consequences of which would be devastating.
8. Ecological Disaster: Nuclear war threatens the planet's ability to sustain human life. The US military is the world’s largest polluter. US military bases and facilities all over the world have been cited by the EPA for dumping waste materials into the ocean and spreading the dangerous effects of toxic weaponry far and wide. Of course, the system of imperialism that the military diligently serves has no interest in preserving the environment. US imperialism has one goal and one goal only, and that is to maximize private profit at the expense of the planet's habitability.
9. Privatization of Education: Donald Trump's proposed federal budget includes massive cuts to public education and anti-poverty programs generally. The GOP-led administration has set its sights on the "old-school" privatization model of funneling federal dollars into private school vouchers. Vouchers have been proven to enforce a segregation regime on school districts in a much more overt manner than the de facto segregation encouraged by charter schools. But charter school operators won't have to worry, either. Trump has vowed to continue the Obama and Bush II's assault on public education with similar incentive schemes that will close more schools, fire more teachers, and erect more charter schools into the near future.
10. Political instability: The conditions of US imperialism will no doubt continue to generate political instability both on the US mainland and abroad. What has been called a "race to the bottom" by some scholars is really a permanent crisis in the system as a whole. Imperialism's contradictions have been pushed to their natural limit. Tech and finance capital continue to speed up production and profit without regard for the future of the people or the planet. In response, a resurgence in right and left-wing political movements can be seen in nations such as France and the UK. Sanders and Trump represented the US manifestation of the political instability that currently plagues the imperial apparatus.
The trends outlined in this article reveal the intensity of imperialism's assault on the working class and oppressed masses in all corners of the globe. Those in the US working to organize a movement strong enough to pave the way toward imperialism's demise must pay close attention to the interconnected character of all aspects of the system. Such an analysis is exactly what the US corporate media and the political class are trying to prevent from forming. The anti-Russia hysteria surrounding Trump's administration distracts the masses from the legitimate problems of the oppressed classes and lays the basis for war. And if the elite gets their way, it will be a war that the lot of humanity can ill afford.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can firstname.lastname@example.org