The single most important issue in allocating national resources is war versus peace, or as macroeconomists put it, “guns versus butter.” The United States is getting this choice profoundly wrong, squandering vast sums and undermining national security. In economic and geopolitical terms, America suffers from what Yale historian Paul Kennedy calls “imperial overreach.” If our next president remains trapped in expensive Middle East wars, the budgetary costs alone could derail any hopes for solving our vast domestic problems.
The ONLY way to keep thinking, progressive activism silent against the income inequality avoidance of "civic" investment in society is to go to war against a concocted 'enemy' who hacks better than American teenagers or "prays" more fundamentally than reborn again super christians, or steals more effectively than Wall Street conniving creators of NEW and IMPROVED investment vehicles that promise everything and exempt responsibility for mis-investment theft.
If the minions of oligarchy, the CEOs that cruise the waves of plutocracy like sharks hungering for the rewarding blood of victims for the kings of the plutocratic seas are to be stopped, it will take a redesign of the concept of wealth and victory. Success in SOLVING societal needs, rather than exploiting them, will have to be designed and punishment for indifference or exploitation need development.
The central takeaway from this excellent overview of the American empire is that our foreign interventions and imperialist pretensions have rarely if ever benefited the interests of the American people. Our political leaders and obeisant media keep talking about American interests being furthered by these foreign policies debacles, without ever defining no less debating during our quadrennial presidential campaigns precisely what or whose interests are served by them.
Only Jill Stein of the Green Party has raised the issues Professor Sachs writes about with such eloquence. Our "major" parties continue uncritically to accept and propound this imperialist and militarist worldview, which only the arms profiteers, foreign policy elites, and politicians benefit from.
Vote Stein/Baraka so we can raise awareness of and engage in national debate about US policies that have brought and will continue to bring so much death, destruction and sorrow to humanity.
Speaking from the point of view of economics, the article is quite wrong. The USA is monetary sovereign and has full command over its currency.
Therefore it can never go bankrupt in its dollars [unless Congress deliberately does so] and it can buy any and every debt it can get. The consequence therefore, is that the government can pay for every military dollar and it can also pay every other expense involved in government operations. There is no either/or about it. It can do both at the same time.
There is a limit in a practical sense. Assuming the country doesn't want runaway inflation it will have a limit to its fiscal space. The output gap between the worth of the current economic performance and the maximum future value at full employment is in the Trillions of dollars. It can freely spend into that gap with no repercussions beyond using up excessive resources. The fiscal space has no relation to tax revenue.
As sure as the Sun is coming up tomorrow, the fascist, imperialist empire will fall! sooner than most know; it has run its course of blood and suffering!
Thank you Jeffery Sachs for your eloquent article. The thoughts and insights are so clear that it is difficult for people that have held those same thoughts and beliefs for decades to come to terms with those in Washington who perpetrate and promote the insanity at such a great cost to our country, not to mention the harm and human toll our policies place upon people of nations impacted by our government's policies and actions.
It is also beyond disheartening to hear citizens seemingly blindly parroting the twisted rhetoric that comes out of Washington. Citizens beating their chests, at the ready to become involved militarily wherever Washington may lead. One can only hope and pray that this type of behavior and thinking is the boisterous, uninformed talk of a growing minority.
Of all the expensive ruthless and bloody actions (failed or otherwise) of USA State in history, including the illegal occupations and controlled states, all the victims, and in any case, caring and sober people need to do, is to put aside to some degree their own struggles and consider the synergistic power of solidarity and domination in addressing key global crimes of the USA.
Key USA crimes, that when resolved will make a world of difference.
We need to isolate a few key battlegrounds to take to the established aberration courts, and not least of all, the WORLD COURT OF SUSTAINABILITY AND PUBLIC DECENCY - a thing I made up, to mean the intellectual power and bank of public knowledge and perspective.
We need to identify the most easily won international crimes, in conjunction with their latent capacity, when resolved, to affect all the rest - like a domino effect - thus establishing a new culture resistant to what people traditionally call "evil".
Decent people cannot force the necessary spotlight and reconciliation on every major USA international crime spanning two centuries or more because our resources will be divided. And we cannot wave a wand and have the USA way of terror, murder, theft and bullying corrected.
Look back, we cannot afford to have the USA "great" again as it's been propagated to look for so long in little boy history books and Disneyland imaginations.
Yes, as it's headed, the USA empire will fall of it's own accord and discord, but such victory/collapse of default does not assert righteousness going forward nor does it assert an environment of sustainability where global brutality, state or corporate, is extinguisged and can never re-cultivate. We need a decisive blow to ignorance and bloodshed once and for all time. This is what we can all attempt to emerge by putting aside faith based on ignorance and horouring what we certainly all know.
A USA collapse of it's own making will provide a global vacuum of imperialism for some existing state or stateless form to fill.
And, the notion that another equally consummerized/militarized entity will bring the USA down by overtaking its economic and military output/outreach is no consolation because it represents absolutely no change in the nightmarish universal constitution that advocates and profits from war, waste and eco-destruction.
On the other hand, a deliberate defeat of USA imperialism done by the unification of USA residents and the world's people, and done for all people, is a very different story than lying in ignorance, fear, hesitation, waiting and praying for the USA to collapse. In other words the global commons must rise up and address the USA knowing that any imperial nation or entity has surrended it's own claim to sovereignty or privacy because of it's own serial and hostile encroachments toward many other nation states.
What survival is demanding of one species now, the human race, is an evolutionary leap into sustainability - where, given the past half century since the first EARTH DAY, the groundwork and means are well known.
"We the people" is the missing element here, and we need to get together and apply positive lifestyle habits and ownership of our own birth, life and resources, which, when applied delivers a decisive blow to the recklessness of commercial globalists and their defunct industrial-military complex.
It's won by the simple solidarity of well informed, technically advanced and organically motivated people.
One subtle difference between the USAian and the British and Roman empires. Irrespective of our sins, we left behind working infrastructure and a language that was useful for our former colonies, and we also spent time educating the leaders of those colonies.As with Hitler's empire of 1938-1945, all the USAian empire does is to smash things up and kill people whilst denying its own people hope for a future..
Your mention of both a well informed people and the first Earth Day made me think of that time, when, even with a not yet totally Captured Media, we relied on Underground Newspapers, handed out on street corners, to pass on the information that was not covered, but truly mattered.
The MIC/SIC would never allow the war footing agenda to switch to a peace footing agenda. Too much money is being made in the arms departments/corporations--jobs, military bases (large and small--what happens to those veterans when the bases are shuttered?), etc. The surge in unemployment would be very real (not fake numbers as they are now: 5% when the real is over 40). Jobs are a problem now, think about that with more men and women looking for work. Corporations would shut their doors and massive lay-offs would occur (as it already occurring due to outsourcing and corporations leaving this country and taking the money with them). These are just the tip of the iceberg of making that transition from war to peace.
All that being said, it needs to be done and is going to occur one way or the other as this Imperial Overreach is bankrupting this country. However, before that occurs and all of these "smart" war lovers are tossed to the street, things (economy, infrastructure, social network, etc.) are going to become much, much worse. Surpassing the crash of '29 and the Depression decade(s). Our leaders are not smart people and lack any common sense. This is what happens when sociopaths/psychopaths are in charge.
The US destroyed the Soviet Empire with its occupation of Afghanistan and was smug about it. Well, it's the last laugh that matters and Russia and China are going to have that one when the US crashes and burns. Blowback is a real mother.
This comment is BS. The US does not control its currency and has no control over it. When needed, it prints more but it has no real value. China and the Saudis own the US debt as the US keeps borrowing to fund the wars, expenses and all operations here and abroad. There is nothing backing our money since the gold and silver standard were abandoned. Nothing that is except threats, blackmail and invasions to ascertain no one abandons the dollar. (Think Khadiffi and Hussein). Where the hell did you get your degree? Oh, it had to be one of those Trump U's.
Actually the US is hated and feared but more than anything else, not trusted as deals and promises mean nothing.
A clear overview of the crossroads at which we find ourselves today.
And yes, the major issue is the nature of the Model for Development to be followed, a matter of choosing fundamental priorities: Endless expansion with no defined purpose versus fortifying the earth's and nation's biological life support systems and preparing homo sapiens' own human resources by building institutions focused on those objectives (i.e. the Earth Institute).
Where I would disagree is, the trend toward Empire began prior to the Spanish-American War, which was a logical continuation of the Mexican American War of 1946-48, intentionally instigated by President James Knox Polk to accumulate territory where additional Slave States could be created. This in turn, propitiated the US Civil War. (I am quoting Ulysses S. Grant, who along with with Robert E. Lee participated in the invasion of Mexico, but considered it unjust - as did Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and many others who opposed the invasion of Mexico by the United States at the time).
And of course, the Indian Wars preceded that and the Monroe Doctrine, even earlier.
Given the importance of the perspective provided by Jeffrey Sachs in this important article, I sincerely hope he is supporting Jill Stein, candidate of the Green Party for the Presidency of the United States, given his solid earlier support for Bernie Sanders, before that Senator from Vermont decided to withdraw from the race and support Hillary Clinton.
Your ignorance is typical of those who support mainstream economics. They are notoriously prone to treat economics as an "old fashioned Religion'
[paul Samuelson] or perhaps are indoctrinated in patently false premises [Nicole Foss] Do you now recognise yourself and your own bull shit?
Mainstream economics is flawed at its most elemental level. It starts with the flawed analogy between the sovereign government and a household such that any excess in government spending over tax receipts has to be "financed" by
two ways; a] by borrowing from the public or b] by "printing money". A household has to have money or get finance before it can spend. A sovereign government can spend first and does not have to finance, borrow, or save its own money,.
It, by virtue of the Constitution gave rise to the dollar as its currency. Banks just use it. They are the source of the amounts of money in the system but banks create credit, loans, which vanish when repaid. Government spending also creates money for the banks to use, but that adds to the money supply and does not zero out. Taxation is what takes out the excess money in the economy.
Your assertion about government debt is just as ignorant. Government debt is investor savings, stored in the Fed as Treasury bonds. The fed doesn't use them to buy anything. because the government only spends new money .
Mainstream economics says erroneously that the government asks the Fed to buy treasury bonds which the Fed in return then prints money which the government can spend. This debt monetisation idea is false.
Indeed, "our foreign interventions and imperialist pretensions" have been a very expensive hobby maintained by the more sociopathic members of our society.
I'd prefer to think that this type of behavior and thinking is the boisterous, uninformed talk of a "shrinking" minority.
Excellent article Jeffrey. I have written about the topic in some detail over at the LA Progressive.
What you say about the U.S. as a fiat currency state is correct, but note that the imperial oligarchy will spend endless amounts on the military but fight like hell against spending on creating jobs, universal healthcare, infrastructure, a living wage, transitioning to a sustainable (non-fossil fuel, non-nuclear) energy policy, or anything else that would help people rather than corporations.
So despite knowing that deficit spending is necessary for full employment, the imperial oligarchy chooses to scare us about "rising deficits" while it continues to spend on wars and climate destruction. These "masters of the universe", as they think of themselves, are violent psychopaths who should be in prison, rather than running our nation, our economy, and our media. But how will such a change be made?
I don't have any idea as to how to change this situation. I hoped Trump would be a disruptor and break away from that policy mindset. I'm not confident though.
However the corporate takeover is not going to go well for the oligarchy, because our current civilization is on the skids. We are already in deflation, what Richard Koo says is a balance sheet recession.
Next will come recession [already here for some commentators] and then collapse. We are ordained to go down as we are pursuing endless growth in a finite world and there is no reverse gear.
So any victory by the oligarchy etc will be phyrric, and worthless.
You would think from this that the government can engage in deficit spending- i.e., printing money- "as it likes." I suggest you read iup a bit on the history of the Weimae Republic, or Zimbabwe for that matter. The graph of the rise in cost of living closely parallels the graph of the rise in the nagional debt, and it has increased alarmingly especially beginning with the reign of that great "Compassionate Conservative," George Bush. Obama, who had promkised to halve it instead doubled it.
Perhaps the scariest part is the rise in "defense" spending. If the American people demanded that Congress refuse to fund any war that was not debated and then voted on by their elected officials- and then imposed the sort of price controls on weapons-makers that is customary in war-time, the sort of greed that is also seen in the drug industry would not be allowed. As it is, we are at huge danger of spending ourselves into, if not bankruptcy, hyperinflation, by absurd milotary spending.
Just today, China unveiled its new stealth fighter. I do not know the first thing about it except that they are sure as hell not paying $200 million apiece for theirs, as we do. Pakistan, for that matter, has been producing
a fighter roughly equivalent to our F-16- but at 1/4 the cost. 2000 years ago, in Lysistrata, Greek mothers woke up and took action against the ancient Greek version of the military-industrial complex. Will Americans ever wake up?