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Table 1.

The Scary Parallels: USSR 1990 = US 2009

Soviet Union 1990 US 2009

Failed war on Afghanistan Two failed wars on Iraq and Afghanistan

Imperial ideology of Soviet Communism Imperial ideology of neoliberalism (a.k.a.

(a.k.a. bureaucratic fundamentalism) self- market fundamentalism) self-destructs

No free press or media, elites believe their Plutocrat-controlled press and media, elites
own lies believe their own lies

Wasteful military-industrial complex Wasteful military-industrial complex

gobbles up 15% of economy gobbles up 8% of economy ($1 trillion
each year)

Economy was always fundamentally Economy became fundamentally

uncompetitive, but lack of media and uncompetitive by mid-1970s, but lack of
travel restrictions meant most Soviet foreign news coverage in mainstream
citizens never realized this media meant most US citizens never
realized this

Tiny party elite had nearly all the wealth Tiny Wall Street elite has nearly all the
and power, didn't want things to change wealth and political power, doesn't want
things to change

Cold War foreign policy buys a few friends Imperial foreign policy buys a few friends
but creates many enemies, alienates most but creates many enemies, alienates most
democracies democracies, and triggers catastrophic

After two decades of economic rot, a new, After three decades of economic rot, a new,
dynamic, charismatic leader emerges dynamic, charismatic leader emerges
(Gorbachev), who invokes Lenin and who (Obama), who invokes Lincoln and who is
is a model Soviet success story. Gorbachev a model American success story. Obama
attempts political reforms while changing attempts political reforms while changing
nothing about economy nothing about neoliberalism

Counter-forces to neoliberal juggernaut Counter-forces to neoliberal restoration

weak and diffuse weak and diffuse

Economic crisis of 1990s generates Neoliberal austerity of 1980-2008

massive unemployment, crime, and an generates massive unemployment, crime
incarceration boom (incarceration rates and incarceration boom (US has over 2
several times higher than Western Europe, million in jail or prison, one half of
though not as high as US) carceral population of planet, criminal
justice system watches over 5 million
adults total)

Demographic crisis due to broken health Health care system broken due to
care system, wildcat privatization of domination of private insurance industry,
medical services, lax environmental 40 million not covered, millions driven
regulation, life-span drops dramatically to into bankruptcy by medical bills, life-span
Third World levels in late 1990s of average US citizen is 1.5 years less than
average European, 2 years less than
average Canadian, 4 years less than
average Japanese, US infant mortality is
now at upper Second World levels
Table 2. Russia's hidden strengths, and America's hidden weaknesses...

Russia in 1991 America in 2009

No domestic debt Vast domestic debt bubble (370% GDP,

which is just plain nuts), owed mostly by
financial firms (121% of GDP)

Foreign debt peaked at 45% GDP in 1998, Foreign debts (measured by net
reduced to zero by 2005 international investment position, NIIP)
reached 42% GDP in 2008 and are still
rising 4% each year

No forex reserves, no banking system, but Dollar is still world reserve currency, but
ran big current account surplus (didn't need the entire banking system is bust, US is
to borrow from abroad) running vast current account deficit (must
borrow from abroad)

Topnotch but increasingly unaffordable

Literate, well-educated population higher education system, underfunded
basic education

“No rubles? No problem.” History has “No money? AAAIIIEEEEE...” Most

taught Russians to be tougher than case- Americans used to 30 years of credit-
hardened titanium fueled consumption binge

Former Soviet system guaranteed basic Millions losing their homes, Scrooge-like
housing, energy supplies, mass transit, welfare state means food stamps aren't
food for all, and functional cities, while enough to feed families, lack of mass
Russians grew their own food on dachas -- transit means car dependence, decades of
safety nets which make transition infinitely surburban sprawl devastates cities and
easier locks US into hopeless, doomed
hydrocarbon dependence
Top cadre of Soviet developmental state Iron grip of Wall Street-Treasury-rentier
still functional, economic crisis gives Putin nexus over US political system unbroken
and siloviki chance to fight back against (throwing trillions at bankers while letting
domestic oligarchs and Wall Street auto firms die), iron grip of military-
neoliberalism. Russia scraps military- industrial complex over US foreign policy
industrial complex, closes foreign bases, and Federal expenditures unbroken (trillion
starts over as a developmental state dollar military budgets continue, expansion
of neocolonial war on Afghan Pashtuns),
iron grip of medical-industrial complex
over healthcare unbroken (e.g. bogus
healthcare reform, instead of the single-
payer systems which all other industrial
countries have)

Table 3. Are there reasons to be optimistic?

But America Still Has the Advantage Reality Check


The best universities in world Partly true. Its universities are still world-
class, but Americans aren't going to school
– students come from abroad. Privatization
forced universities to rely on endowments,
which have been hammered by the crash
and burn of neoliberalism.

Incomparable science and technology False. The EU and East Asia spend about
infrastructure as much or more on civilian science and
development as a percent of their
economies than the US, while Russia,
China and India are building powerhouse
science infrastructures.

Rule of law False. Much less overt corruption than

many other democracies, but big money
has an iron lock on the US political system
(see for the
details). This level of corruption does not
exist in Japan, Canada, Australia or any
European country.

Remarkably diverse culture, civil rights True. Diversity isn't just the right thing to
revolution, massive change in women's do, it's the smart thing to do. US still has
roles the deepest, most diverse talent pool in the

Rest of world admires us and will always False. We were a model once, but today
defer to our leadership the world is majority urbanized,
democratic, literate, media-savvy and has
forged powerful developmental states

Obama really is as smart and energetic as Partly true. Unlike Bill Clinton, Obama
he sounds. knows how to get legislation through
Congress. But if left to his own devices,
Obama will replicate Gorbachev's path to
catastrophe -- the US will turn into a
decrepit banana republic, ruled by a
corrupt, revanchist oligarchy. The US has
one last chance to turn the ship around –
but we're going to have to fight the forces
of Wall Street and Big Money. No struggle,
no recovery.