According to University of Wisconsin Professor Alfred W. McCoy, when empires enter their era of decline, they fall apart with “unholy speed.” He points out that The Portuguese Empire dissolved in just one year. Most of us remember that the death throes of the Soviet Union lasted for only two years. For the French it took eight years, the Ottoman Empire fought off the pale horseman for eleven years, and the mighty British Empire lasted seventeen years before the final bell tolled. Many believe that the year 2003 marked the beginning of the end of the American Empire and predict that the end for us will occur within the next twenty-two years. I am writing this essay in the year 2012. From the time I write and post this short work, nine of those years are gone and thirteen remain. Given that there will likely be a series of events that lead to the end, we probably have eight to ten years of deluding ourselves that we are too big, too important, or too powerful to ever be replaced as the preeminent super power of the world.
What kinds of events could possibly trigger the end to the America we know? One could involve the delicate financial corner the United States has painted herself into. It’s not just the national debt but includes what has happened to the middle class and the spending power, and taxing power that comes with such a class.
When we ask why the middle class is shrinking, we need to look first at where the products we American Consumers buy are made and by whom. In the year 2011 the United States imported $726,712,000,000 more than we exported. Forty per-cent or $295,456, 500,000 of that trade difference was paid to China. We bought from China $3,000,000,000 worth of apparel and $2,400,000,000 of leather goods. We bought $1,400,000,000 in chemicals and $1,300,000,000 worth of plastic products. We bought $2,000,000,000 worth of machinery and $2,500,000,000 worth of appliances and components for assembling appliances, and we paid $11,000,000,000 for computers and electronic products.
Every item I just listed, and it is far from encompassing everything, could be and should be MADE IN THE USA. Why are they made in China rather that the U. S.? Because we, as consumers, want to pay the lowest possible price for everything we look at. Businesses want the best bottom line they can achieve. Consumers, as workers, want the highest wages they can wring from their employers and employers want to pay their employees as little as possible. We all want a clean environment, but we don’t want to pay the price for achieving it. China satisfies all of those wants, but the cost is that your neighbor, and now probably you, have no jobs to go to. How many people can fast food places employ? To see just how arrogant we American Citizens are. Go into any fast food store and see who is working there. My experience is that it looks like the Hispanics have pretty well sewn up the employee pool for fast food joints. Why? The reason is simple, they are willing to work, and they don’t expect factory level pay for what they do. But we, mostly white Americans, see the kind of work and wages offered by the fast food companies beneath us. But not everyone does. Someone will do the job and take the last few dollars of your last unemployment check as you pass by the drive through window of the local Burger King or McDonalds.
If we want to try to stop our race to mediocrity, some first steps include; spending a little more and buying American made products whenever possible and accepting any job we can find, no matter how much it pays. If it takes three jobs to put food on the table, work three jobs. Those jobs are out there. If you don’t want the money, someone else will take it.
Every generation in our country’s history has had hardships to endure. There have been depressions, recessions, periods of outlandish inflation, periods of severe labor strife, crop failures, and the list goes on. This is the first generation that has thrown their hands in the air and cried about the situation, expecting that by wringing their hands, some magic spell would fall upon the world and then every wrong becomes righted. Other generations put their shoulder to the grind stone; helped each other; did whatever work was available; and most of all bought American products that were made in American factories, by American workers. We did not allow ourselves to be pushed around in our own country; we just dove in and did whatever it took. Now a new generation is facing the abyss. It appears that this generation is content to be pushed into it rather than put up a fight. If that is the case, America is doomed and in a few years will be an “also ran” on the world stage. There may still be time, but I see this generation too selfish and too self centered to be bothered. So I suggest you learn the exchange rates on the Yuan and the Euro because soon one of them will be the world’s reserve currency!