News & Politics

The Decline of the American Empire?


“The recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis was a sobering wake-up call,” the comptroller general of the U.S. told the Financial Times in an interview comparing the U.S. to the Roman Empire in its waning days.

These days it seems that everyone is comparing the United States of America in 2007 to the Fall of the Roman Empire. But comparing America to Rome has been a common practice throughout U.S. history since the days of the Founding Fathers, Adam Goodheart wrote in the New York Times last month.

What few remember is that America has always been compared to Rome. It’s only the nature of the comparisons that are constantly changing. Nearly a half-century ago, in the aftermath of the McCarthy era, Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus” was a thinly veiled attack on the Hollywood blacklist. In 1979, Tinto Brass’s notorious “Caligula” gave us ancient Rome as a Saturday night at Studio 54, with togas.

OK, fine. But why are all the comparisons these days always about the decline of the empire? Why is the head of the Government Accountability Office, the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, taking to the road for a “Wake Up Tour” to spread the message that our nation is hurtling toward destruction. That gives one pause.

“With the looming retirement of baby boomers, spiraling healthcare costs, plummeting savings rates and increasing reliance on foreign lenders, we face unprecedented fiscal risks,” said David Walker, comptroller general of the U.S., told the Financial Times.

And that’s just a start. The full article is more worrisome.

Does anybody else feel this way?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 15, 2007

Archive Highlights