PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Unregulated capitalism is out of control. Like a cancer, it has become "something evil or malignant that spreads destructively," with tumors growing in several once-healthy parts of the American body.
Attacking the Hungry
The uncontrolled growth of investment wealth is diverting resources away from vital programs, effectively smothering them. The average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)recipient received about $1,500 for food for the entire year. At least ten Americans each made that much in under ten seconds from their investment gains in 2012, about the time it took each one to fluff his pillow and roll over in bed.
Under capitalism, fortunes accrue to a few while 47 million Americans, or one out of seven, need foodassistance. Almost half of the hungry are children. For every food bank we had in 1980, we now have 200.
Yet just 20 people made more from their investment income in one year than the entire 2011 food assistance budget. That's $73 billion, taxed at the capital gains rate. Meanwhile, President Obama couldn't get the $1 billion per year he needed to improve childhood nutrition in schools.
Most recently, the House proposed a farm bill that would cut another $2 billion a year from the food stamps account.
Suffocating the Students
The corporate style of capitalism allows young college graduates, the bright hope of the future, to work in minimum wage positions while carrying an average of $26,000 in student loans, which accumulated because tuition rose ten times faster than the cost of living, and which now come withinterest rates many times higher than the banks pay.
The great majority of pre-recession jobs have been replaced, if they've come back at all, as low-wagejobs in food service and retail. The number of college grads working for minimum wage hasdoubled in five years. They may be the 'fortunate' ones. In 2011, about 360,000 Americans holding advanced degrees were on food stamps or some other form of public assistance. Many of them arehomeless.
Jobless and frustrated young Americans trusted the system, and it failed them. Yet free enterprise entrepreneurs hustle them for even more college, in order to extract federal loan money, which goes right to the schools to pay administrative salaries.
Defenders of capitalism say hard work will ensure success. At a recent jobs hearing in Washington, only one Congressman bothered to show up.
Weakening the Children
The disease has been spreading since the 1960s, when life expectancy began to decrease along with increasing health care costs. Capitalism has betrayed our children. A UNICEF study places the U.S.22nd out of 24 OECD countries in "children's health and well-being."
Child poverty, perhaps the main cause of their health problems, is up 50% since 1973, with the rate for minorities three times that for white children.
Our global poverty ranking is shameful. Despite having the second-highest average income for children among the 30 OECD countries, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 30 for child poverty (percentage of children living in households that are below 50% of the median income).
Depleting the Taxpayers
The body of our society has been drained of its vital juices by tax avoidance. Loopholes and exemptions cost the public about a trillion dollars a year, and underreported income costs another $450 billion. The total is much more than the cost of our stable but always threatened Social Security program.
Since the recession, Fortune 500 corporations have cut their tax payments in half, even though their profits have doubled in less than ten years.
Finally, it is estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed, with up to 40%owned by Americans. U.S. PIRG estimates that the average taxpayer in 2012 paid an extra $1,026in taxes to make up for tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The average small business paid $3,067.
Paralyzing the Voters
Corporations and Congress are a carcinogenic mix. Voters are rendered useless, like withering organs, as all the attention is given to the greedy mass of nutrient-taking super-rich individuals and companies.
A vast majority of Americans want background checks on guns, an emphasis on clean energy, jobstimulus programs, taxes on the rich, and an uncut Social Security program. Yet Congress only hears the ka-ching of campaign contributions. Of the 435 House elections in 2004, 95% of them were won by the candidates who outspent their opponents.
There's much more to the sickness, like the workplace explosions and fires triggered by cost-cutting measures, banks preying on working people, the environmental destruction caused by oil companiesand herbicide manufacturers, attempts to profit from global warming, the middle class collapse caused by corporations transferring jobs overseas and then calling themselves multi-nationals to avoid allegiance to the country that supported their growth. Et cetera, et cetera.
This all allows a small number of people to make most of the money. These are the people who demand 'freedom' at the first hint of regulation.
The post-WW2 American body began to deteriorate around the time of Milton Friedman, author of one of the all-time economic inaccuracies: "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people." For forty years the sickness caused by his teaching has spread, at first without pronounced symptoms, but now in an out-of-control process that threatens to incapacitate the better part of America. A revolutionary medicine may be the only hope for recovery. A revolution, that is, of co-ops and small farms and local currencies and solar panels on the rooftops.
(Photo: Breast Cancer Cells. Source: Annie Cavanagh / Wellcome Images - crafty_dame / flickr)
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, a writer for progressive publications, and the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org).