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Will Only Another Great Depression Save America?

The economic crisis is really a political struggle between the rich and the rest of us.

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If the great American prosperity party is over and the new normal really becomes the new normal, what lies ahead? If, as can be realistically anticipated, America slowly devolves into a second-tier country, will it come to resemble France, Netherlands or Finland (which would not be bad) or is something far worse likely? In either case, what can be expected in terms of the quality of life for the average American?

The contours of America's future are visible. Prosperity is being replaced by a frayed social safety net; crime and incarceration rates are beginning to increase; and ceaseless and costly foreign military misadventures will continue in replace of a meaningful internationalist policy suited for the 21st century. Making matters worse, the extraction industries will continue to drive up carbon levels, thus upping the chances of a global environmental catastrophe.

Sadly, the American ruling elite will likely continue to pursue their single-minded objectives of gobbling up more of the social wealth and maintaining global imperial hegemony. One can only wonder if the forces of reaction have set the stage for another Depression? Is the recent banking crisis a precursor to what is just around the corner?

Does today's capitalist class share the same shortsighted, self-interested blindness that marked their forefathers, those who facilitated the 1929 stock market crash and cataclysmic Great Depression?

Unbeknownst to these class warriors, a second Great Depression might be the only way class tyranny can be broken. Is there another way by which the interests of the many can reassert themselves over the gluttony of the few?

Structural changes in capitalist development make this prognosis all the more disturbing. Walter Benjamin famously proclaimed Paris the capital of the 19th century. New York, embodying America's glory days, was surely the capital of the 20th century. Who doubts that Shanghai will be the capital of the 21st century?

Today, the U.S. economy is in free fall, returning to the worst of Gilded Age obscenities. America's post-WWII prosperity developed out of nearly two decades of Depression and world war. Luce's American Century took root when private corporations were weak, still vestigial organs of war-capitalism, ultimately rejuvenated through massive federal financing.

Is America poised to enter an era that can only be conceived as post-modern feudalism? Are we witnessing the nation state and the private corporation being replaced by a global oligarchy that rules as malevolently as the nobility of old?

David Rosen is the author of 'Sex Scandal America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming' (Key, 2009). He can be reached at

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