Thursday, March 21, 2013

1 cheer (and decreasing) for capitalism

By most measures American Capitalism was far more successful than what passed for socialism in the late and largely unlamented Soviet Union. But American Capitalism, when looked at more soberly, only appears particularly appealing when compared to the "country" that for decades was nearly a synonym for corruption and concentration of political power.

Today's Boston Globe reports on the life of single-mother working families in Massachusetts (see source at Crittendon Women's Union), and the news is not good. The median income for such a family (mother, two children), at about $27,000, is much less than half of the amount (about $65,000) needed to maintain financial independence -- i.e. non-reliance on anti-poverty measures such as food stamps, food pantries, and Medicaid. Throughout the US, about 1 in three working families cannot meet their basic housing a dietary needs. 

We're talking working families here, where at least one member has a full-time job.

The income gap between wealthy and poor in this country is greater than in nearly every other developed country in the world. Most of the reason for this is the fairly small minority of people who take in extremely high incomes and have gigantic personal and family wealth.

It wasn't always like this in America, but the triumph of extreme capitalist ideology and practice -- a lot of it emanating from the "Greed is Good" Reagan yiears -- combined with nearly a century of "red-baiting" and a half-century of anti-union activity, has flattened and even depressed the curve of real-dollar earnings for middle class (and poor) Americans.

This is not a triumph of American Capitalism, but an indicator of its shame and failure. If this continues, while government programs to try to help the young, the disadvantaged and the elderly are decimated, we will be reduced to the economic and social level of a third-world country. And, of course, we will be subject to the social instabilities that such countries face. It was to keep this kind of unrest from happening that FDR -- the "traitor to his class" as he was called by the rich and powerful -- instituted the New Deal. During those years, and for several decades after, the threat of "idealistic" Communism, personified -- though not always correctly -- by the Soviet Union, made Roosevelt's reforms palatable to the economic elites. With the collapse of the USSR, that pressure largely vanished, and so the attack on unions and the New Deal programs could become mainstream.

As the Globe also reports, with the transfer overseas of manufacturing jobs by profit-seeking businesses and congressmen friendly to them, American workers must now master new skills necessary to the "post-industrial" U.S. economy. This means they must be better educated. What better time to cut aid to education -- especially secondary and post-secondary education -- as the Party of The Rich (PTR, formerly GOP) is striving mightily to do?

We need another Roosevelt to save us from ourselves and our bottom-line, anti-people version of capitalism. Certainly our current President is not that person, and no obvious political group except maybe the House Progressive Caucus is willing to take up that task. At this moment in time the outlook is grim, and only the pressures of increasingly desperate families might create a new force for the change we need to our heartless system.

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