When a society becomes corrupt it becomes economically unhealthy. Although it may continue to accumulate wealth through global plundering, the depletion of trust resulting from corruption undermines domestic productivity, as increasing numbers of citizens lose the incentive to cooperate constructively. The wealthy and powerful respond to the economic deterioration in classic zero-sum fashion: to preserve and extend their advantages, they extract more resources from the poor and the weak.
This is the situation America faces at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The rapacious rich, having consolidated their control over the government since the “Reagan Revolution,” have undermined the economic productivity of the United States to the point that their only remaining avenue for further enrichment is to extract wealth from the middle and lower classes. They will do this by causing the US Government to default on domestic obligations to the poor and middle class – specifically Social Security and Medicare.
The cutbacks will fall on the weakest members of society because the wealthy and powerful control the executive branch, the Congress, and the courts. Behind a huge propaganda blitz, and possibly a new war of choice, the middle class and poor will be told that “sacrifice” is every American’s patriotic duty. Meanwhile, CEO salaries will continue to rise and wealth will be further concentrated, as the oligarchy continues to feed on the decaying carcass of our former democracy.
When social conditions for the middle class reach a point of intolerable deterioration, a political backlash will develop, but this is likely to be brutally suppressed by “anti-terrorist” tactics similar to those utilized in third-world regimes. The people may ultimately prevail against the oligarchs, but the cost will be frightful.
Given the sociopathic character of the American economic elite and their highly perfected tools of political and media manipulation, this unhappy outcome is inevitable. The public Internet has arrived too late to halt America’s plunge into the abyss. The forces of greed have overwhelmed the nascent movements for justice and sustainable society. Something true, just, and decent may arise from the ruins of the American culture of predation, but it will not emerge from simple reason and honest communication; it will be the result of a colossal and costly failure, the global failure of selfishness and deceit in a world sustainable only through sharing and honesty.