By Carl Gibson
Immediately upon entering adulthood, Americans are forced to compete for increasingly-scarce employment. The purpose of most employment isn’t to create value for society or future generations, but to create profits for a scant few executives and shareholders. In order to be competitive enough to gain employment, Americans are expected to take on so much debt for a higher education that most of the income gained in their adult years will be spent paying off that debt.
In return for all their hard work, Americans who aren’t executives or shareholders are paid just enough to meet basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Under the capitalist system, the majority of life for today’s average American before retirement is spent pursuing profits that will never be shared with them. And because capitalists like Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers are so determined to weaken Social Security in the pursuit of ever-increasing profits, even retirement is unstable.
As a system predicated on the need to grow endlessly and never stagnate, capitalism is doomed to fail. I’ve written previously on this site about how capitalism is currently in its endgame, similar to the endgame of Monopoly, where one player has accumulated nearly all of the property and money, and all the other players are afraid to make any moves at all, lest they land on the wrong square and are destroyed by debt.
Capitalism is succeeding exactly like it’s supposed to – all the resources and wealth are concentrating into fewer and fewer hands and corporate profits are hitting record highs every quarter. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 are doing better than they’ve ever done in decades. Worker productivity and Gross Domestic Product has increased at a rapid pace, yet wages are stagnant.
As a direct result of the rise of corporate dominance of government, the profit motive has become the primary motive of operation not just for private businesses, but for government institutions. One example is the Department of Education booking $41.3 billion in profits off of student loans, even though the student loan bubble has surpassed the $1 trillion mark.
Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council allow capitalists to write laws behind closed doors, then wine and dine state lawmakers to pass those laws in exchange for future campaign contributions from capitalists. Election laws are now set up to benefit capitalists who can anonymously donate millions of dollars to a Super PAC and dominate public airwaves with false advertising, while grassroots candidates without millions on their side are shut out of the public conversation.
Capitalists like General Electric, Citigroup and Monsanto can write legislation with members of Congress that stacks the deck in their favor while overseeing that legislation’s passage. Capitalists who own mercenary companies can get paid billions of dollars in defense contracts while pay and benefits for veterans are cut from the budget.
Capitalists like the Koch Brothers can escape accountability through foreign subsidiaries despite violating U.S trade laws, and banks like JPMorgan Chase can escape jail time despite defrauding millions of homeowners. But homeless people like Gregory Taylor are sentenced to 25 years in jail for stealing bread.
During the Cold War era, if people didn’t openly embrace capitalism, they ran the risk of being called a Communist sympathizer and intimidated out of their job. But the tables are turning on capitalism as more and more people become aware of the consequences of capitalism.
In November of 2011, during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, conservative messaging specialist Frank Luntz had a meeting with the Republican Governors’ Association to teach them how to address the growing populist energy sweeping the country.
“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” Luntz said. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”
Luntz’s first suggestion to the Republican governors was to stop saying the word “capitalism,” as it was believed by many in the country to be “immoral,” according to Luntz.
The Occupy movement was seen as a failure because it focused too heavily on critiquing capitalism rather than uniting around a proposed alternative to capitalism or creating viable solutions. But ironically, the nationally-coordinated crackdown on the Occupy movement was one of the best things to happen to them – it dispersed thousands of newly-trained radical organizers from city parks into cities.
Fast food worker strikes have been organized in over 100 cities. Occupy Wall Street’s “Strike Debt” project abolished $14.7 million in distressed medical debt and outpaced FEMA in disaster relief during Hurricane Sandy. The Occupy movement has gone from occupying city parks to building homes for the homeless, occupying foreclosed homes, and occupying city halls – not as protesters, but as elected officials. Rather than merely critiquing capitalism, the movement is actively contradicting and creating alternatives to it.
What will come after capitalism is uncertain. But what is certain is that there is more than enough wealth in the world to provide basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter to all people. A United Nations study estimated that to end global poverty, provide basic healthcare and education, combat diseases like HIV and malaria, create environmental stability, improve maternal health, address the gap in gender equality and reduce child mortality, developed nations would have to contribute just 0.7 percent of their gross national income over a ten-year period. For the United States, that would cost just $90 billion per year. That amounts to just 8.7 percent of our current military budget.
Despite such an obvious and easy solution, we all know we currently don’t have the political leadership to accomplish this, and likely won’t anytime soon if we depend solely on the Democratic and Republican parties. A new, populist, explicitly anti-capitalist party must emerge and start organizing at the grassroots level to build power over time. And this new political party must be led by and represent the young, the unemployed, underemployed and misemployed, people of color, people in debt, and everyone else who has been victimized by capitalism.
Capitalism is dead. Long live its replacement.
Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
(From Reader Supported News)