March 17, 2013 By Jack Jodell.
“The needs of the many far outweigh the wants of the few.”
- Star Trek’s Mr. Spock -
Those words, so profound and eloquent even today, were first uttered by a fictional TV character on a popular series way back in the 1960s. I have always remembered and cherished them. They spoke and still speak volumes of truth.
We in the United States have always been taught – (brainwashed into believing?) – that our capitalist economic system is the fairest, most successful, most egalitarian, and most desirable system humankind has ever devised. Its spirit of liberty, competition, and unhindered personal incentive were the driving forces which would provide us all with great personal and material wealth, if only we would work hard enough, long enough, and were thrifty enough, to realize those aims.
Events throughout the world over the past three decades have proven the fallacy of that supposition. Capitalists have embarked on policies of “free trade” and globalism, insisting that following them would be beneficial for everyone. Their definition of beneficial deserves close examination, for they have recklessly all but destroyed labor unions in the United States, and labor unions were the only effective means workers had to exert leverage in wage negotiations. Whereas important New Deal reforms not only leveled the economic playing field for more than 45 years and created the world’s strongest and most enviable middle class, today those gains by workers have largely disappeared. In their place has emerged a new super capitalism, where the greatest wealth disparity in the history of the country has come into effect. Among most workers, leisure time has become a f mere wistful memory, as continually rising prices and declining wages and benefits have made getting a second or even third job an absolute requirement. Outsourcing of good-paying American jobs to foreign slave-wage labor markets has had a disastrously crippling effect on once proud and strong American manufacturing. The huge drops in prices for consumer goods, and the creation of millions of good-paying, new American jobs which “free trade” advocates assured us would be the end result of globalization has simply not happened. Instead, millions of slave-wage jobs have been created in poorer countries while the overall American standard of living has actually dropped. The jobs created here were nearly all lower-paying jobs than those that were exported. Meanwhile, as worker productivity has risen dramatically and the cost of goods as well as the overall tax rate on the wealthy has dropped tremendously, the savings generated by these occurrences has been aggressively funneled upward, away from the poor, workers, and the middle class who comprise the MAJORITY 99%, and into the pockets of the filthy-richest 1%!
This is hardly broad-based economic progress – it is instead total economic regression! Even worse, this is NOT how capitalism is supposed to work!
In the idealized form of capitalism (something we do NOT see fully today), people can buy shares of stock in companies and receive dividend payments whenever the companies show a net profit. Buying stock gives these shareholders a say, at least theoretically, in the way the company is run and who its controlling officers will be. Periodic elections are held, and a set number of votes per share owned are awarded. The problem with this is that there are a great many small investors and only a few large investors. This guarantees dominance by the wealthiest stockholders who collectively own the greatest number of shares. The small investor has relatively insignificant power over the affairs of the company, and those who own no shares of its stock have no input whatsoever, even if the company is located in the same community and its business practices endanger the health and well-being of that community. Also, given today’s relatively higher prices and lowered wages, the majority of workers cannot afford to invest much income in stocks. This ensures that the will of the wealthy will always be met, many times at the expense of the small investor, and that small investors will never be given a fair shake.
In a great many other ways, the capitalist system is rigged to benefit the wealthiest members of society. The rich and their wealthy corporations have pooled their resources to hire powerful lobbying firms to represent their interests before the government. They have effectively bribed their way into near total control of all branches of government. They effectively own the Republican Party lock, stock, and barrel, and have steadily whittled down the once powerful and pro-labor Democratic Party into a meekly obedient, impotent non-entity. They have managed to shift the tax burden away from themselves and have placed it squarely on the shoulders of workers and all but the very poorest. Many have gamed the system to where many are able to escape paying any taxes at all, and have instead reaped huge financial rewards through the adoption of large subsidies given them by government! They have managed to infiltrate even the Supreme Court with their pro-corporate agenda. NONE of this has proven beneficial to the mass public in the least; only the wealthy, their corporations, and their government toadies have been beneficiaries of this nonsense.
It wasn’t always this way. Before Ronald Reagan brainwashed the country into believing that nearly all government regulation was evil and that government itself was a problem and not the friend and protector of the people back in the 1980s, things were far, FAR better for the overwhelming majority of the country and more egalitarian, too. Most of the wealthy were happy with their lot in life and accepted paying a higher tax rate on their income as a necessary duty and civic responsibility. They accepted the necessity of allowing lower-paid workers a voice in their economic affairs through allowing their labor unions to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions for them. They never much cared for unions, but at least their recognized their right to exist. All of that changed with the conservative mudslide which hit Washington and ushered in Reagan. He almost single-handedly converted what had once been the WE generation into a much more selfish, greedy, and short-sighted ME generation. Reagan’s appeal to the country’s baser, more self-centered instincts has proven to be an absolute disaster for all but the very rich and powerful. It has shifted our entire political spectrum, both parties included, far to the right of where they had once been. It indirectly led to the Great Recession of 2008 and the emergence of the reactionary, hatred and crackpot-driven Tea Party as dominant infesters of the once great liberal party of Abraham Lincoln. It has led to renewed calls for the complete dismantling of the great social programs of the New Deal and the Great Society, and to effectively roll the country back socially and economically to where it had been in the 1890s.
This, my fellow citizens, is what unbridled capitalism has done to our country. It has corrupted our government and has created wholly unnecessary stress for all but a very small few of the economic elites who actually control it. It is not of, for, and by the people – only SOME of the people; a very tiny few. It has grown from a driving, incentive-producing force into a conquering, evil malignancy which threatens to destroy our way of life. It claims to espouse freedom, but in reality is anti-democratic and all-devouring in nature.
Capitalism now creates misery instead of wealth!