To some it signals the end of the American empire, to others it's just part of the vicious capitalist cycle. Either way, the litany of bad economic news in America has many pondering where it all goes from here.
Millions of U.S. jobs have been lost and more layoffs are expected. Banks have reined in lending after a credit crisis and a housing collapse that has sent foreclosures surging.
On Wall Street, several investment banks have collapsed. The U.S. stock market has lost more than 40 percent of its value.
"We are seeing the beginning of the end of the American empire," said Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States. "Unless bold measures are taken to change the course of the nation, we are heading for trouble."
On the other side, former International Monetary Fund chief economist Simon Johnson sums up the view this way: "The myth of wonderful capitalism is dead but not capitalism, just the nice warm fuzziness."
And that leads to our Fast Money Reader Poll. We want to know where you stand on this issue. Do you agree with Howard Zinn? Is this the beginning of the end of the American empire?
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CNBC.com with wires