Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Burden of Empire

An empire is nothing but a burden on the working class of an imperial metropolis, who pay for it with their sweat and blood. It is working-class youths who must soldier for the empire, and it is working-class labor that creates wealth appropriated for colonial investment and war profiteering. Even setting aside the question of surplus value and considering only the problem of taxation, the economic burden is heavy:
Sitting here working on my taxes at the last minute, after having just watched President Bush’s appalling performance at his only press conference of 2004, and having just read about the plans for an all-out Marine assault on Fallujah and Najaf if truce negotiations break down, I found myself wondering how much of my taxes were going to support the Iraq atrocity.

A call to Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice gave me the answer. About 25 percent of my income tax payment. Of course, that’s a rough estimate, based upon the prediction that this year’s income tax will bring in $765 billion in revenues, and that the Iraq war is costing almost $200 billion for the year.

That’s something to think about as you’re mailing your envelope to the IRS tonight. For a typical family with a taxable income of $60,000, and a typical tax bill of $8626, that works out to an Iraq War tax bill of about $2150. For a family making $100,000 in taxable income, with a typical tax bill of $18,614, that is a war tax of about $4650. Even a student making a taxable income of say $7000, and paying a tax of around $700 to Uncle Sam is paying around $175 to support the killing in Iraq. (Dave Lindorff, "$2,150 Per Family and Counting," April 16-18, 2004)
The best thing that has happened to the Japanese working class in modern history is the Japanese power elite's loss of colonies. For citizens of an imperial metropolis, there is nothing like a decisive military defeat to improve the national character and living standard dramatically: "Estimates of the Gini coefficient for prewar Japan have ranged from a high of .62 in 1923 to .49 in 1937" (Kwan S. Kim, "The Political Economy of Distributional Equity in Comparative Perspective," March 1996, p.8), i.e. indicating two to three times more inequality than in 2003 ("Human Development Indicators 2003"). The same holds true for Europeans whose power elite have lost colonies. It would be good for Americans if the US power elite gave up their empire without a fight, but empires generally do not abandon their colonies easily, even after imperialism has "ceased to bring appreciable benefits to the advanced countries (without ceasing to be ruinous for the underdeveloped)" (John Strachey, The End of Empire, qtd. in Matthew Connelly, Chapter 1 "The Failure of Progress: Algeria and the Crisis of the Colonial World," A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era, Oxford UP, 2002, p. 31).

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