Source – nationofchange.org
– Members of the sinking middle class in our pathologically unequal society may well find it convenient to blame people in lower economic classes, who are unlikely to fight back. It’s a game for the people looking down on a troubled nation:
– Capitalism has worked for big business and for the people with stocks and estates. But for the past 35 years our economic system, stripped of sensible regulations, has poisoned the nation with deadly inequality and driven much of middle America to an ever-widening lower class.
Yet for much of the nation the delusion persists, against all common sense, that deregulated free-market capitalism works, that it equates to true Americanism, and that people have only themselves to blame for their failure to thrive in this expanding world of wealth. The reasons for this delusion are not hard to determine.
1. The Rich are Easy to Understand: Capitalism Justifies Selfishness
Studies have consistently shown that increased wealth causes people to turn inward, to believe more in their own “superior” traits, and to care less about the feelings and needs of others. This anti-social attitude blends well with the Ayn-Randish “greed is good” message of unregulated capitalism.
Other studies have determined that money pushes people further to the right, making them less egalitarian, less willing to provide broad educational opportunities to all members of society, and certainly part of the reason that our investment in public infrastructure as a component of GDP dropped by 60 percent from 1968 to 2011.
2. The Would-Be Rich: Dollar Signs Dance in Their Heads
Capitalism allows profit-seekers to view students as sources of revenue, and to drain money from the public school system. Jeb Bush likened schools to milk cartons in a supermarket aisle: “I wish our schools could be more like milk…You can get whole milk, low fat milk or skim milk…chocolate, strawberry or vanilla…milk alternatives, like soy milk, almond milk and rice milk…Who would have ever thought you could improve upon milk? Yet, freedom, innovation and competition found a way.”
Bush’s milk alternative is the charter school business. David Brain, head of the tellingly named Entertainment Properties, called it “a great opportunity set with 500 schools starting every year. It’s a two and a half billion dollar opportunity set in rough measure annually.”
But the money didn’t start rolling in until the public school system began to be starved. The U.S. Department of Education reported that $197 billion is needed to repair the nation’s K-12 public school buildings. The public system is going broke, deprived of tax dollars that go to charters. State budgets are providingless per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago – in many cases far less.
And the results of the capitalist school experiment? Still coming in, althoughevidence is quickly accumulating that many charter school systems are mired in fraud and secrecy, and shaping up as a prime example of the folly of treating human beings like products to be bought and sold.
3. The Rest of Us: The Media Keeps Telling Us that Capitalism is the Only Way to Live
The mainstream media’s unwillingness to state the truth about inequality has led people to vastly underestimate the wealth gap in our country, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth, when in reality they own much less than 1% of the wealth. Out of every dollar, they own a third of a penny.
Conservative writers overwhelm us with their capitalist-loving mantras:
—–Income inequality is simply not a significant problem. (The Wall Street Journal)
—–Income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful… (The Washington Post’s George Will, quoting John Tamny)
—–Capitalism has worked very well (Bill Gates)
—–A free market system…ensures a fair, democratic process (Sarah Palin)
—–Let the market do its job (Chicago Tribune)
Many of them believe that the state of America is reflected in the stock market. But the richest 10% own over 90 percent of the stocks and mutual funds. No problem for the Koch Foundation. They comfort us with the knowledge that If you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest one percent in the world.
4. Anyone Above the Lowest Class: It’s Empowering to Look Down on Someone
Members of the sinking middle class in our pathologically unequal society may well find it convenient to blame people in lower economic classes, who are unlikely to fight back. Guidance for such condescension comes from libertarian write Charles Murray, who apparently doesn’t understand the family stress caused by the lack of educational and employment opportunities. He accuses the poor of having a “genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line.” And, he adds, “Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms.”
This inspires people like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, both of whom compared the safety net to a “hammock,” and John Boehner, who explained the thinking of poor people: “I really don’t have to work…I think I’d rather just sit around.”
A good American capitalist like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham would say, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally…It’s a game we play.”
It’s a game for the people looking down on a troubled nation.
The Evidence Keeps Pouring In: Capitalism Just Isn’t Working
To followers of Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, and to all the business people who despise government, ‘community’ is a form of ‘communism.’ Even taking the train is too communal for them. Americans have been led to believe that only individuals matter, that every person should fend for him/herself, that “winner-take-all” is the ultimate goal, and that the winners have no responsibility to others.
To the capitalist, everything is a potential market. Education, health care, even the right to water. But with every market failure it becomes more clear that basic human rights can’t be bought and sold like cars and cell phones. The pursuit of profit, when essential needs are part of the product, means that not everyone will be able to pay the price. Some will be denied those essential needs.
Capitalism hasn’t been able to control runaway global inequality. For every $1.00 owned by the world’s richest 1% in 2011, they now own $1.27. They own almost half the world’s wealth. Just 70 of them own as much as 3.5 billion people.
Capitalism has not been able — or willing — to control the “race to the bottom” caused by “free trade,” as mid-level jobs continue to be transferred to low-wage countries.
Nor has capitalism been able to control global environmental degradation, with trillions in subsidies going to polluters that don’t even pay their taxes, and with corporations ignoring any semblance of social responsibility as they seek ways to profit from global warming.
Job Creation Failures I
With or without globalization, middle-class jobs are disappearing, even higher-end positions in financial analysis, medical diagnosis, legal assistance, and journalism. Artificial intelligence is making this happen. Millions of Americans have had a role in the great American productivity behind this technological takeover, but capitalism allows only an elite few of us to reap the disproportional profits.
Reports of job recovery are based on low-income jobs, many of them part-time. Layoffs are cutting into the military and technology. Gallup discounted Wall Street’s job-creating ability. As noted by former Wall Street Journal Associate Editor Paul Craig Roberts, the US rate of unemployment is 23 percent when long-term discouraged job-seekers are included. That’s close to the unemployment rate of the Great Depression.
Job Creation Failures II
Closely related to employment woes is the collapse of corporate investment in new product R&D, from 40 cents per dollar in the 1970s to 10 cents now. CEOs are choosing instead to spend almost all of their profits on buybacks and dividends to enrich investors.
Health Care Failures
The capitalist profit motive allows the cost of a hepatitis pill that costs $10 in Egypt to sell for $1,000 in the United States, and the cost of a blood test to range from $10 to $10,000 in two California hospitals (a 100,000% markup at the second hospital).
Patent abuse is one of the factors making this possible. Pharmaceutical companies can tweak a drug with a minor change to create a “brand new” drug with a new patent.
Another health-related scam that affects most of us is bottled water. According to Food & Water Watch, about half of it is filtered tap water with fancy names, as evidenced in one case by an actual “tap water” label on a company’s product. Yet with the demise of community water fountains, and the barrage of advertising for “safe and pure” drinking water, unsuspecting Americans pay dearly: for the price we pay for a bottle of water we would be able to fill up that bottle a thousand times with tap water.
Because of the “invisible hand” of the free market, in just 35 years the investment wealth of the super-rich has gone from 15% of middle-class housing to almost 200% of middle-class housing.
A remarkable story of privatization failure is told in the story of charter schools in Florida, where Jeb Bush still holds dear to his delusions of free-market educational success.
That’s just one example. In general, charters are riddled with fraud and identified with a lack of transparency that leads to even more fraud. Since 2001 nearly 2,500 charter schools have been forced to close their doors, leaving over a quarter-million schoolchildren between one bad business decision and the next. A report from PR Watch summarizes the billions of dollars spent on charters without accountability to the public.
Chris Hedges wrote: “Human life is of no concern to corporate capitalists. The suffering of the Greeks, like the suffering of ordinary Americans, is very good for the profit margins of financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs.”
People become meaningless in a successful capitalist system.