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The End of the American Empire: Rotting From Within and Without - Color of Law By David A. Love, JD, Editorial Board

The day of the dollar is over. The euro is in, and the world is making it increasingly clear that it will no longer participate in propping up U.S. hegemony. Amid a weakening dollar and rising oil prices, OPEC considers dropping its ties to the American currency. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - who said the “empire of the dollar is crashing,” and is providing 112 million gallons of oil to poor American families who cannot afford to heat their homes - and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who called the dollar “a worthless piece of paper” - have concluded that they do not need the dollar, and agreed to set up a joint Iranian-Venezuelan bank. Meanwhile, China - which holds over $1 trillion of U.S. debt - must decide whether it is time to cut and run.

And European and Canadian tourists visit the U.S. and spend as if they’ve traveled to an underdeveloped nation.

The idea of an America that controls the world, and exploits the world, economically, militarily, culturally and politically, is one that is best relegated to the dustbin of history. Accordingly, we should celebrate all efforts to bring about the demise of that concept, so that the international community can breathe more freely, and so that America may gain a sense of humility and justice.

It seems fitting that we have Bush himself to thank for precipitating this decline. In seven years, through his antidemocratic policies, a crippling and senseless war in Iraq, and the human rights abuse commonly known as the war on terror, he has single-handedly accomplished what no other before him has done: bring down the U.S. before the eyes of the world.

As is the case with all declining empires, the rot is both internal and external. In ancient Rome, like modern-day America, military spending, contracting out government services, corruption, and enormous wealth inequality ultimately did them in.

As the self-described world police officer, snooping into other people’s business with over 700 overseas military bases in over 130 countries, America is bleeding money and fuelling resentment. Many U.S. citizens, uninformed and uneducated with regard to its country’s exploits around the world, are apt to believe Bush when he tells us “they hate us for our freedom.” Outsourcing much of its dirty work to Blackwater, Halliburton and other private corporate contractors, America chooses to rape and pillage Iraq in high-tech fashion, outside the reach of the Constitution. War profiteering is conducted under the guise of defending freedom and democracy.

Today, with corporations given free rein through a deliberate policy of tax breaks, deregulation and upward wealth transfer - not to mention the job outsourcing and downward push on wages brought about by globalization – bestow economic benefits for a few robber barons and empty hands for the rest of us are the logical result.

Americans always were told that they lived in the greatest country on Earth, a model egalitarian society. But a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts sheds light on the fallacy of the so-called American Dream. According to the report, America is less upwardly-mobile than Canada, Denmark or Finland. In the land of opportunity, your birth, more than in other countries, determines how you will end up. The wealthiest among us are likely to remain wealthy, and the poorest are also likely to remain poor. While only one-third can be considered upwardly mobile, the rest are either treading water or falling behind. And one-third of Americans are downwardly mobile, earning less than their parents and slipping down the income ladder.

Not surprisingly, as the proverbial canary in the coalmine, African Americans are particularly vulnerable. Only 31 percent of Blacks born to middle-income parents make more than their parents, compared with 68 percent of Whites. And nearly half of Blacks whose parents were middle income end up in poverty, compared with 16 percent of Whites.

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And as the Children’s Defense Fund recently reported, prison is the only universally guaranteed program for youth, as the U.S. prepares its poor children, disproportionately Black and Brown boys, for a life behind bars. With a cut-rate education system, few opportunities and an environment of violence and deprivation, many children are programmed for a cradle to prison pipeline. One child in six lives in poverty, and over 9.4 million children are without health insurance. One-third of Latino babies and one-half of Black babies are born into poverty, and one-quarter of Latino children and one-third of Black children are poor. With $100 billion spent on the Iraq War each year, a total of $450 billion so far, a mere $75 billion a year would eradicate poverty in America. Repealing the tax cuts for the richest one percent would provide $57 billion. But do we have the will, in a nation that refuses to do anything unless someone makes a profit from it?

Instead of focusing on the real problems, we allow the distractions to drive the debate. Rather than point the finger at a predatory economic system that is eating its people alive - and causing millions to lose their jobs and homes - many find convenient scapegoats, including Mexican immigrants, the LGBT community, beneficiaries of affirmative action and the Muslim world. The scapegoat industry is a full employment program for such caustic talking heads as Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other standard bearers for intolerance and hatred. What if the Angry White Men, for once in their lives, actually acted in the true interests of all and broke bread with the rest of us, including the angry people of color who also want a better life, and know that something is wrong with America?

Nothing will or should save the American empire, but perhaps Americans can save themselves and make the nation something it never was - fair and just, truly equal, and respectful of the world. What we need is Dr. King’s “radical revolution of values,” in which the U.S. becomes a “person-oriented” society rather than a “thing-oriented” society. Now let’s get to work and make that happen. Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a lawyer and prisoners’ rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two Black federal judges. His blog is Click here to contact Mr. Love.

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February 21, 2008
Issue 265

is published every Thursday

Executive Editor:
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Peter Gamble
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