And empires die

Nothing ever seems to last, everybody changes oh so fast,
promises made promises lost and pride is kept at any cost,
And flowers die, and children cry, and lonely people carry on.
—Palermo & Farruggio 1970

That was from the song And Flowers Die, by prolific composer Michael Palermo and this writer as lyricist. How appropriate to compare this song with the ‘death song’ of our Military-Industrial Amerikan Empire, now in only its 72nd year of prominence. How great and powerful our empire was for so long. We controlled the economies and governments of so many countries, even continents. Now it is the autumn of our status as Number One. The Asian rim, as many refer to it, being led by China and all those other nations in that region, will become the future economic powerhouse of this planet.

This writer will leave it to the many progressive scholars out there for the explanation of the how and why of this equation. Let me just say that we all, from grade school on, have been fed the pabulum of America as a democracy, benevolent to the entire world. Many sadly still believe that lie, and that strengthens the reason why this empire is in freefall.

Since we became the preeminent world empire at the end of WW2, two things held the greedy ones who run things in we’ll say half check: The progressive federal tax rate and the union movement. The top tax rate from 1953 to 1963 was 91%. Now, we know that the super rich did not pay at that rate, but even after their accountants sharpened a few pencils, many still had to pay at least 50%, for argument sake. Today’s top rate is 39.6%, meaning that folks like mega millionaire Mitt Romney pay at around 15%-20%. Do the math and see how much more went into the treasury then as opposed to now. The second factor that held this empire in half check was the stronger union movement in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. In the 1950s, about 35% of American workers belonged to unions. In 1983, it went down to around 20%. Now, the percentage is around 12%. So, that means that three times more working stiffs in the recent past had the protection of a union, however weak or compliant that union may have been. Today, this empire can breathe easily as fewer and fewer working stiffs even have a union!

To this writer, with all the many factors that have contributed to the demise of our nation via this Military-Industrial Empire, the number one factor is our foreign policy. When over half of your spending goes for military reasons, how can a nation sustain itself at home? When you have over 1,000 military bases in over 100 countries, and you consistently are involved in these phony wars, the home front must feel the strain. Our myriad of domestic bleeding is so obvious . . . yet so few here will acknowledge it. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our health care is a mess, too many mediocre paying jobs (with too many being part time with NO benefits), our political system is controlled by Big Money, our media is controlled by the same Big Money . . . and the fools still fight amongst each other over the Two Party/One Party con job.

Let’s face it: All the major industrialized nations are controlled by their super rich. There are really few exceptions. Sadly, with over 99+ % of the populace in all these countries being just simple working stiffs, it is time for a change of mindset. The mindset must be simple: The super rich need to go back to paying their fair share, and government needs to become what Mark Twain prescribed: ‘To protect us from the crooks and scoundrels.’

Philip A Farruggio is a semi-retired baby boomer born and bred in blue collar Brooklyn, NY. He is the son and grandson of Brooklyn longshoremen, and educated at ‘free tuition’ Brooklyn College, class of ’74. Philip has written over 300 columns since 2001 and his work is found on many fine progressive sites like World News Trust, Nation of Change, Information Clearinghouse, Intrepid Report, Sleuth Journal, Dandelion Salad, Counterpunch and Dissident Voice. He can be reached at

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