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Foreign Policy Analysis
Does Iron Fist Imperialism Benefit US Workers?

Does Iron Fist Imperialism Benefit US Workers?


It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. Imperialism, a highly contested term in political
science- one form of imperialism is the act of using your military for expanding and extending
borders and conquering land. Now, there is a less invasive form, at least
less invasive militarily, but imperialism also could include gaining influence through
political and economic means- why, a free market economy, which also subjugates foreign
countries, to adhere to the national interests of the imperial state via the market place.  Now, we saw both of these forms of imperialism
coming together when we, meaning the US, invaded Iraq. Now, the U.S. Invasion of Iraq was done under
a false claim that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now, they did this to gain access to exploiting
the natural resources that Iraq had, which is oil, and getting rid of Saddam Hussein,
really helped order to gain control of the oil wells, he oil contracts, the resources,
and the oil itself coming out of Iraq.  Now, if the British empire grew very powerful
by dominating foreign markets, natural resources, and of course cheap labor in the colonies,
so could the U.S. Now, Karl Marx posed the question if it is
worth it to impoverish millions of workers in the East Indies in order to procure for
just one point five million workers in England in the same industry. Now, that question has become even more relevant
today, when it comes to the U.S., and its mission, or imperialistic ambitions, abroad.  Now, President Trump, during his inauguration,
drew a direct connection between U.S. imperialism and the U.S. working class, and how his plans,
his vision, for the United States could benefit its workers. Let’s listen.  From this day forward, it’s going to be only
America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration,
on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.  In a new book, titled Changing Face of Imperialism,
edited by Sunanda Sen and Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, Professor Gerald Epstein has a chapter in
that book he wrote a while ago, “Do U.S. Workers Gain from U.S. Imperialism?” In this chapter, Gerald Epstein calculated
that between 1985 and 2000, the bottom eighty percent of Americans lost between four hundred
billion and 2.8 eight trillion dollars as a direct result of US imperialism.  Well, on to talk about this with me is Gerald
Epstein. He is co-director of the Political Economy
Research Institute at UMass Amherst, and he’s professor of economics there as well. Good to have you back with us, Gerry.  Thank you for having me.  Gerry, let’s start with the why you embarked
on this endeavor in the first place, to explore if the U.S. worker actually gained some benefits
from U.S. imperialism.  Right, as you said- you know, I wrote this
chapter actually quite a while ago, just as the United States was about to invade Iraq
in 2003. And the question I was asking myself is- well,
this seemed to be a wildly popular decision on the part of the Bush administrations, George
W. Bush, including among workers. And my- the question I was asking myself is,
why? This seemed like such a despicable, immoral,
and crazy act. Why was it so wildly popular among people
including U.S. working class?  So, I decided to actually go out and look,
try to put together a conceptual framework, look at the numbers, and see whether, in the
recent past at that time, U.S. workers had benefited from U.S. imperialism. And, as you suggested in your introduction,
there are different ways think about imperialism. One is, imperialism that involves the use
of military force to achieve hegemony over other countries and extract benefits from
them. And since I was interested in the invasion
of Iraq, I decided to try to estimate mostly that kind of imperialism.  And there’s a more informal type of imperialism,
just based on various kinds of subtle powers the U.S. might have. It influenced the International Monetary Fund,
other countries’ trade policies, their foreign aid policies, et cetera. These I put on one side. So, I was really looking at what I call “the
iron fist” of Imperialism, the involvement of a military force. And I found, as you suggested, that in fact
U.S. workers, in the fifteen years before the invasion, lost from U.S. imperialism. And so, I tried to calculate both the benefits
and the costs.  So, what could the possible benefits to U.S.
workers be? Well, Michael Klare and others argue that
a lot of U.S. Foreign policy has been directed towards controlling oil in the Middle East. And clearly, the invasion of Iraq was connected
with that whole endeavor- to control the supply of oil. So, one issue is, well, who benefits from
oil prices being lower and oil prices being more stable? A second role of imperialism is, for the United
States, to be able to borrow money from the rest of the world at an incredibly low interest
rate because of the role of the dollar, which is maintained partly by military force that
the United States exerts. So, what is the benefit of workers, of getting
lower-interest loans from the rest of the world and getting things more cheaply. So, those are benefits.  What are the costs to U.S. workers? Well of course, there’s the cost of blood,
human life. A lot of the military is supplied by U.S.
workers. But I didn’t include that, that’s clearly
negative. But the other cost is the budgetary expenditure,
military expenditures, which in the United States are massive. And who pays for those, who pays the tax burden
to pay for those military expenditures? So, when I added it all up, what I came out
with was the figures you mentioned- was that, in fact, the U.S. worker, as a group, you
can measure them as a lower sixty percent of the income distribution, the lower eighty
percent of the income distribution lost. tremendously, as much as two trillion dollars
or so, economically from imperialism. I also conjectured that, is this always true?  In the 1960s, 1950s, 1970s- I didn’t study
this period, but I looked at it- and it seemed like the argument is stronger that during
that period, U.S. workers did benefit from some of the imperialistic adventures that
the U.S. government engaged in. Part of the reason is because U.S. workers
didn’t have to pay as much of the burden. The tax system was much more progressive in
those times. Richer people paid a higher percentage of
taxes and the cost of military adventures were less.  By the time of the 1980s, U.S. workers clearly
were not benefiting economically from this. So, if U.S. workers are supporting these kinds
of military adventures, it’s not really for economic reasons, according to my analysis. Something else is going on, which kind of
raises the question, what could be going on in the future if President Trump and his administration
decides to get into another war in the Middle East, say with Iran, or other military adventures? Would they be popular among U.S. workers? And it’s unlikely it would be so for economic
reasons. There would have to be other reasons.  So, Gerry, the tendency of the working class
to actually be right wing and support wars, which is a well-known phenomenon- you know,
most of the right-wing sections of the United States tend to be supporters of military action
by the United States. Now, even when it is obvious that empires
and missions of the empire serve mainly the upper classes, it is often the lower classes
that actually have to pay the price. It is the lower classes that are mainly in
the military. And so, I think Mark’s referred to this as
“false consciousness” on the part of the working class. Do you think that by measuring and publishing
the cost of the empire, the way you have, and its impact it’s having on the working
class, is it possible to conceive that people will abandon the kind of thinking that they
are having, about war-mongering in particular?  Well, I think the roots of this kind of support
for military adventures, just as the roots xenophobia and the roots of racism and anti-immigrant
feelings and so forth, are much deeper than pure economics. I guess my view is that it could help. I mean, at the margins, publishing these kinds
of- this kind of information, pointing out the economic costs to people who might otherwise
support these kinds of policies- especially since Trump, in this case, has really put
it in economic terms you know putting America first helping workers So, to confront that
kind of argument directly may have a small impact, and I think it’s worth doing.  And to dispel the myths associated with this
kind of empire, mission of the empire impacting the workers, what are some of the big data
items that we could draw on to shift public opinion?  Well, first of all, the cost of the military
and who’s paying the taxes to support the military, or whose government benefits are
being cut as a result of this kind of expenditure. That’s number one. Number two, of course, is who’s paying the
price in terms of having to be, as you said, in the military losing their lives. The impact on veterans is such a heavy price,
and the government is not taking care of the veterans. These are all things which are, in some sense,
obvious. But it’s worth harping on, being clear on,
in terms of these kinds of costs.  Ultimately, though, there’s a huge moral question,
you know. Is it morally correct to engage in this kind
of destructive activity, killing thousands of people in other countries, under these
kinds of conditions? And of course, the answer is no. So, I don’t mean that these economic arguments
should displace the much more important strategic and moral issues. But it’s an additional argument to emphasize.  All right. I know various economists like yourself and
Joseph Stiglitz, who wrote the book on the three trillion-dollar cost of the war in Iraq,
for example, are trying to draw attention to it. I hope that it starts to catch on in a more
popular way, because I think that’s when people really realize, you know, we are paying for
this and we are losing our lives, and we need to do something about it. So, I thank you so much for joining us today,
Gerald, and I do hope you come back soon.  Okay, thanks Sharmini.  And thank you for joining us here on The Real
News Network.

22 comments on “Does Iron Fist Imperialism Benefit US Workers?

  1. All of those $ trillions wasted trying to destabilize the world could have been better spent taking care of their own people and infrastructure. If you claim you want "free trade" stop pointing guns at people's heads.

  2. ©™ ALX ⚖ Observations ✍✍✍✍

    Neoemperialism and neocolonialism brought to you by Transnational Corporations who finance congressmen and White House campaigns and inturn use the military and CIA NSA FBI to leverage access to resources and markets for the benefit of stockholders equity and dividends and capital gains are dictating foreign policy for Uncle Sam who's dictating foreign policy for NATO coalition and EU members to some extent.

  3. Just 2 points: First, industrial power as a force that works against the working class even as workers constitute its productive power is a paradox. Property that has the power to dominate people is the only property worth possessing that leads to a dispossession (war) and makes way for an accumulation of capital defines imperialism of the US currently.
    Yet, the social reality that the productive might of the workers is the power of capital is voluntary self-consciousness. The implications being there are two kinds of labor operating under capitalism that workers are not aware of. They are aware workers produce what society needs but they are unaware the work carried on for higher output is private property as a social power that dominates them. The double function of labor is the source of all the contradictions.

    Second, production and reproduction of the working class as fresh means of production for capital, is a necessary condition for the
    reproduction of capital itself. The individual consumption of the working class, unlike the individual consumption of the capitalist class,
    is productive to a class of workers for itself as a class and as a source of value for the State and the capitalist class. The capital-labor relation can be viewed as a material relation that in history is a natural development of productive forces.
    .

  4. People are hysterical right now and getting more so every day. Logical information will not change that. They need a vision for the future that includes the possibility of a good and meaningful life for THEM in this modern world. NO ONE is offering this. We need to paint a picture for people. What would that world look like? People join the military because they know that money will be handled so they can have a "good enough" life and they get to be a part of something that feels more important than a life working at Walmart.

  5. When US Imperialism works perfectly (not sure it ever has), our government would expand political power, they would establish a government which plays ball with US. They would use the people's wealth and power to establish infrastructure, laws, markets, ports, everything business needs for banks, corporations, and investors aligned with the US to move in and take a stranglehold on the economy. Even if/when this works it takes massive public funding on the front side. If businesses invest with export ambitions they do so on the promise of cheap labor, they are going to do everything they can to keep that labor cheap, yet sell the exports back to the US and other high-income markets. It's never a good deal for the people, here or elsewhere. It results in exploitation of low-cost labor and devaluing higher-cost labor. It also results in OUR government spending an inordinate amount of time and resources devoted to an endeavor which primarily serves the interests of sort of a world government representing banks, corporations, and investors with no national loyalty.

  6. But was the US working class really that enthusiastic about the invasion of Iraq? At most it was split. The massive anti-war movement that apposed the invasion (from the outset) was primarily working class.

  7. A nation that knows MMT is immune to the mainstream economic lies constantly used on us. “The basic idea is that the government can’t run out of money,” Kelton said. “It creates money just by spending.”

    Politically relevant economists fetishize orthodoxy. Nobody with political experience really welcomes a new idea that explains why previous economic policies were wrong. And if Kelton’s MMT doctrine is right, then the way nearly every politician talks about government debt, deficits and even money itself is mostly wrong.

    When people talk about government profligacy bankrupting their grandchildren or triggering a cataclysmic debt crisis, Kelton argues, they’re conflating the experience of a typical family, which has to get money from somewhere outside the household to meet expenses, with that of a sovereign government, which creates money as part of its basic operation."

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stephanie-kelton-economy-washington_us_5afee5eae4b0463cdba15121

    Congress can simply authorize the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to spend the money necessary for single-payer health care or any social service need.

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/43082-but-how-will-we-pay-for-it-modern-monetary-theory-and-democratic-socialism

  8. The actual beginning of neoliberal imperial control was on 9/11/73 in Chile, a bloody coup that marks a 40-yr. reign of global hegemony based on economic lies that have today been thoroughly debunked. The 2008 crash should have been the end of this brutal economic policy that only favors the ownership class, but zombie capitalism goes on.

    “Economics students are forced to spend so much time with this complex calculus so that they can go to work on Wall St. that there’s no room in the course curriculum for the history of economic thought.

    So all they know about Adam Smith is what they hear on CNN news or other mass media that are a travesty of what these people really said and if you don’t read the history of economic thought, you’d think there’s only one way of looking at the world and that’s the way the mass media promote things and it’s a propagandistic, Orwellian way.

    The whole economic vocabulary is to cover up what’s really happening and to make people think that the economy is getting richer while the reality is they’re getting poorer and only the top is getting richer and they can only get rich as long as the middle class and the working class don’t realize the scam that’s being pulled off on them.” ~ Michael Hudson

  9. Gerald, please learn MMT! You've been taught wrong! Taxes don't fund spending at the federal level. Congress can simply authorize the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to spend the money necessary for single-payer health care or any social service need.

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/43082-but-how-will-we-pay-for-it-modern-monetary-theory-and-democratic-socialism

  10. "America First" is actually code for "Trump and the Elite first". It would not be accurate to say Republicans first since the Establishment Democrats have bound themselves to the Republicans and are just camouflaging themselves within the Democratic Party. There must be an endgame to all this, but since most of the bad actors in this miserable play have one foot in the grave I have to believe that they are possessed by an illness of power and greed that is relentless like a cancer. Good people are closing their eyes and ears to what is happening here in America and abroad. It is painful to feel helpless and afraid so they pretend that everything is normal when it isn't.

  11. Until sheeple realize television news is twisted and some paid for by advertisers and U.S. Government? Continue on the road to hell!…

  12. The Alt Right Christians bought and control Trump. The Evangelists are protecting him at every level.

  13. Was the Epstein cost benefit analysis published? If so what is the title, I would like to read it. An initial google search did not find anything and I will have to look at a journal database some other time.

  14. The US doesn't borrow from the rest of the world. We are a soveriegn fiat currency with a floating exchange exchange rate. We issue our own dollars. Securities are a holdover from the fixed exchange rate regime.

  15. Cause and effect. Any citizen in support of war is morally bankrupt. If they love the troops so much they’d be against war. Seeing it’s that they are willing to support trump or any president pushing war speaks volumes!

  16. Trump ostensibly appealed to a war weariness. Hillary was Hawkish. I wonder how this will play out. Could a seismic shift ensue against the establishment of both parties.

  17. Iraq was not all about oil. It was also about Israel! It was Israel's plan to smash the Arab states into their ethnic components. It worked. Iraq invasion was a success for Israel.

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