It is the year 2111, and somewhere thousands of miles on the other side of the globe, a 12-year-old boy in urban China picks up his textbook to learn about a certain empire that once lived in the West and dominated much of the known world.
He opens the first few pages, and it begins to read thus:
“She was a city on a hill. A template for humanity when most men struggled and longed for a symbol of freedom. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ she pleaded, ‘the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-lost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
Her name was America.
And so, for several decades, men, women, and children migrated from far and near to partake in the American Dream. She prospered immensely and built many a military bases across the seven seas.
She pioneered a thousand and one inventions, and also overcame a thousand and one challenges, amongst which was the harrowing Great Depression.
But then, as often befalls most great civilizations, over-reliant on prowess and success, she became complacent. She planned awfully for wars which she could not readily afford no matter how good-intentioned, abandoning the fiscal discipline and rules of moral justice that made her an indispensable thought in human life. The rich got richer at the expense of the poor; and ethnic minorities became preys to vultures in her corporate offices. And because her politicians needed these same vultures to sustain their campaigns, they ingloriously turned the blind eye as the foxes raided the hen house.
And so came The Great Recession of 2008. Millions of her denizens lost their jobs as the economy hung in the balance and stared into the abyss. Thence, families in Middle America began to scrap bits and pieces together to survive. The elderly saw their retirement savings and investments devastated in one fell swoop; while the rich might have felt a pinch, the general population groaned under the brunt of a deafening blow. The top 400 Americans now had a combined income greater than the bottom 150 million Americans.
But as no nation is ever conquered from without unless it has first destroyed itself from within, the summer of 2011 became a chance for America to mend her wrongs. That is, get back on the righteous path of fiscal discipline and social justice by closing tax loopholes for big corporations, millionaires, and billionaires who don’t need them; easing the burden of healthcare on distressed middle-class and poor Americans; investing in crucial infrastructures and public works (as China was doing); promoting funding for cutting-edge research and scholarships to needy families; and many others.
Alas, it was not to be so. In a bid to raise her debt limit, alarmingly, she was kidnapped by a few of her children who didn’t care whether she defaulted on her debts or not. These sons and daughters, Tea Party Republicans they were called, stalled and stunted every attempt to make relative progress in her welfare. Believing they knew best what she needed, they fought unyieldingly for the rights of millionaires and billionaires to exploit common citizens and promoted ruinous cuts in programs that hitherto had stabilized the millions of lives living in the bottom half of the American society.
They had a divine mandate, they believed, and they would be damned if they compromised on anything – if the heart and soul of America had to be gutted so the richest 1 percent of Americans could keep a few extra pennies in their pockets, so be it!
But through some clever cajoling in the final hours, a default on her debts was averted, albeit with little room for anything else. An opportunity to fix her ballooning federal deficit, which was now a point of national insecurity, had slipped away like a thief into the dark night. The Tea Partiers had successfully barricaded themselves, with America their hostage, into a room where no physicians could dream of getting to her.
And thusly, in the decades that followed, credit markets, spooked by such gross irresponsibility, made a hurried run for more stable and responsible shelters. Her credit worthiness, now questionable, was downgraded by the rating agencies, leading to increased interest rates for businesses and individuals. The anemic recovery from the recession of 2008 was made worse, precipitating an even more calamitous recession. Her erstwhile irrefutable extolments of democracy’s virtues now seem her eventual undoing. Subsequently, the almighty Dollar, once the global currency, soon became a vestige of an empire that was; as nations gradually drifted toward the Chinese renminbi. For the masses trapped within her shores, the American Dream slowly turned into the American Nightmare.
By this point, everyone wanted the heads of the Tea Partiers … but alas, it was too late. They were nowhere to be found. The Great American Decay had begun.”