As many in America longingly talk of "recovery" from the most devastating economic condition since the Great Depression, others have begun thinking in a very different direction, urging fellow citizens to prepare for the worst.
Dmitry Orlov, author of "Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects," is one of the latter.
Soon, he told Raw Story in an exclusive interview, Americans will "stop expecting anything of Washington," turning the US into more of a "banana republic" than a super power.
Orlov, who witnessed the Soviet Union's collapse from within, lamented that America's condition is so severe there is "absolutely nothing" most can do to keep it alive or hasten its demise.
"Basically the people in this country are powerless," he suggested. "So they should probably focus on things closer to home."
Orlov, born in Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg), moved to the United States at age 12 and became an engineer. In his book, he detailed his experiences with the Soviet collapse on numerous visits to Russia in the late 1980s, early 1990s. He covered similarities between the two superpowers in their twilight and suggested ways for Americans to adapt to their new environment.
Amid horrid unemployment and a national deficit soaring past World War II levels, Orlov theorized that the US would eventually collapse -- not from finances or war, but from a lack of faith in the system.
It would happen over three overlapping stages, he said: financial, political and commercial.
"We're fairly far along in the financial collapse trajectory while political collapse has now really only started with the last election," he said.
By the next election cycle, Orlov figured, the United States would be in the throes of a "banana republic" such that the voters would exchange one inept political party for another inept political party while expecting different results.
While nothing constructive would result from this behavior, he said, the next meaningless shift in 2012 may be the last straw.
"That will run its course where people walk away in disgust and stop expecting anything of Washington," he said.
Environmental and social catastrophe
As the financial collapse runs its course, Orlov said, people can expect some imports to be cut off. Energy, above all cheap oil, will be the most important import to dry up. Transportation fuels will also become scarce, bringing on the next stage of social collapse: the commercial sphere, he noted.
"People will lose access to various products that they need," Orlov said.
Much has already collapsed in the commercial sphere. Vacant strip malls and deserted grocery stores clutter the landscape in many parts of the country.
"You also have people whose only source of food is food stamps," he said. "That's becoming predominant in a lot of communities."
But let's not fail to mention an overemphasis on military expenditures and unused industrial areas, Orlov insisted, describing them as mis-investments made by both empires.
"To this day, the former Soviet Union is littered with abandoned or semi-abandoned industrial sites just as the United States is," he noted.
By Orlov's estimation, the US military will never voluntarily quit being the world's largest oil consumer and largest polluter. Moreover, any plans suggested to the military to end its oil dependency in 30 years are an act of "desperation," he said.
"They have set their hair on fire and are running around in circles. That's their drill right now," Orlov quipped.
But what really seemed to rock the Soviet empire to its foundations, Orlov explained, was devastation of Russia's physical environment as a result of industrialization. The prime example was the nuclear reactor accident in Chernobyl in 1986. To this day, the site continues to produce very high levels of childhood leukemia, cancers and other diseases.
"[The Chernobyl accident] caused a great number of people, including people in some positions of authority, especially in the scientific community in Russia, to seriously mistrust the government, and [they] started doing their own research, making their own observations that disquieted them even more," Orlov explained.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's "glasnost" policy allowed enough truth out to undermine the remaining Soviet authority to the point where those who operated the system lost interest in perpetuating it, Orlov said.
While likening the Chernobyl disaster to the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico on his blog, Orlov said that he expects no hearts of American leaders to bleed over their destroyed environment any time soon.
"I don't see the elite in the United States at quite that level of desperation quite yet -- probably because they are a little bit less attuned to what's going on," he said. "They are a little bit more sheltered from the public at large. But that might change."
With editing by Stephen C. Webster.