Commentary: Flat broke superpower

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large  |  July 22, 2013 at 6:41 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- As it filed for bankruptcy, the United States' one-time powerful center of mechanical invincibility and its wealthiest city, was a maze of vacant lots and abandoned storefronts. Detroit has 1,000 fewer police officers than a decade ago.

Michael Snyder's new book about the future of America is titled "The Beginning of the End." "Rotting, decaying, and bankrupt," he says, "if you want to see the future of America just look at Detroit." The once proud city defaulted on a $39.7 billion debt payment.

Detroit collapsed five months after the publication of Snyder's book. It was once the world's most important economic sector by revenue. It led the world in total auto production.

Snyder says: "Anyone with half a brain and a calculator could see this coming years ago. We are living in a nation that is rotting, decaying, drowning in debt and racing toward insolvency."

By Snyder's count 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States shut down since 2001.

There are also 77,000 U.S. bridges in need of urgent repair. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader, said domestic programs, such as replacing aging infrastructure, were short-changed because of the billions spent on the wars in Afghanistan ($800 billion thus far and well more than $1 trillion by exit time at the end of next year) and Iraq ($1 trillion literally down the drain).

"When I ran the first time, the approval rating of Congress was at 45 percent," Reid told The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib. Reid first came to Washington from Nevada three decades ago. "Now it's at 10 percent. In all the time Gallup has been doing its polling, no institution has ever been recorded at lower than that."

Gallup gives the presidency a 36 percent approval rating, down from 58 percent a decade ago. U.S. President Barack Obama is a major disappointment to his most ardent supporters. Bold statesmanship from a new generation never materialized while Congress prevaricated.

The Economic Policy Institute says the United States is losing half a million jobs to China every single year.

There are dozens of smaller cities across the United States on the verge of insolvency.

"There are 24 signs that once-proud cities are turning into poverty-stricken hellholes," Snyder writes.

There isn't much on U.S. network news about U.S. decay but for the Qatar-owned global al-Jazeera network in English, it is daily fare broadcast round the world 24/7.

All this is a far cry from the superpower that produced great cities across a continent that sprouted the wealthiest middle class in the world.

Detroit once had the highest per capita income in the United States, which meant the world.

Are we in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is "eating away at us like a cancer and things are going to get a lot worse than this," as Snyder claims?

Gated communities proliferate as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen at an alarming rate. Hardly a day goes by without global newspapers like the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal frontpaging stories about gargantuan Wall Street greed by a new class of billionaires. Fortune magazine profiles new billionaires monthly.

Trading schemes that convert money losing power plants into huge profit centers are the grist for schemes so devious and so fast as to elude Wall Street's traffic cops.

According to Einstein there is nothing faster than the speed of light -- 186,000 miles per second. Without much fanfare, Einstein is about to be overtaken by Wall Street's speed demons. And it isn't good news for Wall Street's traffic cops.

The new system will save a tad more than 4 milliseconds of one-way transmission time between two markets -- and cost some $20,000 per month to subscribe.

There are an estimated 1.4 million gang members in the United States today, the FBI says. Urban decay is their predilection. One out of every three children lives in a home without a father. Hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants are in the United States with no means of support -- except gangs.

Typical is the murder rate is San Bernardino, Calif., which is up 50 percent this year but the city is facing bankruptcy and was forced to lay off 80 police officers. In Oakland, Calif., burglaries are up 43 percent this year, but its police force is heading to 25 percent smaller than it was in 2008.

A sharp focus on the home front, away from foreign wars, was why millions voted for Obama. Even the president of the Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, recently wrote a plea in favor of the neglected home front. But wars and their insatiable need for costly weapons and their casualties evidently kept Obama stuck between two wars.

The U.S. debt in 1980 was $1 trillion. This week, it will top $17 trillion.

It is easy to fall into the camp of rampant pessimism while the gap between wealth and poverty grows wider by the day in the United States and is borderline economic depression in several European countries.

There is no brooking the fact that inefficient and corrupt "home rule" racial politics drove out wealthy whites first from Detroit followed by the middle classes.

Tom Friedman's new world is flat. America's is flat broke, blowing $2 trillion on unnecessary wars.

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