When America Was Great Before

"We are here to awaken from the illusion of separation" Thich Nhat Hanh.

Trump promises to Make America Great Again. I assume he is referring to the prosperous decades after the Second World War, but he never mentions the specific factors that nurtured that greatness.

"Empire" is a social/economic/political form, where one nation or group, using military and economic force, extracts wealth for exclusive advantage, at the expense of other nations and peoples. From a holistic, non-dual perspective, this is a violation of the fundamental unity of life and is unsustainable. Historically, many empires have arisen, repeating a pattern of expanding, peaking, and contracting over time.

Postwar America was the only industrialized country with an intact manufacturing base and extensive domestic natural resources, particularly oil, the most versatile of fossil fuels. The development of nuclear weapons gave our military unprecedented clout. The dollar was stable, tied to a fixed quantity of gold, and used as a benchmark for lending by the rest of the world. America emerged as the ruling empire on the planet, supplanting the fallen British Empire.

In the 1950's and 60's, America experienced the social benefits of an empire on the rise. The middle class expanded. Union membership was high. Good wages supported an expanding consumer economy. The US dominated world trade. Public education was well funded, particularly in California. I got an engineering degree from the University of California for a total cost of $880. My widowed mother could afford to buy a house on a new teacher's salary. These really were the good old days.

In 1972 the American economic empire peaked, marked by two events. Domestic oil production peaked, and the US lost control of the global price of oil to OPEC. The cost of the ongoing Vietnam War, funded without curtailing the consumer economy, caused the value of the dollar to decline. Nixon was forced to drop the fixed gold standard of exchange. Everything shifted after that as the empire began contracting.

A series of economic bubbles have expanded and popped, destroying wealth and/or shifting it from the middle class to the elite few. Savings & Loans in the 70's, tech stocks in the 90's, and the recent housing problem in 2007, are just some examples of an economic system in contraction. Corporate business shifted from producing real goods to digesting other companies through leveraged hostile takeovers, which concentrated ownership and power. Manufacturing productivity expanded through automation and increased efficiency, but middle class wages have stagnated for decades, creating wealth disparity similar to third world countries. A massive expansion of consumer and governmental debt has tried to cover these structural problems, but now the accumulated debt is an economic burden that has slowed growth.

Trump supporters are right in that we have been systematically excluded from the economic benefits we took for granted as Americans, but they have been misled about why. Excluding people, building walls, and deregulating bad corporate behavior, won't bring back the affluence of an empire on the rise. We have squandered our resources; they are never coming back in the same way. By appointing corporate and Wall Street leaders who engineered the impoverishment of the middle class in the first place, Trump has shown that he isn't interested in helping regular people,

We are all in this together, whether we like it or not. Until we learn to organize the wealth of the planet for the benefit of all living beings, not just the humans, we will all suffer together. We need to set higher goals. Let's Make Earth Great Again.