On August 12 the world turned its attention to United States. That day hatred and violence held the quiet city of Charlottesville in hostage. White nationalist groups had a rally, “Unite the Right”, ended with deaths and blood. Everything went wrong that day. The “white supremacy” group clashed with the anti-racist group, which tried to manifest pacifically.
What the world had seen the August 12 is quite shocking. We watched neo-Nazis on the streets making the Hitler salute while chanting “hail Trump”, a big manifestation of hate and racism inside a country that defines itself the hearth of democracy.
Heather Heyer lost her life while she was manifesting pacifically: a white nationalist used his car as a ram on the crowd, killing the woman and injuring at least 20 people. In the same day, a police helicopter lost control and crashed, causing the death of two cops: Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates
Trump has been under fire for not having immediately condemned the white supremacy’s actions (the day after the President condemned the hate groups and defined the racism “as evil”). The 45th President of United States has often used a racist rhetoric during the last electoral campaign. For many analysts he is responsible to have fueled the far right’s rage.
The brutality seen in Charlottesville reminds us, once again, that United States are no longer the super power that we used to know in the previous century. If in the 20th century the world observed the USA’s dominance, in this century we may assist to a slow decline. In the first decade of the new millennium we have already assisted at two significant events: the attack on the Twin Towers and the financial crisis of 2008. Since then analysts and academics put the country under strict observation, as The United States remain a huge market and its economy is vital for the rest of the world.
What the United States can learn from the Roman Empire’s collapse
In the last years we’ve seen many articles and academic publications comparing the United States to the Roman Empire. However, is good to take in mind we are talking about different times and, as Steven Guess wrote in his article for The Guardian, the comparisons with Rome are imperfect but there are parallels worth to consider.
Rome’s aristocracy was too corrupted and selfish, and the highest class was too busy to defend its interests and forgot their citizens. The administration wasn’t able to control its vast and fragmented territory, and the inequalities among the main cities and rural areas were too severe. There are many other variables to consider – as the barbarian’s invasion – and historians are divided over the real reasons of the collapse.
Probably one of the key factors of Rome’s decay is the contraction of its middle class. The birth’s rate collapsed among the middle class, while the slavery continued to have children. This was fine for the aristocrats since they had more slaves to serve them, however they were forced to rise taxes among the middle class and finished to pump the proletarians and divide the Empire’s citizens.
This is somehow what’s happening in the United States nowadays. The economic indicators paint a country in rebound, but the middle class is still bleeding, and rising inequalities are devouring the country from inside. “The annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973”. “Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled”, wrote in this article the Financial Times.
Solving the middle class crisis should be Washington’s top priority.
5 signs the United States will continue to collapse
1) Lack of solutions for the middle class
Donald Trump’s programme is quite confusing. Slogans like “Make America Great Again” or “Americans First” give us a vague indication how he will do to solve the middle class issue. During the campaign he promised to cut taxes for the Americans. However, his tax plan released on April 26 leave many unanswered questions. It is no clear how people will benefit from the plan, while the wealthiest will receive a big tax windfall.
At the same time he is smashing programs like the Obama Care, that helped many people who couldn’t access to basic health care.
2) A more isolated country on the international scene
Since the Iraq’s invasion the United States lost momentum on the international scene, and the failure of the Iraqi war creates a common enemy for groups of people that used to hate each others.
Trump wants to put in action a plan that would isolate the country: He intends to force companies to produce within the USA’s borders and limit their foreign outsourcing; his rhetoric on immigration may refrain many people to come in the United States; investors, companies and people may start to look to other countries.
3) The rise of China and other Asian countries will continue
The China had an impressive growth in the last 3 decades. The country has many internal problems, but it will play an increasingly role in this century. China is becoming an important technology hub and many students and entrepreneurs are now looking to Beijing for jobs and investment opportunities.
In the Asian continent there are many emerging economies, including the huge market of India, and with China as its centre, it could become an important business area (if countries will solve the political instability that dominates the area).
4) A divided nation
In the last 10 years we’ve seen signs of a divided nation. We aren’t just talking about the differences between the wealthiest and the middle class. The United States are a melting pot but many racism problems have (re)emerged.
During the Obama administration many Americans have joined the #BlackLivesMatter movement, created in 2012 after the Trayvon Martin’s murderer. The statistics show a big disparity among ethnic groups when it comes to police shooting. As reported by The Guardian, in 2016 “black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers”. The movement is quite active to protest against the disparities and the unfairness carried out towards the black communities.
Under Trump things are only getting worse. Many analysts sustain his racists rhetoric fueled the far right groups, and after his election we have seen a surge of racism cases. The country looks divided in far right groups and anti-racist groups, while violence continues to escalate.
5) The workforce is getting old
The American workforce is getting old. People have to remain in the workforce for different reasons, the first of all is that they can’t save enough money for their retirement. At the same time the job market offers less opportunities for work replacement, not to mention the fact that the birth’s rate has fallen in the last decades (and it will continue to fall).
People in old age need more money for their health, but they have less or no save for their retirement, and since the younger workforce can’t totally replace the old one, the pension system will be under pressure.
Every elements point to a crisis in the labour market, in the pension and in the health care system.
Are the United States really going to collapse?
It’s a difficult question to whom many are trying to reply. Some people make parallels with Rome while others explain why the USA will not fall like the Roman Empire.
The United States are still an impressive economic power, and still produce many innovations and technologies which serve people and companies around the world.
We can’t forget, however, that 40 millions Americans are still leaving in poverty and in 2015 food insecurity was still above the 2007 pre-recessionary level of 11.1 percent. Kathy and Luke in their blog 2$ a day publish their own researches on poverty, and what they find is quite embarrassing: the number of families with children with no more than 2$ a day per person are more than doubled between 1996 and 2011.
There’s still hope for the United States to avoid the collapse through the progress and innovative companies, but the Trump administration has to leave behind its primitive vision of the world.