"People have predicted the end of America in the past and been wrong," Ferguson concedes. "But let's face it: If you're trying to borrow $9 trillion to save your financial system...and already half your public debt held by foreigners, it's not really the conduct of rising empires, is it?"
Given its massive deficits and overseas military adventures, America today is similar to the Spanish Empire in the 17th century and Britain's in the 20th, he says. "Excessive debt is usually a predictor of subsequent trouble."
Putting a finer point on it, Ferguson says America today is comparable to Britain circa 1900: a dominant empire underestimating the rise of a new power. In Britain's case back then it was Germany; in America's case today, it's China.
"When China's economy is equal in size to that of the U.S., which could come as early as 2027...it means China becomes not only a major economic competitor - it's that already, it then becomes a diplomatic competitor and a military competitor," the history professor declares.
Short version: The 2008 financial crisis and ensuing collapse in confidence drove investors to dollars and dollar-based instruments. And as the crisis has ebbed, investors are rebalancing back toward riskier assets.
Thus the falling dollar should rightly be interpreted as a sign of “new economic optimism,” argues JPMorgan Chase economist Jim Glassman.
Then again, perhaps future economic historians will look back at this stage of the dollar’s decline as the currency calm before the storm. Because at some point, investors may suddenly realize that America’s already somewhat devalued currency should not be trusted.
As Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican and noted budget hawk, said recently, “We’re basically on the path to a banana-republic type of financial situation in this country … You can’t keep throwing debt on top of debt.”
The U.S. government's current operating budget is dependent on foreign financing and money creation.
Too politically weak to be able to advance its interests through diplomacy, the U.S. relies on terrorism and military aggression.
Costs are out of control, and priorities are skewed in the interest of rich organized interest groups at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. For example, war at all cost — which enriches the armaments industry, the officer corps and the financial firms that handle the war's financing — takes precedence over the needs of American citizens. There is no money to provide the uninsured with health care, but Pentagon officials have told the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the House that every gallon of gasoline delivered to U.S. troops in Afghanistan costs American taxpayers $400.
"It is a number that we were not aware of, and it is worrisome," said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the subcommittee.
According to reports, the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan use 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day. At $400 per gallon, that comes to a $320,000,000 daily fuel bill for the Marines alone. Only a country totally out of control would squander resources in this way.
While the U.S. government squanders $400 per gallon of gasoline in order to kill women and children in Afghanistan, many millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are experiencing the kind of misery that is the daily life of poor Third World peoples. Americans are living in their cars and in public parks. America's cities, towns and states are suffering from the costs of economic dislocations and the reduction in tax revenues from the economy's decline. Yet, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, a country halfway around the world that is not a threat to America.
It costs $750,000 per year for each soldier we have in Afghanistan. The soldiers, who are at risk of life and limb, are paid a pittance, but all of the privatized services to the military are rolling in excess profits. One of the great frauds perpetuated on the American people was the privatization of services that the U.S. military traditionally performed for itself. "Our" elected leaders could not resist any opportunity to create at taxpayers' expense private wealth that could be recycled to politicians in campaign contributions.
Republicans and Democrats on the take from the private insurance companies maintain that the U.S. cannot afford to provide Americans with health care and that cuts must be made even in Social Security and Medicare. So how can the U.S. afford bankrupting wars, much less totally pointless wars that serve no American interest?
The enormous scale of foreign borrowing and money creation necessary to finance Washington's wars are sending the dollar to historic lows. The dollar has even experienced large declines relative to currencies of Third World countries such as Botswana and Brazil. The decline in the dollar's value reduces the purchasing power of Americans' already declining incomes.
The regulatory agencies have been corrupted by private interests. "Frontline" reports that Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers blocked Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, from regulating derivatives. President Obama rewarded Larry Summers for his idiocy by appointing him director of the National Economic Council. What this means is that profits for Wall Street will continue to be leeched from the diminishing blood supply of the American economy.
An unmistakable sign of Third World despotism is a police force that sees the pubic as the enemy. Thanks to the federal government, our local police forces are now militarized and imbued with hostile attitudes toward the public. SWAT teams have proliferated, and even small towns now have police forces with the firepower of U.S. Special Forces.
In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the U.S.A. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.
The 1 percent that comprise the superrich are laughing as they say, "Let them eat cake."