Prompt 141: On The Scale of National Greatness...
[Note: this prompt begins a brief suite of prompts focused on the United States.]
141. Where would you rank the U.S. in terms of greatness when compared to the other nations of the world? What does it mean to be a "great" country?
The USA jumped the shark at just about the time I was born: the late 1970s. It coulda been a contender, but not anymore. Here's why, as I see it.
At that point, the rich folks were sick n' tired of the New Deal helping out the unwashed masses with equitable wages, real wealth, real production, and so on. The general opinion among the wealthy elite is that they weren't becoming rich quickly enough, and besides there were too many hoi polloi also sharing in the wealth that the wealthy elite believed rightfully belonged to the upper classes. Carter had put solar panels on the roof of the White House, but everyone thought it was just a gimmick, not the preview it could have been.
So deregulation comes along when dip-shits like Reagan were installed. A while later Clinton shows up and seals the deal with NAFTA. By then, labor unions in the US were destroyed and the financiers and corporations moved production out to dirt-poor, "developing" nations outside of the US. So workers in the US aren't paid to do the work anymore. Instead, you convince them that credit is the way to go. Now they are forced to either do without - in a country where literally you must pay to exist - or you work at your menial non-production job or as an administrator for some corporation.
That credit and lack of real wages (the real elephant in the room) turned most US citizens into indentured servants of the financiers, the corporate heads, the wealthy elite. They bought the overseas manufacturing plants, gutted the industrial policy and protections within the USA. Those who would have entered the skilled trades enlisted in the military instead, since the only major export from the US became war planes and the wars required to use them. Thanks to deregulation, corporations continued to buy up their "competitors" to form enormous, inscrutable megacorporations.
That's neoliberalism. Pretty much all that time, there's been a gigantic, sucking vacuum of wealth all across the United States upward through all social and economic classes towards the top. Since they'd bought and paid for legislation in their favour, legal protections were authored to preserve wealth at the top, or written off via contract when workers were forced to sign "binding arbitration agreements" and waive their legal rights. For all wealth that couldn't be protected through such "legal engineering," there were always off-shore tax shelters.
During the Obama presidency, writes Ian Welsh, another Depression began when the "too big to fail" banking institutions were bailed out instead of left to crumble. Were they considered like the big banks at the inception of the Great Depression back in the day (you know, when the US government maintained its legitimacy and wanted to develop the general welfare), they all would have dried up and blown away. "Privatize profits, socialize losses." That's what financiers mean when they say, "Let the free market fix it." What a bunch of jerks.
The USA is not great. Not anymore, at least. As a nation state it's been hollowed-out and is well on the decline. Funny thing is though, it's not because of immigrants or whatever the MAGA and "Let's Go Brandon" crowd rails against. It's because of neoliberal policy and the destruction of worker protections, and both the major political parties are to blame for this domestic product. The US government has sold out it's people in service to the neoliberal agenda.
The main commodity produced in the USA nowadays? Debt. A fairly-close second is war. How could that dirty pair be justified as a hallmark of a Great Nation?