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
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.