Book Review

The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hitmen, Jackals, and the Truth About Global Corruption

John Perkins

Copyright 2007 Penguin Group Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-1012-1373-5

      This book is about the author’s dealings as what he calls “an economic hitman.” In truth he was a spy for the NSA, and tells many stories of what he call the U.S. “raping and pillaging” many countries around the world for the advancement and profits of what he calls the “American Empire.” He feels that the U.S. has dealt with the rest of the world with reckless abandonment, with no care for what they leave behind as long as the U.S. and its leaders profit.  The book is divided into five parts. The first four parts each dealing with a different area of the world. These are Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Each part is a collection of his personal stories about the involvement in various government dealings around the world. While very egocentric, they are interesting stories, and I got the feeling that his part in things is a bit smaller than he likes to believe. He is but one person dealing in very large world issues; yes, he played his part but he is only one person. The fifth part of the book is about how to right the wrongs that the U.S. has created throughout the world.

      The author states that the U.S. is an empire. His proof of this is in his definition of an empire. According to him an empire is “a nation-state that dominates other nation-states and exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:” He then provides a list of six key points that he believes represent an empire, and “proof” of why the U.S. exhibits all six of these characteristics. From exploitation of resources to maintaining a large military to keep control, to spreading its culture and currency on the rest of the world. His last point being that an empire is ruled by a king or monarch. He gets around this by saying that the government of the U.S. is collectively the king/monarch. That corporations rule the government with money and the government does everything with the “corporatocracy” in mind and how to best make them more money. The large economic disparity we see in the world to day is the result of corporations running the politicians of the American Government, and the American Government pushing their will on the rest of the world.

      I think the largest point the author makes that deals with our learning’s is in economic disparity. His main point is showing how the government (with corporate backing) has ensured the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Essentially by the rich taking from the poor. This is on a global scale, not just in the U.S. alone. And in dealing with a global scale this plays a large part in extreme poverty-the countries around the world where the majority of people live on pennies a day, far beyond the U.S. definition of poverty.

      The things I learned from the book, I took with a grain of salt. Most of it is historical in nature. Things that went on in history, some widely known, some not so widely known. I took it with a grain of salt because I felt the author embellished quite a bit and also twisted facts to fit his thinking. While not necessarily outright lying,  facts can be worded, or omitted, to fit your purpose. The media does this everyday in reporting the “news” and I feel the author did a bit of this. Without doing a ton of research it would be hard to get the “whole story.” Although I think his overall message is fairly accurate, I think his way of getting there may not be as accurate. I do feel the U.S. Government is mainly run by the large corporations and do what is best for the corporations, whose main goal is profit.

      The part I most liked about the book was the fifth part. The covering of possible solutions to the problems and what he would like to see for the future. I think this is important as many people are great at pointing out problems, yet have no input into how to solve those problems. He tells what people can do on an individual level to help the problems. From writing corporations saying why you refuse to buy their products, to the opposite-writing corporations saying why you will buy their’s and the things you feel the corporation does to help society. Voting and letting your voice be heard, one voice is not that loud, but if you get enough voices screaming the same message, it will be heard. And remember that the corporation’s biggest concern is also their weakness-profits. Hurt their profits and change is inevitable, nothing gets heard quicker than loss of profit.

      This book did not change my way of thinking very much. I already felt that corporations ran the government to their own purposes with little regard for much else besides profit. Votes and “campaign” money mean more to politicians than the welfare of the people. Greed runs this country and this book reinforces that thinking. 99% of the worlds population is at the mercy of the few who have the money and power/control. In turn this country controls most of the rest of the world. It is seen everyday in the world news with our involvement in the Middle East, and Asia mainly right now, but our influence and control is evident everywhere. The U.S. can say that their influence is being pushed for the greater good, but that “greater good” is for profit, and very few reap the benefits of that “greater good”.

Unit 5/6-Social Security

First I would like to say that the reading for social security was an informative read. Having heard many of the negative things about social security over the yeas, it was nice to get an honest look at it. That said, it is still worrisome whether the system will hold up or not. To me the problem is life expectancy. As people live longer, without raising the age limit of social security, people will be on it for a longer period of time. Eventually leading to a larger percentage of the population being on social security, especially if birth rates do not keep up with the rise in life expectancy. I think raising the age limit in social security only partially works. Older people have a harder time finding and keeping work. Many companies force retirement on older people to not have to pay them higher wages, especially those that have been with a company for an extended amount of time. Hiring new workers that come in at base pay rates instead of rates which have increased with raises over the period of time that a person has worked for the company. This also can lead to lower paying jobs, that could possibly make an older person have to tap into their retirement fund earlier than expected and then lead to being more dependent on social security when the time comes. Also, in raising the age limit, some people will not be able to work later in life due to health problems. This would lead to more people on disability (part of social security) and put more strain on the system. Raising the tax on social security is also an option, but how many more taxes (social security and others) can society afford? Employers and employees both pay social security, raising social security hurts both sides of the spectrum. Employers have to pay more-they raise the rates of their goods/services. Leading to consumers, the bulk of which are employees, having to pay twice. Once directly in the tax increase on their paycheck, and again paying more for the goods/services they buy. There may be other options to explore, beyond my knowledge of it, but it is certain that something is going to have to be done in the future. It would be wise when the time comes to remember that there are repercussions/side effects to whatever is decided upon. Yes, we need to continue to take care of our elders, but in a way which does not put further strain on the rest of society, which as a whole, is struggling pretty bad as it is.

Unit 5/6-PPACA=Affordable?

In my present situation, I have a hard time seeing how this is considered affordable. I signed up for health care through the marketplace before the original deadline. My monthly premium is $160, with a $6000 deductible before the insurance even kicks in. That is nearly $8000 a year if I used it to the point where the insurance had to pay out. This was one of the cheaper options that I had when I signed up. Even to a person who made $50k a year (which I don’t), that would be nearly 20% of their income, and that is before taxes. If you don’t bring home $50k a year, it is an even higher percentage. I also read recently (although I don’t have the link) that premiums are going to go up. Kind of seems like a bait and switch to me. Bring everyone in under one pricing system, and then two years later start raising the rates. People are required to have it, pay it or else. Although it may have been put in place with good intentions, I do not find it to be affordable and the ones to benefit the most is going to be the insurance companies-as usual. I have yet to find someone who finds it affordable, if you do not qualify for government assistance. While there is peace of mind knowing I have insurance, the thought of having to use it for something serious is equally as terrifying, $6000 would be a damaging amount of money to have to pay out.