COVID19 Brings American Decline Out In The Open

| Educate!

Above photo: Maybe it will get better from here? David Paul Morris/Bloomberg.

Without fixes for infrastructure, education, health care and government, the U.S. will resemble a developing nation in a few decades.

NOTE: Popular Resistance rarely reposts articles from corporate media outlets like Bloomberg News but we thought it was interesting that reality is seeping into the mass media.

The U.S.’s decline started with little things that people got used to. Americans drove past empty construction sites and didn’t even think about why the workers weren’t working, then wondered why roads and buildings took so long to finish. They got used to avoiding hospitals because of the unpredictable and enormous bills they’d receive. They paid 6% real-estate commissions, never realizing that Australians were paying 2%. They grumbled about high taxes and high health-insurance premiums and potholed roads, but rarely imagined what it would be like to live in a system that worked better.

When writers speak of American decline, they’re usually talking about international power — the rise of China and the waning of U.S. hegemony and moral authority. To most Americans, those are distant and abstract things that have little or no impact on their daily lives. But the decline in the general effectiveness of U.S. institutions will impose increasing costs and burdens on Americans. And if it eventually leads to a general loss of investor confidence in the country, the damage could be much greater.

The most immediate cost of U.S. decline — and the most vivid demonstration — comes from the country’s disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic. Leadership failures were pervasive and catastrophic at every level — the president, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, and state and local leaders all fumbled the response to the greatest health threat in a century. As a result, the U.S. is suffering a horrific surge of infections in states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida while states that were battered early on are still struggling. Countries such as Italy that are legendary for government dysfunction and were hit hard by the virus have crushed the curve of infection, while the U.S. just set a daily record for case growth and shows no sign of slowing down.

This utter failure to suppress a disease that most other countries managed to contain will have real economic costs for Americans, as fear of the virus drives people back into their homes and businesses suffer.

In addition to worrying about their jobs and livelihoods, Americans must now be subjected to months of images of Italians casually walking around on the streets while they cower in  their houses. It’s a painful and stark demonstration of national decline. Even more galling, the U.S.’s Covid failure means that its citizens can no longer travel freely around the world; even Europe plans to impose a travel ban on Americans.

But the consequences of U.S. decline will far outlast coronavirus. With its high housing costs, poor infrastructure and transit, endemic gun violence, police brutality and bitter political and racial divisions, the U.S. will be a less appealing place for high-skilled workers to live. That means companies will find other countries in Europe, Asia and elsewhere a more attractive destination for investment, robbing the U.S. of jobs, depressing wages and draining away the local spending that powers the service economy. That in turn will exacerbate some of the worst trends of U.S. decline — less tax money means even more urban decay as infrastructure, education and social-welfare programs are forced to make big cuts. Anti-immigration policies will throw away the country’s most important source of skilled labor and weaken a university system already under tremendous pressure from state budget cuts.

Almost every systematic economic advantage possessed by the U.S. is under threat. Unless there’s a huge push to turn things around — to bring back immigrants, sustain research universities, make housing cheaper, lower infrastructure costs, reform the police and restore competence to the civil service — the result could be decades of stagnating or even declining living standards.

And a biggest danger might come later. The U.S. has long enjoyed a so-called exorbitant privilege as the financial center of the world, with the dollar as the lynchpin of the global financial system. That means the U.S. has been able to borrow money cheaply, and Americans have been able to sustain their lifestyles through cheap imports. But if enough investors — foreign and domestic — lose confidence in the U.S.’s general effectiveness as a country, that advantage will vanish.

If capital begins to abandon the U.S. and the dollar in large amounts, the currency will crash and Americans will find themselves paying much more for everything from cars to televisions to gasoline to imported food. Interest rates will be raised in an attempt to lure back investment capital, and the country might undergo a period of stagflation worse than the 1970s. Large-scale unrest would undoubtedly result and — in the worst-case scenario — the U.S. could collapse like Venezuela.

This is an outcome to be avoided at all costs. But it’s an outcome that is no longer out of the realm of possibility, thanks to the complacency, arrogance and misplaced priorities of U.S. leaders and the deep and bitter divisions among U.S. voters. If the U.S. goes from rich, world-straddling colossus to floundering dysfunctional developing nation in just a few decades, it will be one of the most spectacular instances of civilizational decline in world history. Every mind in the country should be bent towards the task of reversing the decline and restoring national competence.

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.

  • Alan MacDonald


  • mwildfire

    Has Venezuela collapsed?
    The other big hole in this is not recognizing that the primary cause of this decline is not division between US voters, but systemized corruption which directs most taxpayer resources to the rich, the corporations and above all the bloated military. We do need as the other posters said, to jettison the empire, which along with profit-seeking MIC hands, is the reason for that bloated military. If we somehow pulled off a revolution which terminated the political corruption and the military was chopped down to a reasonable size, perhaps as much as a tenth of what it is today, with zero foreign bases…that would release enough resources–human and materials and energy, as well as money–to undo all the rest of the decline. We could rebuild necessary infrastructure like water systems in cities, transition to a smaller, slower, cleaner transportation system, dump a lot of destructive of useless jobs but replace with good work doing things that help today’s and tomorrow’s people. Imagine it.

  • ThisOldMan

    Agree with all you say except the second sentence. The creation of artificial “divisions between US voters” is exactly how the 1% has gotten away with its plunder of the body politic, which you have aptly summarized in the rest of your comment. The history of this is well known, and stretches from Reagan’s “Welfare Queens” all the way up to Trump’s border wall. How could you have missed it?!

  • mwildfire

    But the division is not the CAUSE of the decline–the cause is the madness of the ruling class, which won’t allow any resources to go toward human needs unless it makes them richer, insist on ignoring problems as long as they can escape the consequences, etc. That division is one of their tools to get away with the plunder, yes, a tool no doubt passed down from one generation of rulers to the next for centuries. So yes, it may be part of HOW they’ve gotten away with it (along with their control of the media, which is absolutely key).

  • Steven Berge

    It would figure that Bloomberg wouldn’t discuss “the system” that allows extreme wealth concentration, which in turn leads to rule by the extremely wealthy few.

  • This Bloomberg piece does indeed (seem to) address (some of) our grievances.

    But after decades of struggling to survive the increasingly ecogenocidal greed of our tryannosauric Masters, most of us should now be able to recognize it for the vicious propaganda it is.

    For those who do not, here are five points to bear in mind:

    (1)–Never forget the Mainstream Media Propaganda Machine (MMPM) is the world’s first privately-owned, for-maximum-profit copy of Josef Goebbels’ infamous Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda;

    (2)–Remember too the MMPM is owned and commanded by a cabal of six billionaires — part of the same cabal of plutocrats who own and command all U.S.politicians — which means any notion of its content being “Mainstream” is itself another Big Lie;

    (3)–Truthfully renamed, the MMPM would instead be CMPM (Capitalist Media Propaganda Machine); equally truthful alternatives include SMPM (Slavemaster Media Propaganda Machine); FMPM (Fascist Media Propaganda Machine); IMPM (Imperial media Propaganda Machine); FNPM (Fake News Propaganda Machine) and DMPM (Dysinformational Media Propaganda Machine), my favorite because when the acronym itself is turned into a noun, we get “Dump Em” — precisely as we should do to every Capitalist on this planet;

    (4)–However named, anything the propaganda machine’s Josef Goebbels disciples disseminate is intended to serve only one purpose — ensuring the ignorance and disunity that ensures we remain enslaved;

    (5)–Lastly, never forget that whenever and however our Masters pretend humanitarian empathy, their sole purpose to co-opt our efforts at achieving liberation, thereby subjugating us without the displays of deadly force that are the most obvious signature of fascist tyranny.

    Mainly just keep in mind we are ruled by the most bottomlessly Evil, most diabolically cunning, most murderous Masters ever. Now they’re expanding and perfecting the ecogenocidal deceptions their aristocratic, slavery-dependent white ancestors began in response to the British supreme-court-equivalent’s 1772 ruling that Blacks – and thus by implication all people of color – are fully human.

  • Alan MacDonald

    Loren, I agree completely!

    While we’re talking about acronyms, I would offer this one DGCCE (Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Empire) — which, IMHO, is a seven-sectored Empire, and within which the ‘media/propaganda/TVad/Socialmedia’ sector is likely the most dangerous sector of all seven.

    I like, enjoy, and fully concur with your focus on the “Masters” — what the hell, they even named themselves the “Masters of the Universe” — how self incriminating is that?

    Kevin and Margaret’s “Popular Resistance” is quickly becoming one of the most popular & ‘Woke’ progressive web-sites — what with ‘woke’ commenters and articles from Hedges, et. al., eh?

  • Alan MacDonald

    Steven, what you call “the system” should more accurately and comprehensively be called simply: the “EMPIRE”.

    Specifically, and if we want to fully define its 21st century form — this Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Empire.