The USA as a Fourth World Country

Trump, striding to protect precious property

W.J. Astore

1+3=4. It’s a simple equation that says much about the American moment, suggests Tom Engelhardt today at Think about it. America remains a first world country with its unmatched military might, its powerful corporate and financial sectors, and the quality of life available to the affluent and well-connected. But for most other Americans? The country increasingly seems 3rd world, with crumbling infrastructure, low wages, lack of good jobs, lack of health care coverage for the less fortunate, and so on.

Perhaps that’s why Trump gets away with tweets about thug-ridden streets (that he connects to the Black Lives Matter movement). People may not see these thugs, but they sense something is wrong out there, and someone may indeed be coming for them, very shortly, perhaps to evict or foreclose on them.

There is a unique ideology to our fourth world country. Our two main parties, the Democrats and Republicans, agree that to invest in society is socialism, but to “invest” in weaponry and wars is the height of prudence and sanity. I know: a few Democrats like Bernie Sanders and AOC make noises, more or less sincere, about helping workers and investing in people, but they are shunted aside by the corporate Democrats whose main job it is to keep “socialists” like Bernie out of power. It’s the one thing they’re good at, led as they are by those icons of charisma and homespun goodness, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to rant about American carnage, doing his level best to create it where it doesn’t yet exist. “Law&Order” is his new cry, usually shouted in all caps, even as he himself leads an administration that’s lawless and disordered. Roughly one-third of likely voters find him attractive as a tough-guy leader, the plutocrat populist, so mark this down as another weird feature of fourth worldness.

Fourth worldness: to invest in people is socialism and wrong; to invest in wars and weaponry is not militarism and is right. To elect a (democratic) socialist like Bernie Sanders would be un-American, but to reelect a sociopathic plutocrat posing as a populist is about keeping America great.

That’s America! You can’t love it “as is,” unless you’re crazy, and you can’t leave it ’cause we’re all Covid pariahs to the rest of the world.

So maybe, just maybe, we should change it?

21 thoughts on “The USA as a Fourth World Country

  1. Without yet skimming (his posts tend to be long) the TomDispatch article, I’d say the US must be the sole member of this “Fourth World Club.” Oh, there are Trump imitators in numerous countries now–and NY Times has an article about contemporary Nazis in Germany swooning over Orange Man; are we surprised?–but only the US has descended an astounding distance from having been pretty well the idol (ideal) of the world. Of course I’d never agree, personally, with all the bases for that past adulation, but still it was largely there. Totally trashed by the current administration. Forget Covid-19. Amerikans should be viewed as pariahs simply on the basis of politics. And about that infrastructure? Still waiting on those improvements, aren’t we? CNN reports that Melania’s redo of the Rose Garden is already crumbling three weeks after completion, had to be repaired. Another awesome metaphor!!


    1. Ah yes, Belarus! All the talk about Belarus these days must be filtered thru the understanding that this is a continuation of Cold War propaganda. That said, perhaps the most recent election WAS rigged. I can’t claim to have inside info. But as a US citizen, I have every right to be outraged that Trump has announced publicly that the GOP is working furiously to rig OUR election. How can a POTUS possibly get away with this? As usual, we must look to Mitch McConnell’s ability to stifle any Congressional remediation of the problem. I will now make a shocking statement, based on my own disgust with and disdain for the state of our country today: I believe that if Trump refuses to vacate the Oval Office come January 20, “the System” would make sure he was removed. I don’t think the US Military has become warped enuf to back our own would-be Strong Man in such a showdown.


  2. Most ancient art and writing and stelae and wall paintings and friezes and scrolls and so forth — are all state propaganda, and yes, that definitely includes the various versions of “the” bible – all designed to cover up for defeats and claim victories instead (such as Kadesh in 1275 bce+- and both Egyptian and Hittite claims), or to glorify flat out genocide of some city state or area or the enslavement by captivity of armies and so forth. They even had their equivalents of tweets, such as Caesar’s nearly daily dispatches to Rome from as far as Britain (6-10 days by fast couriers – not unlike pony express) as he kept several secretaries writing his adventures on the spot and used them to stay out of jail in Rome by keeping his post (familiar?).
    My own comparative literary analysis tells me the Exodus never happened and that the “account” was written centuries after the supposed events and also centuries after the national boundaries had changed (no way Moses could have escaped Egypt of the New Kingdom because the boundaries at that time included the Sinai and Canaan) but the writer didn’t know that. However, the story was used at the time for a return from captivity at the time and has been used to wipe out an existing people, yet again, in this land, into this century.
    The underpinnings of the military battles and state intrigues are the stories the population believes, in all its layers.


    1. Interesting stuff. I only read relatively recently–don’t ask me what book, I read “too many”!–that a major motivation for the development of writing was, indeed, to allow rulers to boast of their great (alleged!) conquests. That and the need for merchants to keep records, moneylenders to keep track of the debtors, etc. These latter explanations have been known for very long. The former, the imperial boasting, had not occurred to me on my own. I think the majority opinion of bible scholars–many of whom I find respectable, as they are willing to contradict “the given Word” where Science demands it–is that the Old Testament is, let’s say, fairly reliable on the history of the early migrations and military campaigns of the early Israelites. (And wow, did Jehovah order them onto the warpath frequently! As “The Chosen People,” they were “entitled” to massacre and enslave whomever they desired!) Did the classical Greek and Roman historians give too much credence to these stories? Ah, that’s another question!


  3. On occasion Trump makes statements of truth. Remember him talking about it being impossible for Republicans to be elected if everyone could vote? The other day he complained that the top brass of the military are really only doing the bidding of big military contractors. I recall in his campaign for the presidency, he told his fans that yes, the system is rigged. This may be the monkey at the keyboard coming up with Shakespeare given enough time, but Trump certainly does reveal what is on his mind.

    But, like Twitter, he can’t stay on any topic for long. For a person to accomplish something whether in daily life or as president, there must be a goal with attention paid to it until it is accomplished. That’s why destruction is so much easier than construction. Even a child knows that Lego blocks all over the floor is easier to produce than a Lego building, no matter how simple.

    Two months to go.


    1. I suspect Trump treats ideas–and we can’t credit him with exactly being a great innovator of them things–like the famous spaghetti (or pasta of your choice) that gets thrown against the wall to see “what will stick.” Follow-through? Please! Stop these unreasonable demands on the busy fellow! It’s obvious that he doesn’t sleep very much, and this helps induce a scatter-shot mental process with attention deficits. Just what we want to see in The Leader of the Free (ha!) World, right?


    2. I should follow up my comment with this information that I read in Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent daily newsletter…it seems he is as usual grabbing at anything as a life preserver.

      “In fact, Trump has made military build-up and selling U.S. weapons abroad key to his foreign policy. His Defense Secretary, Mark T. Esper, is a former top lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon, and last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an emergency to push through $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after lawmakers of both parties objected to the sale.”


      1. Suddenly, today we have an announcement of troops being pulled out of Iraq AND Afghanistan. Trump has gone anti-war?? Ha! The official explanation is US “confidence” in local officials in these locations to look after their own “security.” And when this again proves illusory, of course the US troops can surge right back in after Election Day. Or, should Trump suffer an undeniable defeat on Election Day, perhaps he’ll stick with reduced troop levels just to spite his successor! Then Biden will be “forced” to surge troops back into the hot spots. And we shouldn’t doubt for a moment Biden would do that.


        1. Yes. The old Imperial Bait and Switch.

          I keep waiting for Henry Kissinger to crawl out from under his rock and breathlessly proclaim: “Peace is at hand!” right before the election. I have no doubt that the US Military Constabulary will attempt to sell President Trump on this cynical delaying ploy, hoping that he will only lower the troop numbers insignificantly but not not actually end even one of America’s criminal imperial debacles. Then — hopefully, as the ticket-punching brass see things — Trump will lose and those “shadow people” surrounding Joe Biden will reverse the troop “drawdowns,” “reductions,” “redeployments,” “rotations” — name your favorite euphemism — and the endlessly profitable carnage can continue.

          And if President Trump should — as in 2016 — win election, the “loser/crybaby” military brass — aptly named — can still hope to corner him into doing a Nixon Christmas Bombing of a major middle-eastern target: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or one of those other “wars” America has going at the moment. From the career bomber’s point of view, it doesn’t really matter which target. The US Military “leadership” will manage to get a fight started somewhere and a President Trump will have no recourse but to take ownership of it else he might look like he has no control over “his own” military. Which he obviously doesn’t. So far that Pentagram/CIA tactic has served to bully President Trump into one corner after another. He just doesn’t seem able to deal with the obvious institutional enemies that any sort of “Peace” will always engender. He has only fired three “top” generals when he should have cashiered three dozen of them, just for starters. Trump really should have read Machiavelli’s The Prince. Such a little book. So much political and administrative wisdom.

          So. Will the typical military “stall, alibi, and DEMAND MORE STUFF” schtick continue as usual under a “Biden” administration and Pelosi House? Most certainly it will if the “shadow people” surrounding Joe Biden — namely, Michelle Flouroy (“Defense”), Victoria Nuland (“State”), et al — have anything to say about things. But should President Donald Trump get another four years to have a go at the Swamp alligators and snakes who have consistently undermined him, who knows? Perhaps he might actually end a needless, forever-losing imperial disaster just to get in a little justified revenge. He certainly has the motivation to do so, if nothing else.

          Time is not on America’s side, although I have read that “a week is an eternity in politics,” and “a deadline tends to focus the attention.”


    3. As Walt Whitman said about Trump: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)



      1. Trump contains multitudes, alright! Just look at his waistline!! * Unfortunately for the world, all his multitudes are certifiably insane.

        * Of course, he dictates to physicians that they shall declare him the healthiest POTUS of all time.


    1. Trump on tape with Woodward…. who is without a conscience? Sitting on this while thousands were dying!!


    2. The Donald is really steaming mad at Woodward today. I heard a soundbite on radio today of the current Press Spokes-bimbo (I mean, come on, long blonde hair is a requirement, right?) saying “The President has never lied about…” but I was instantly laughing aloud so hysterically (driving in my car) that I didn’t hear if she concluded the sentence with “the dangers of Covid-19” versus “anything”!!!


    3. Without reading the whole WP article [considering the publisher and author] , I gather that President Trump had (1) a public position and (2) a private position, relative to the Corona-19 virus. Now, I feel fairly certain that I’ve heard of that sort of thing before, most notably attributed to the junior right-wing faction’s 2016 candidate for the US Presidency. You know, the snake-haired Medusa with the stinking NAFTA albatross around her neck who got her ample, pants-suited ass handed to her by a rookie politician, real-estate con man and cable-tv game show host: one with an orange spray-painted tan and a dead yellow raccoon on his head. Yes. Now it begins to come back to me. But in the interest of keeping my blood pressure and pulse rate low and stable, I think I’ll skip the Kayfabe wrestling outrage this time around.

      I need to save my strength. The next thing you know, some disgruntled Vietnam veteran will “outrageously” allege that the vaunted and “heroic” US military — about which one may not utter a discouraging word — has only murdered and displaced millions for the natives’ own good and betterment, not so that a tiny class of Transnational Global Oligarchs can further enrich themselves pillaging entire nations while speculating on world stock markets.

      Oh, wait. Did I already allege that? And has this sordid truth not “outraged” all those fine people in the US Marketing Territory? Silence answers.


  4. Leaving Donald Trump and his trademark outrageous comments — pure Kayfabe, as the “professional” wrestlers would say — aside for the moment, but my Taiwanese wife told me last night that on the local news here in Kaohsiung, one of the topics concerned Joe Biden’s obvious problems with incipient dementia. It seems the news people had attempted to translate into Chinese something Biden had said recently and, no matter how they tried to make sense of his word salad remarks, the result came out gibberish. This got a lot of laughs here, so my wife tells me.

    Now, back to Present Donald Trump who apparently, and predictably, has again said something “outrageous” that leads his “liberal” (whatever that means) critics to publicly piss their pants and shit themselves, to the absolute delight of his “deplorable” base. As Matt Taibbi wrote recently: “Who’s more annoying, the blowhard, or the people who won’t stop talking about the blowhard?” Or, in more detail:

    “The problem was this all played into Trump’s hands. Instead of crafting a coherent, accessible plan to address the despair and cynicism that moved voters to even consider someone like Trump in the first place, Democrats instead turned politics into a paranoiac’s dream, imbuing Trump’s every move with earth-shattering importance as America became a single, never-ending, televised referendum on His Orangeness.” [emphasis added]

    “The last four years have been like living through an O.J. trial where O.J. testifies all day (and tweets at night). Not only has this been maddening to those of us who desire a more Trumpless existence, especially since it’s constantly implied that being anything less than enthralled by the Trump show is an inexcusable show of privilege, it’s massively increased the chances of the whole exhausting spectacle continuing, by giving Trump something to run on again.” [emphasis added]

    “Ever since Trump jumped into politics, the pattern has been the same. He enters the arena hauling nothing but negatives and character liabilities, but leaves every time armed with winnable issues handed to him by overreacting opponents.”

    A typically outstanding analysis, in my opinion. One of Matt Taibbi’s best. See: The Trump Era Sucks and Needs to Be Over. The race is tightening. Is America sure it’s ready to give up its addiction to crazy? . By Matt Taibbi, (September 4, 2010)

    Now, what did Joe Biden — remember him? — say that no one in Kaohsiung, Taiwan (if not the literate world) can understand?


  5. Scott Horton of (September 9, 2020) wraps it up succinctly about President Trump’s (always in the future tense) “withdrawal” from some war, somewhere, but never ending any: How To Pressure Donald Trump Into Staying At War.

    It’s easy:

    While Trump has repeatedly voiced his desire to bring troops home before Election Day, various defense officials and confidants on the Hill and in GOP circles have repeatedly insisted to Trump that such large-scale withdrawals would risk creating an election-year mess that would dwarf the fallout that came after President Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal from Iraq, two of the sources said.

    It’s a strategy of “scaring the shit out of the president,” as one former senior Trump administration official characterized it. It plays on his fears of possibly getting tagged as “weak” like Obama was. Trumpworld and Republican hawks have used the stratagem to great success in earlier years of this administration. The tactic helped convince Trump to embrace the Afghanistan surge of summer 2017, and got him to quickly back off withdrawals from Syria in both 2018 and 2019. About 900 troops will remain in Syria, a number unchanged by the Iraq drawdown.

    Which is why the headline is essentially correct: Trump’s Troop Withdrawal Is a ‘Disingenuous’ Election Year Ploy, Officials Say. [emphasis added]

    If and when we proles learn about US troop withdrawals, in their entirely and in the past tense, then we might credit a US president as having some control over the parasitic Junta whose senior officers and their corporate overseers claim to follow the President’s orders but really only pursue their personal and institutional interests.


    1. The Pentagon surely knows how to play to Trump’s ego as well as his fears. Trump will not risk being labeled a loser. So let the wars continue, because as long as they wage, we can continue to lie about “progress.”


      1. I haven’t fully followed this story. Are Congressional Democrats howling about this alleged withdrawal yet??


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