By Nick Egnatz
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Aug 11, 2010
Latest estimates are that man has existed for 2.5 million years. Capitalism for only the last couple hundred or so of those years. Before capitalism there was always the understood social contract that the leader or leaders of a society were expected to provide for the general welfare of the society’s people. Whether it was a tribal chief or king, there was always the implication that at some level there was a duty to provide for the safety and general welfare of the people.
Some societies were more egalitarian and shared better than others, but there was always the duty of the strong to provide for the weak. It would be foolish to postulate that the majority of civilizations and societies were more egalitarian than the U.S. after the Revolution. Many were not, but there was always the duty for the strong to protect and provide for the weak. It may not have been done well, but it was there.
When U.S. plutocracy (rule by the wealthy elite) and capitalism entered the scene, the social contract was broken. Contrary to the popular myth, the U.S. has never been a functioning representative democracy; it has always been a plutocracy. The Revolutionary War saw the rule by the British Crown replaced with rule by the wealthy landowners. Native Americans, blacks, women and non-property owning whites were not allowed to vote or hold office in our country. Over the years, the voting franchise has expanded while the choices available have narrowed so the end result is the same: plutocracy or rule by the wealthy elite. We now have the choice of voting for a corporate Democrat or a corporate Republican, both of whom support a continuation of the two-party monopoly they enjoy, U.S. capitalism and its handmaiden, U.S. militarism. Anyone not espousing this worldview is not given any attention by the corporate media or the monopoly political parties and thus has a snowball in hell’s chance of winning a congressional or presidential election.
Capitalism defined: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. (Merriam Webster)
It all sounds relatively benign, but let’s examine the results. Private ownership means that the whole concept of promoting the general welfare, called for in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, is no longer a concern. As private interests are given special consideration and protection, common interests or the general welfare correspondingly suffers.
Competition in a free market also has a nice ring to it. That is until one realizes that as competition increases and the winners narrow the field, the market becomes less and less free with the winners ruthlessly eliminating competition as monopolies become the norm. Capitalism is nothing more than a justification for the wealthy to exploit the poor and working class. Because of its very nature, it will always result in more and more for the wealthy and less and less for everyone else.
The capitalist’s duty is to increase his capital. He has no duty for social betterment or to make sure that his workers have enough to thrive on. While there are many instances of philanthropy from the capitalist class, there is no duty to do such. The state through the U.S. Constitution is given the duty to protect the capitalist’s private property. The poor and working class, without a basic safety net addressing the general welfare, are instead given the gift of freedom. It’s an easy gift to give, since it costs the wealthy nothing.
We have the freedom to exist without a job. We have the freedom to watch our children starve. We have the freedom to lose our home to foreclosure. We have the freedom to be homeless. We have the freedom of ignorance after receiving our news from the monopoly corporate media. We have the freedom to believe that we as individual employees or consumers can successfully compete against the millions and billions of dollars of corporate wealth in our American system. And finally, we have the freedom to then consent to this system by voting for one of our two political parties to continue it.
Philosopher Johann Goethe said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” A fitting epithet for gun-toting, bible-wielding, unemployed U.S. workers who swear by their so-called American freedom as they lose jobs, homes and dignity. Meanwhile, their capitalist masters on Wall Street laugh all the way to the bank.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which the U.S. is a member, keeps track of the level of inequality in member nations. The OECD states that the U.S. is the third most unequal developed country on earth, trailing only Mexico and Turkey. Also, that the U.S. is becoming more unequal at a faster rate than any other country. This is the sorry legacy of the country which was founded on the statement that “all men are created equal.” And this world leadership role in inequality was in place before the catastrophe of the Great Recession brought to us by Wall Street ‘banksters’ and paid lackeys in the Democratic and Republican parties.
Official unemployment of 10 percent doesn’t begin to tell the story of the catastrophe that has befallen the working class. The long-term unemployed who are excluded from the official unemployment rate, the part time workers who need to work full time and those working full time but making less than a livable wage would easily bring the number existing on less than it costs to live in the U.S. to the 30 percent range and perhaps much higher.
The primary causes of the Great Recession:
1. Neo Liberal Globalization since 1980 the policy accepted and adopted by both political parties of free trade, free markets, no regulations and tax cuts for the wealthy.
2. Granting the private sector banks the power to create money. This power should reside with the people and be done through the government so that all will benefit. Our system has led to tremendous wealth for the already wealthy and has created a debt based economy in which the wealthy continue to profit by putting the working class further and further in debt. Obama completely agrees with this inequality as his response to financial disaster and unemployment has been to give trillions of dollars to speculative Wall Street financial houses and propose alleviating unemployment by making credit available to small business owners who actually need employed customers with money and not more debt to make their businesses prosper.
3. The deregulation of the financial industry. Allowing capitalism to do what it does naturally; letting the strong eat the weak. When it all crashes, bailing the strong out and letting the working class and poor twist in the wind. Then passing a financial reform bill which does nothing of substance to abolish or regulate the derivative markets created by Wall Street which precipitated the Great Recession.
The economic rule of supply and demand states that in a competitive market, price will equalize the quantity supplied by producers and the quantity demanded by consumers. The supply is increased as productivity increases. Demand increases as wages increase. Historically in the U.S. productivity and wages have increased at approximately the same rate until the advent of the Neo Liberal Globalization period in 1980. “Supply side economics” was the name given to the system championed by Ronald Reagan of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy. From 1980 on, workers’ wages adjusted for inflation have remained flat, while productivity has increased dramatically. Workers were forced to work longer hours and to go deeper into debt to maintain the status quo.
That was before the Wall Street economic collapse in September of 2008. While conditions for many in the working class are now desperate, the wealthy have weathered the storm quite nicely. The Forbes Magazine list of U.S. billionaires increased from 359 in 2008 to 403 in 2009. With only 5 percent of the world’s population it’s nice to know that we in the U.S. support 40 percent of the world’s billionaires. Our top two Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have done OK for themselves during these trying economic times for so many others. Gates made $35 million each day of the year in 2009, while Buffet had to scrape by on only $27 million per day.
In 2009, The Equality Trust was founded in the UK by Bill Perry, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett after the publication of Richard and Kate’s book “The Spirit Trust: Why more equal societies almost always do better.”
“Great inequality is the scourge of modern societies. We provide the evidence on each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage births, and child well-being. For all eleven of these health and social problems, outcomes are very substantially worse in more unequal societies.”
The U.S. the inequality leader also registers the worst results across the spectrum of health and social problems studied. The U.S. trails the rest of the rich industrialized world in child well being! Pitiful, indeed.
Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have great wealth in the hands of a few or we can have a democracy. We cannot have both.”
Can we regulate ourselves out of this inequality matrix? OpenSecrets.org estimates the number of lobbyists in Washington at 12,000, Wikipedia estimates 17,000 and the Washington Post estimates 34,000. This translates into somewhere between 20 and 70 lobbyists paid to influence each and every member of Congress.
The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that the federal government cannot restrict the amount of money spent by corporations on federal elections. It costs a minimum of several million dollars to run for Congress or the U.S. Senate. Lacking independent wealth, a successful campaign is impossible without corporate backing. The recent Supreme Court ruling now gives the corporate world a double-edged sword to wield in support of the status quo of U.S. capitalism. Not only will anyone challenging the system be denied funding from the golden goose of the corporate world, but well-funded primary and general election opponents will materialize to oppose one who dares to question or attempts to regulate the corporate world in the slightest manner. Independent oversight or regulation from a Congress composed of corporate ‘yes men’ is impossible.
Those who have run campaigns to challenge the system from within have done so with no chance of success. The monopoly corporate media, owned almost entirely by five corporations, is not about to give up their monopoly status by reporting on or covering challengers to the capitalist system. The Ralph Naders (presidential), Cynthia McKinneys (presidential) and Cindy Sheehans (congressional vs. Nancy Pelosi) who have recently attempted to buck the system were doomed to failure.
To buck the system one must deny the legitimacy of an undemocratic U.S. state which:
* Places the property rights of the wealthy over the right to a basic existence for the poor and working class
* Is the third most unequal industrial nation in the world trailing only Turkey and Mexico
* Committed genocide against Native Americans
* Supported slavery of the African American people for two centuries and then segregation of them for another century
* Throughout its history has pursued a policy of U.S. Empire to benefit originally U.S. and now transnational corporations at the expense of the poor and working class at home and abroad
* Has historically pursued a policy of aggressive warfare against the First Americans, Mexico, Spain, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq
* Has historically tortured people from the non European nations we have fought
* Has used its Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow democratically elected governments across the globe in Cuba, Haiti, Chile, Greece, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Congo and numerous others not democratically elected
Trying to reform such pervasive and all encompassing criminality by acknowledging the legitimacy of the institution responsible for the criminality is a fool’s errand. The U.S. nation and its Constitution have failed its people miserably in both promoting the general welfare called for in the preamble to the Constitution and promoting the doctrine of equality called for in the Declaration of Independence.
People of conscience have a duty to divorce themselves from this criminal system and call for a new nation to emerge from the ashes of capitalism, militarism and elite rule; a new nation conceived in the concept that all men are indeed created equal and that the duty of the state is to promote the general welfare for all its citizens while respecting and supporting the rights of others across the globe to the same.
Nick Egnatz is a Vietnam veteran. He has been actively protesting our government’s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named “Citizen of the Year” for Northwest Indiana in 2006 for his peace activism by the National Association of Social Workers. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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