However, at the end of the Cold War, or at least in its twilight years, as technological innovation ramped up we started to see a more decentralized version of the American empire. Though the forerunner age to globalization was still deeply rooted in the United States, there were the stirrings of a truly transnational capitalist class. Financial deregulation sped things along, as did new multilateral trade agreements and the focus of American (though international in name) financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank shifting from buying out the Soviets to busting new markets abroad in a much more overt way. This can be pinpointed, I believe, to the Volker shock / oil crisis of the late 1970s, when loans were refinanced with structural adjustments geared towards increased financialization and aid dependence, along with new foreign currency reserve requirements. Once the Soviet Union fell apart, it was a matter of less than a decade before we saw the emergence of a truly transnational capitalist class, one that spread its vulture wings and really took flight. This is where the "decline" part comes in... Empire still exists, but it is no longer national.
I believe this national severance came hand in hand with buying off the American middle class wholeheartedly. Access to easy credit exploded in the 1990s and more Americans were indulging in cheap consumer goods, cable television, whatever it is our grandparents said made us lazy and stupid. With this buying off came a really concerted propaganda effort to make everyone think that times were never better. As manufacturing and production moved offshore easy access to credit softened this blow. People moved into more precarious sectors, though on the whole the American middle class still enjoyed relative security in their jobs, be it in the public or private spheres.
After 9/11, a new effort was made to impoverish the American people. The market busted and people were thrust deeper into precarity. It busted again and people lost their houses. Every time the market busts, the rich get way richer, so there is a staggering transfer of wealth happening. As the state shifts its raison d-etre from a citizen-oriented focus we hardly notice it is shifting in the interests of capital because of concerns about "security", "terrorism" and "war". The state must tighten its belt, so we are told, so services and entitlement withers away.
Meanwhile, there is no organized labor in the United States. Jobs become more precarious and less able to unionize. This mixes with increased atomization and alienation to create a country of scabs, scrambling rats who just need to make this month's bills and not go under on their houses. Scrambling rats.
So the question is, where does the United States go from here? The transnational capital class (TCC) has not just taken flight, it has turned the American population into a festering sore it can suck on whenever it needs to. OWS was great, but unfocused. It turned cannons on the TCC, rightfully so in some cases, but gave the government a pass. Many who were involved or supported it will no doubt vote for Obama again in the coming election. The major problem I can see is that the citizenry believes that the government is still accountable to the people, that it remains an impartial mediator between capital and labor. This is just as foolish as seeing the United States as an impartial mediator between Israel and the PA. And just like the PA, American labor itself has become corrupted.
The answer as far as I can see is seizing the state in the interest of the people. The TCC exists, and is highly mobile, but still depends on the acquiescence of 370 million Americans to sustain itself. We can see that it is building foundations elsewhere, and time is running out to grab it by the roots and strangle it. We can hear in the rhetoric of the American institutionalized right+left a call for American labor to become more globally competitive. If things go as planned, do not doubt that sweatshops in "Free Trade Zones" will be opened on these shores in the next fifty years. The answer as I can figure is to seize the state, to refocus the Occupy+Anti-Globalization (whatever remains) movements' attention to the state. Any suggestions on how to approach this in a constructive manner?