Is the sun setting on the US empire?

Washington, DC, with its monuments, resembles the heart of ancient Rome. Is the American empire facing the fate of its ancient predecessor?

What does the concept of empire even mean to people today?

Experts say the modern American empire has been built on military might.

"The US defense budget is almost 50 percent of global military expenditures,"
said Professor Michel Chossudovsky, director of Centre for Research on Globalisation in Toronto, Canada.

Its spending overshadows all other countries in the world combined. Buying the most advanced weapons systems that are "unequaled" according to analysts, making the US a super power unrivaled in its ingenuity.

It's an imperial project with an economic agenda.

"Imposing a colonial currency has always been an objective of the empire," said Chossudovsky. "What is sustaining the dollar is US military might."

And America has a hidden agenda to make the Pentagon budget so expensive that no one else can compete. It is made up of more than $700 billion a year and nearly 70 percent of American's income taxes.

Just a small fraction of that money would go far in a neighborhood like Washington DC's poorest, Ward 8. There houses sit dilapidated with windows are boarded up and the doors filled with cinder blocks. One in two children are living in poverty and one in every four adults has no job.

"Well I can see where there’s a lack of everything going around, especially the food and money problems," said Malcolm Franklin, a resident of the neighborhood.

All over the US, you can see signs of a tradeoff.

"The consequence of this war economy is the fiscal crisis," said Chossudovsky.

And as trillions of dollars have gone to bailing out Wall Street banks and defense spending combined, mainstream America has experienced, "the economic downturn, foreclosures, and job losses," according to a Washington DC food bank spokesperson. "People who used to donate to the foodback are now coming in for assistance," she added.

A country is becoming impoverished, while government deficits are now so high that despite a global War on Terror, even the military leaders of the empire are more worried that US credit is maxed out.

"I think the biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt," said Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The interest on our debt is $571 billion in 2012."

That's a lot of money, and on top of that, everything produced in the economy that year isn't expected even to be enough to cover the principle.

"The United States is almost $14 trillion in debt and they want to take on more debt to keep bailing out the system, it’s not working," said Gerald Celente, director of Trends Research Institute.

The Congressional Budget Office agrees and has issued its most dire warning on the budget yet. It's a spending habit that's catching up.

"It's not sustainable," said Admiral Mullen.

And in this situation, it appears neither is the dollar.

"The dollar isn’t going to be worth a dime considering the direction they’re taking," said Celente.

And now the United Nations wants to dump it as the global reserve currency.

For comedians it amounts to this: "America officially became a third world country," says an "analyst" on  the faux-news program The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

For analysts, it's a little more complicated.

"This apparent hegemony of the US with this massive military budget worldwide is at the same time destroying the US as an imperial power," said Chossudovsky.

But it all appears to ponit in the same direction. And just as the sun has risen for other other Imperial powers in the past, from ancient Rome, to modern times, the sun has also set.