A Reuter’s article published on Monday brings an important detail to our attention: How are we Branding ourselves as a nation?
According to the article, we can no longer Brand ourselves as a leading innovative nation that produces new products and invests in research. We are running an “innovation deficit” as a nation because our tax dollars are no longer funneled to support research and invention, “Federal spending on research as a share of total government outlays has fallen from nearly 10 percent in 1968, during the space program, to 3 percent in 2015.” As a result other nations “are scoring achievements that leave the U.S. in the dust.” Medical research, space technology, and robotics are three industries where other nations are investing their time and energy, surpassing the U.S. in each. Russia, for example, recently announced a successful 3D printing of a thyroid gland.
If we are no longer a world leader in innovation, which was a Brand we proudly touted when we sent our boys to the moon, then what can we claim as our Brand these days? A small examination of of our budget allows us to answer the question: We Brand ourselves as an Empire.
While our tax dollars no longer support innovation, they do support our Empire. Over half of our tax dollars pay for our military – that doesn’t include our current war operations. This year alone we are expected to pay nearly 500 Billion dollars to the Department of Defense. Here’s what an Empire looks like:
The United States continues to spend roughly three times more on defense than its nearest competitor and about as much as the next nine largest countries in the world combined, many of which are allies. This year’s base budget request of $496 billion is $15 billion more than the FY 2005 base budget request when adjusted for inflation. In FY 2005, the United States had 163,000 troops deployed to active war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That’s a lot of money we are investing for a Brand that gets us nearly nothing except shiny new military bases (rumor has it the newest base in Iraq is as big as the Vatican City). It must be pointed out as well that much of our tax dollars used to support our Brand are wholly unaccounted for. The Pentagon’s “Black Budget” – a money sucking vortex that continues to grow without restraint – tops $60, 000, 000, 000. We have no idea how that money is spent. A recent McClatchy article reports that over $1,000,000,000 worth of our tax money has gone missing in Afghanistan, ” The Defense Department can’t account for $1.3 billion that was shipped to force commanders in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014 for critical reconstruction projects, 60 percent of all such spending..”
This is part of the Financialization Revolution, a dynamic wherein money is not directed to science, innovation, and research simply because it doesn’t serve the best interest of the financial elite. Here’s a quote from the Reuter’s article, “Among the areas of research that are languishing, said the MIT report, are new drugs to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Drug companies see little profit potential in antibiotics, leaving government as the funder of last resort.” If it doesn’t make a profit, the oligarchy won’t fund it.
The oligarchy will fund the military though, not because the Nation benefits economically from the investment, but because private contractors benefit extraordinarily from the investment – do the words Dick Cheney’s Halliburton ring a bell? (This is a nifty sort of socialism btw, we fund the machine, someone else benefits).
Our Brand is Empire – Brought to You by the Financialization Revolution.
We will soon make a choice for a new president. Underlying that choice will be the issue of of the Financialization Revolution and it’s affect on our national Brand. If we decide to retain the Brand of Empire, we will watch the rest of the world pass us by in areas of science, space, and innovation. We will miss out on economic opportunities, we will become beholden to other nations for their products and patents, we will solidify our road to becoming the world’s “first non-banana producing banana republic.” (John Perkins).
Here’s to a smart choice and a new and better Brand for our nation.
*Besides the articles linked in this post, Chalmers Johnson’s “The Sorrows of Empire” and John Perkins’ “Hoodwinked,” provided background information and concepts.