Archive for category Capitalism
Read this: I have posted several articles on how capitalism in American does/ doesn’t work with democracy. In the following article from Time Magazine, Rana Foroohar tells us that “The U.S. system of market capitalism itself is broken.” It has become a zero-sum game where little or no new wealth is created and the majority of effort focuses on moving money / wealth from one place to another. This has become the leading catalyst of rapidly spreading inequality. As Bernie Sanders says, most of it (wealth) moves from the poor and middle classes to the 1%. Foroohar concludes that capitalism is truly sick, “What is required now is lifesaving intervention.” Below I borrow a lot from Faroohar’s article and of course add my little touch of sarcasm.
Aren’t we Americans all capitalists? Actually “only 19% of Americans ages 18 to 29 identified themselves as ‘capitalists.’ Read the rest of this entry »
Read this: The linked article below from Salon.com, by Ben Norton sheds light on a common activity of the Global & US corporate elite. Around the world, but particularly in South America, they consistently, quickly and quietly encourage the replacement of thriving democracies with oligarchy. Stories abound and too often the US government appears to be supporting if not directly involved in these actions.
Norton quotes The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald as saying “Brazilian financial and media elites are pretending that corruption is the reason for removing the twice-elected president of the country as they conspire to install and empower the country’s most corrupted political figures.” Read the rest of this entry »
Read this: Most people living in a deep seeded misconception that democracy and capitalism are harmonious if not mutually required. The Bernie Sanders bid for the presidency has caused us to questioned one of these while trying to strengthen the other. Regardless of what his presidency might accomplish, “for the first time since the end of the Cold — and perhaps since the beginning of the Cold War — large numbers of Americans have begun to ask questions about capitalism.” This economic concept that we have been taught is “not questionable” is beginning to be examined. All I can say is please don’t stop regardless whether Bernie should fail in his bid.
The article in the link below from Salon.com by Andrew O’Hehir examines this in much more detail. Sanders focus on the overwhelming issue of inequality has inevitably lead us to the very foundation of our economy, capitalism itself. Finally, as O’Hehir says “the neoliberal policy prescriptions of tax cuts, deregulation, privatization and fiscal austerity ha(ving) been understood as the natural order of things — and as the oxygen necessary to nourish democracy around the world — the Western world’s entire leadership caste has been startled to encounter a resurgence of systematic nonbelief.” As I read, I can’t help but feel an “ABOUT TIME” audibly slipping from my mouth. A lot has been written about this, for years, but until Bernie, the media avoided it as if it were mere myth. Even now it continues to be hard to find real unbiased discussion of where capitalism fits with democracy. The media and political powers don’t want that conversation to become center stage. O’Hehir says it well “To the bankers and politicians, it feels almost as if a crusty old Vermonter had come close to stealing a major-party presidential nomination on a platform of Flat-Earthism, or by professing that the moon landing was a fake.”
With the Republican Party representing the 1% and the Democratic Party focusing on the top 10%, protecting the economic status quo is priority number 1 and they seldom get to any others. There is no hoping for the Republican Party, but the Democrats used to be the party of the working man or the family man. The party of the people, unions, etc. Obviously that has changed, “the Democratic Party has spent the last few decades prostrating itself before the temple of Big Money — a process greatly accelerated under the husband of its current frontrunner — and renouncing any semblance of class-based politics or egalitarian economics.” Bernie frequently says it is not about him, but he has been the catalyst for discussions most of us never thought would take place. Again O’Hehir accurately says ” The Sanders campaign was an attempt to seize power in the Democratic Party, largely from outside, and renounce its allegiance to capitalism and its subservience to the entire package of economic, ideological and military imperialism sometimes called the ‘Washington consensus.’ The true danger that campaign presented to the American political establishment lay not so much in Bernie Sanders himself — an unlikely candidate, and a less likely nominee — as in the heretical ideas it embodied, which may now prove difficult to contain.”
There is a lot in this article. Read it in entirety and you will probably be thinking, as I am, we must keep the discussion front and center until everyone begins to question the role, definition and limits for what we call “capitalism”.
Read this: As a Bernie Sanders advocate, I confess, I am biased. I feel he is so often right on whatever message he is delivering, of course I usually agree with him. Beyond that, I am also impressed that he delivers his messages in a pretty concise packages, which works better considering our steadily diminishing attention spans. I came across his latest speech, which sadly few Americans will probably hear, in an article in The Nation Magazine, by John Nichols. I must say it is one of his best if not the best.
Taking a couple days off of a rather important New York primary, he flew to Italy and after meeting privately with Pope Francis for a “brief encounter at the papal residence, which both the pope and the senator said should not be seen as any kind of political intervention or endorsement”, Sanders took advantage of an opportunity to speak at a Vatican conference that fit perfectly with his message of inequality that is the foundation of his presidential campaign. Read the rest of this entry »
Watch / Read: In the following Democracy Now interview, Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman interview journalist Greg Palast, exploring an example of what many would call a classic example of “Vulture Capitalism”. In this case longtime Republican fundraiser Paul Singer is the big winner, or maybe “vulture”, when “Argentina … reached an agreement to pay U.S. hedge funds that have sought for 14 years to profit off the country’s economic crisis.” As with many similar cases the obvious questions involve fairness, excessive profit and the victims (people of Argentina). “The deal would see the hedge funds take about 75 percent of what they demanded from Argentina—several times more than what they actually paid for the debt. Singer’s fund itself netted $2.4 billion—10 to 15 times its original investment.” Making things even more interesting is the fact that Singer is one of Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s biggest endorsers, calling into question what Republicans think about such “vulture like” activities. Similar actions are being attempted state by state in the USA, for example Michigan’s water catastrophe in Flint.
Watch this: Every once in a while it is worthwhile to review some things that are, well, worth reviewing. The basic concepts suggested in Naomi Klein‘s book The Shock Doctrine / The Rise of Disaster Capitalism definitely meets this criteria, in my opinion.
While I would definitely encourage anyone, who has not, to read the book, I know that time is often a scarce commodity and for many reading will simply not happen. I recently found a quick alternative that gives a brief overview, with a little extra content related to issues such as inequality. This is a short YouTube video where Klein reviews the thesis of the book. Here she says that “we have entered a new phase of Disaster Capitalism, that uses the shock and awe of various national events to impose what economists call economic shock therapies” on the country or people least able to defend themselves. Often, if not usually, these economic actions end up not in the best interests of the people concerned. They, however, are usually wonderful for the wealthy people, corporations and banks that force them into being.
Watch this: This is a short video in the series The Zero Hour with RJ Esko, where he is discussing retirement benefits with Monique Morrissey from the Economic Policy Institute. Morrissey’s areas of interest include Social Security, pensions and other employee benefits, household savings, tax expenditures, older workers, public employees, unions and collective bargaining, Medicare, institutional investors, corporate governance, executive compensation, financial markets, and the Federal Reserve. Together they discuss “The State of American Retirement” and conclude “It Is Pretty Bad”.
Some of the key points are:
- “We have moved to a 401K system which magnifies inequality”,
- “The inequality has not been random – some groups have fared far better than others”,
- “25 years after we began moving from pensions to 401Ks, pensions are still providing 6 times the benefits of 401Ks”,
- “For most Americans the post WWII benefits peaked with the infamous 3-legged stool (savings, pensions & Social Security) but has now been whittled down to a single leg (Social Security)”,
- “Annual expansion of Social Security ended in 1983 (Reagan years again) and have not resumed that practice, while at the same time we were supplanting secure pensions with risky 401Ks”
Here are some things Morrissey says we need to do:
- “Make Social Security stronger and annually adjusted”,
- “Make our 401K system more like pensions were: stronger, better, safer”,
- “The pensions that exist (particularly public) are under attack and they need to be protected and strengthened”,
- “We need to develope plans for workers who typically get nothing through their employer (California’s new ‘Clear Choice Plan’ is an early attempt)”.
Esko recalls a CEO in an old interview saying: “I want to give emloyees less but make them think it is more”. And with the magical powers of writing the laws enacted by our government, this has basically happened. This is a key part in the “story of growing inequality” and particularly the covert redistribution of wealth. Of course “we have tended to blame the victims instead of focusing on a system that just isn’t working”.
There are a slew of other facts, many of which are very disturbing. Watch the video and recall it when making your political choices.
Read this: The subtitle in the article below notes an important critique of recent diversion in American priorities: “For most of human history, life-saving drugs were a public good. Now they’re only good for shareholders.” Is this really true and if so why? How did this happen? Can it be changed? The article in The Nation Magazine, by Fran Quigley looks at many perspectives on this issue. It is a long read, but well worth the effort.
According to Quigley this and similar economic trends dates back to, and is an extension of, what is called “the English enclosure movement”. It began “between the 15th and 19th centuries, (where) the rich and the powerful fenced off commonly held land and transformed it into private property. Land switched from a source of subsistence to a source of profit, and small farmers were relegated to wage laborers”. As British historian E.P. Thompson said, it was “a plain enough case of class robbery.” So once again we are faced with a situation where the wealthy and powerful have managed to manipulate a system to maximize the extraction of wealth from the pockets of the weak (and middle class) into their own bulging reserves. Here the “fenced-off commodity is life-saving medicine. Playing the role of modern-day lords of the manor are pharmaceutical corporations, which have taken a good that was once considered off-limits for private profiteering and turned it into an expensive commodity”.
If this bothers you, it should. It is time, as Bernie Sanders insists, that we get real angry, but this time we need to do something about it. As Quigley says “it’s time now to reclaim this commons, and reestablish medicines as a public good.” She goes on to spend quite a bit of time explaining that “public goods are non-rivalrous and non-excludable in their consumption” and how these lead to “positive externalities”. Here she goes into the positives and negatives, that the existence or absence of this enclosure movement create. To the dismay of our free market fans she points out that ” for nearly all of human history, societies have treated medicine as a commonly held benefit. Until well past the middle of the 20th century, few countries allowed individuals or companies to hold exclusive rights to produce medicines. And governments have long been involved early and often in the pharmaceutical industry, creating the very opposite of a laissez-faire market.”
So can this trend be changed? Quigley points out that “when governments don’t take a sufficiently activist role in the field of medicines, public opinion pushes them further.” We can only hope that the pharmaceutical corporations are not already too big. “Among governments and the public alike, medicines continue to be treated as a good quite distinct from consumer items like cell phones or flat-screen TVs. A human right to access essential medicines has found its way into international treaties and national constitutions.”
“Pharmaceutical corporations justify enclosure by claiming that patents are necessary to spur innovation.” This is a difficult argument to swallow however. They “justify enclosure by claiming that patents are necessary to spur innovation”. History doesn’t actually support this argument pushing for the “evil of monopoly patents”. Quigley goes on to point out that actually “the history of pharmaceutical innovations, especially vaccine developments and life-saving treatments for infectious and chronic diseases, shows that the critical research behind these developments was created outside the patent system.”
Read the entire article. There is a lot more, but she ends with a call to action: ” A petition now circulating for a global research agreement calls on policymakers to “Make Medicines for People, Not Profit.” For that noble goal to be achieved, the fence surrounding essential medicines will need to be torn down once and for all.”
Read this: I have consistently focused on two major economic problems being the primary forces infecting our social systems, the ability to have a truly functional democracy and powerful current trend towards inequality. They are corporations (particularly multi-national corporations) and capitalism itself. The article in the link below, found on In These Times, by Slavoj ZiZek takes a deep look at the effects these two forces have on the EU Refugee Crisis. In this article ZiZek says that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of reaction (to terminal disease) denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance can be applied “to any form of catastrophic”. Thus he examines the refugee crisis in the EU and other places via these 5 stages.
Capitalism through its’ “illegal exploitation of natural resources”, dealing with warlords is today’s’ form of colonialism. “Congo no longer exists as a united state; it is a multiplicity of territories ruled by local warlords controlling their patch of land with an army which, as a rule, includes drugged children. Each of these warlords has business links to a foreign company or corporation exploiting the mining wealth in the region. The irony is that many of these minerals are used in high-tech products such as laptops and cell phones.” Corporations and capitalism are usually involved as states fail and “most of refugees come from the ‘failed states’—where public authority is more or less inoperative, at least in large regions—Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Congo, etc.” No surprise is that rich countries are much less likely to receive refugees than their poorer neighbors. Slavery, made profitable through capitalism and almost becoming extinct has revived “with the new epoch of global capitalism, a new era of slavery is … arising. Although it is no longer a direct legal status of enslaved persons, slavery (has acquired) a multitude of new forms…”.
Meanwhile a multituede of problems arise as the refugee crises force different cultures to mesh, particularly when the receiving cultures are already suffering their own “forced” effects of austerity. But these adaptations will have to happen, particularly as “rapid local and global changes in environment may require unheard-of, large-scale social transformations”. “New type of international interventions will have to be invented: military and economic interventions that avoid neocolonial traps. What about UN forces guaranteeing peace”. ZiZek sites many required changes and says “the most difficult and important task is a radical economic change that should abolish social conditions that create refugees. The ultimate cause of refugees is today’s global capitalism itself”.
Read the entire article for more details and a better understanding of how/where the 5 stages apply.
Watch this and think: In this video economist Richard Wolfe discusses his very different look at capitalism – a socialistic perspective. The video was produced in 2012, five years after the crash of 2007. He suggests we must look at bold changes, if we are to actually help the majority. He, along with “millions, see(s) a capitalist system no longer serving most Americans.” He rejects the Adam Smith premise that if everyone takes care of himself and works hard we will all rise. Interestingly, that theory has only worked for the very few. Wolfe insists that “the system of rules we are all playing by is the problem and that system must change.” I agree with Wolfe that our infatuation with capitalism has run its’ course and it is time for bold, substantial change. Watch the video and consider something different.