Empire leaves the imperial core in a state of destitution.
The nominal political scientist and anti-imperialist, Michael Parenti, has stated that “the Empire bleeds the Republic”, meaning: billions spent on death and destruction abroad in the name of capital and hegemony leads to impoverishment and destitution at home. The United States, which Parenti was referencing, is suffering from this fate — and it is reaching breaking point.
In recent years, the rising inequalities in and increasing impoverishment of the “Land of the Free” have been hard to ignore. Be it the inability to attain clean drinking water like in Flint, Michigan — which is still ongoing but the media storm surrounding it has subsided — or recent reports that have highlighted “Minimum wage workers can’t afford [an] average two bedroom rent anywhere in the US”. American society is crumbling under the weight of a capitalist class that prey upon them as if they are cattle waiting on slaughter. As one sees from Jeff Bezos’s most recent billionaire bro-club escapade in space travel, where Bezos sent thanks to his workers, who are committing suicide on the factory floor, saying “you guys [including customers] paid for all this”.
The carte blanche attitude of Bezos is, unfortunately, unsurprising. Why? Because we reside in an economic system that fosters and operates in this manner, and Bezos is fully aware of it. In the US, in particular, Bezos is more than confident to explicitly say, no shame nor attempt to mask his statement, that workers produced his wealth — as he knows capital dominates and that the proletariat can only watch on in anger and disgust. At a time when millions of Americans are facing evictions, millions more living in poverty, and malnutrition growing exponentially. Bezos gleefully states he exploits you and steals your wealth. While also destroying hundreds of thousands of unsold goods — including PPE — to ensure profits, forcing workers to remain in horrid conditions, crushing unions, and has the gall to laugh in your face and say “you guys paid for all this”.
The pandemic, as we all are aware, has ravaged the US — seeing more than half a million dead and more than 20 million jobs lost — only worsening the already bleak livelihoods for millions of people in the “Land of Opportunity”. One saw President Biden win on a platform supporting $2,000 stimulus checks and various other “progressive” measures like cancelling student debt — for which he has only scratched the surface. But unsurprisingly Biden, the career politician who passed the infamous 1994 Crime Bill (also known as the Biden Crime Law) that is emblematic in the shift towards mass incarceration, capitulated on his campaign policies and introduced an “America is Back” attitude following Trump’s tenure, as if Trump was some sort of anomaly. Biden’s “America is Back” approach appears archetypal for the American political process: The military-industrial-complex is in full swing, with “$23 billion weapon sales to UAE” — the human rights-abusing dictatorship in the Gulf — and the recent approval by the Senate Armed Services Committee for an increase of the military budget by $25 billion giving the State Department $740.3 billion. While the Department of Housing and Urban Development has stated it would cost $20 billion, less than the recent increase of the military budget, to end homelessness in the US. But that’s not a priority — securing military and economic hegemony is.
Billions upon billions are spent while more Americans become homeless — despite hundreds of thousands of vacant homes and funds available to end this disaster — and suicide rates increase as people are not provided the support they need, with an oligarchical leadership who work for big business, per this study, using flowery language, expensive PR, and the mythologies of America to appear “liberal”, “well-meaning”, and working in favour of the people — not only in the US but globally. While simultaneously describing socialists as terrorists and equating the ideology with Nazism (that once revealed was swiftly removed from the military training manual) and Florida major recently signing into law an anti-socialist education bill and “requiring students and professors to register political views” — teaching children the “evils of communism” in round three of the Red Scare. Interestingly, at a point when more and more young people are challenging capitalism, seeing it as a destructive and parasitic system, and are sympathetic to socialism or view it favourably — coincidence? I think not.
Infrastructure is another aspect where Parenti’s phrase holds up well. Washington has not engaged in the development of infrastructure since the last century, per Daniel Slane’s report, “Emergency & National Security Projects”, from Trump’s tenure, that highlights the disaster that is US infrastructure. For instance, according to the American Road & Transportation Builder Association (ARTBA) “over 45,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges in poor condition.” with 1 in 3 in need of repair or replacement. Alongside this illiteracy rates are rising with “54% of U.S. adults 16–74 years old — about 130 million people — lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.” Compare this to say the alleged “failed state” of Cuba, as Biden recently stated, where the literacy rate remains above 99% and homelessness is non-existent while Havana remains under a draconian embargo that the world wishes to end but Washington remains steadfastly committed to crushing the small island nation. Meanwhile capital in the metropole continues to ravage the population squeezing working-Americans for all they have, as seen by the recent strikes by Frito-lay workers who are forced to work “suicide shifts”, where you finish one shift at 11 am and come back to work at 7 pm, and have only seen an increase of pay by 20 to 60 cents over the last ten years. Once you rise up and protest against the injustices caused by capitalism and take to the streets demanding an end to institutional racism and police killings and brutality; Americans are subject to more police violence and abductions. So much so, even the United Nations calls for an inquiry into US police violence and institutionalised racism.
The US government in the meantime continues to give apartheid state, Israel, billions of dollars yearly; claims to be pulling out of Afghanistan meanwhile CIA director William Burns states the CIA will be remaining, allowing Langley’s death squads to continue; ceases to introduce social programs that will benefit everyday Americans despite spending some $24.4 billion on overseas bases, which number over 600, with the State Department also spending roughly around $60 billion a month, three times the amount needed to end homelessness; and acts belligerently around the world engaging in hybrid warfare against numerous nations and using US tax dollars to do so. “The Empire”, Parenti has rightly suggested, “bleeds the Republic”.
(Tarik Ata is an MA in Global and Comparative History from University of Warwick)