I was raised to believe, as I think most of us were in the United States, that Capitalism is the superior economic system. Like the Bible, it is considered heresy even to question the idea. Our schools teach this belief as undisputed fact, yet as we look around our beleaguered American landscape it would appear that something is very wrong in this country and all of the symptoms point to Capitalism as the culprit.
Our American political system runs not on one man one vote, but on one man one million dollars. Candidates’ chances of success or failure are determined directly by their ability to raise funds. Successful candidates then find themselves beholden to which ever special interests funded their campaign. Barack Obama is nothing less than a prime example of this principle. As a candidate, he supported card check legislation which would have enabled American workers to more easily form labor unions in the workplace. He spoke at length of helping America’s middle class and about all the advantages of single payer health care to the public.
His candidacy was the largest beneficiary of Wall Street largesse. His campaign raked in millions of dollars from drug companies and hospital associations. Once elected, all talk of single payer health care disappeared, Wall Street financial reform involves nearly 2,000 studies, and Mr. Obama will be writing his memoirs in Hawaii before they will, if ever, go into effect and become law. Rather than assisting America’s middle class, he has become its nemesis. You could argue that the wheels of democracy turn slowly, but in Barack Obama you have a candidate who is diametrically opposed to almost every campaign position that he once held.
Remember Sarah Palin’s campaign’s droid chant of “drill baby drill”? Candidate Obama was for green energy while John McCain favored more nuclear energy. President Obama then lifted the forty-year-old Nixon imposed ban on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama then set in place $12 billion in federal loan guarantees to build two nuclear plants in Georgia. Then after the largest oil spill in American history, the Obama administration allowed deep water drilling to begin again, only this time with stricter paper work requirements. The question that might be asked is: if Barack Obama is so bad would John McCain have been the better choice?
The question and the answer by itself point to the weakness of our political system, a system denominated by money. Here in my undisclosed location, the state government has passed a budget which will leave local school boards $25 million in the red. Cutbacks and layoffs will have to be made and the education of children and of the people will suffer. At the same time, while the politicians weep crocodile tears for the poor little school children, the state and local governments are planning to subsidize a one billion dollar NFL football stadium with a retractable roof.
Sixty years after the dawn of America’s nuclear energy program, there is still no national repository for its nuclear waste. The creation of the interstate highway system prompted a growth in the trucking business and a decline in local rail delivery. Government-subsidized airports helped to create the airline industry.
Yet, because every issue is profit-driven, unprofitable aspects are shunted to the side. There is little profit in handling nuclear waste, so the problem becomes a public issue and a political liability.
The interstate highway system encouraged the growth of less fuel efficient trucking lines over the more fuel efficient rail lines. The airline industry destroyed America’s passenger rail system. Imported oil is the largest single item in America’s trade debt, yet government calls for cutbacks in mass transit subsidies while supporting the construction of a football stadium where only ten home games are played each year.
The current discussion about the nation’s debt ceiling brings these questions into sharp focus. If we can’t collect enough revenue to pay our bills then why did Barack Obama renew the Bush tax cuts? Why is our government so anxious to cut tariffs with other nations where the US is already running a trade debt?
The Capitalist answer to our problems is to cut expenditures for the needs of the people, cut taxes for the rich, more free trade for big business, Social Security cuts, Medicaid cuts, education cuts, mass transit cuts and a new billion dollar football stadium.
In Scandinavia, with its social democracies, we find that the Swedish nuclear power program is managed by the government and as the nuclear electricity is generated, fees are collected to pay for waste disposal. When Sweden shuts off its last nuclear reactor the waste will be deposited deep inside of a granite mountain range where it will be sealed up forever and it will be paid for with revenues already collected.
In Norway, the government drills for oil under the principle of safety first. There is no profit driven rush which caused the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. The government drills for oil and the world’s oil companies line up to purchase it at a price dictated by the government. The oil profits are then placed into a national sovereign wealth fund and the interest off of that fund is used for functions of government. They are in effect trading the oil in the ground for money in the bank and when the oil is gone, it will have been replaced by the sovereign wealth fund.
In this country, Barack Obama wants to encourage more domestic oil drilling by cutting the lease rates oil companies pay for drilling on our federal lands. Collecting fewer tax dollars for the treasury to “encourage” oil companies to do what it is that they are in business to do. It’s like subsidizing the building of a billion dollar football stadium to encourage the playing of professional football; tax breaks that encourage you to be rich so that the more you earn, the less you pay.
Both Republican and Democratic deficit reduction plans call for cutting the corporate tax rate – or — if at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again. The cutting of American tax rates has created the largest monetary deficit ever accumulated on earth, yet the Capitalist answer to the deficit question is to cut more taxes.
It defies logic and all common sense. Do they really believe that 3-1= 4 or that 3-2 = 5? Still peddling the same soap flakes — that to increase revenue you must cut taxes, while thirty years of actual empirical evidence shows us the contrary is fact. Illusion is key to the continuance of Capitalist Shangri-La. Capitalism offers us variety and diversity and innovation, Coke or Pepsi, Bud or Miller or a Hummer or a Corvette.
The American automobile manufacturers used their financial clout in Congress to fight every environmental, fuel or safety standard ever proposed. Volvo introduced the three point seat belt three years before the seat belts were even required in the United States. Did some authoritarian Socialist pound his fist on a desk and demand it of Volvo? No, it was done voluntarily and offered at no extra cost to the public. For years Volvo photographed every Volvo involved in an accident in Sweden to establish a data base towards building safer cars. While for years Ford, GM and Chrysler told Congress that air bags were too expensive.
In Europe, genetically modified crops are banned and products for sale must list any genetically modified ingredients. In this country, genetically modified crops are the norm and the agribusiness cartels convinced the Congress that listing genetically modified ingredients imposed a hardship on the cartels’ business model and intruded on their freedom. Monsanto uses lawsuits to collect royalties from farmers when genetically modified pollen germinates in a farmer’s fields. In Socialist Scandinavia, farmers are venerated, while in this Capitalist wasteland family farmers are targeted.
But then who is not targeted in America? Farmers, workers, civil servants, school teachers and the elderly are all targeted for potential cuts or increased taxes. Valued only for what they can purchase as a revenue source alone, when they’ve spent their last dime, grown their last crop or taught their last class, Capitalism’s answer is to dispense with them!
When you scratch the veneer of every problem in these United States, you see that Capitalism is at its root cause. “Suffer the little children to come unto me…” Well, in America, the children better run to Jesus because he is their only hope. There is little in the way of educational opportunity, no healthcare, few economic opportunities, and for most, a life of wage slavery in the peonage class. In this warped and twisted system, money begets money and poverty begets poverty and a billionaire gets a new football stadium built for him at public expense for a football team that plays ten home games with a retractable roof.
In the end it comes down to a question not of which economic system is better, but which is more survivable. Which system addresses the needs of the society as a whole and not as special interest groups? Which provides education because its children need an education? Which provides jobs because people need jobs? Which provides health care for the children and the elderly because the children and elderly need healthcare? Which system is more economically and environmentally conscious? Which economic system looks at society as one organism to be cared for and which looks at society with a carnivore’s eyes?
To me at least, it would seem that Socialism is an economic system run by the people for the best interests of society, while Capitalism is an economic system which answers only to money as it runs the people.
David Glenn Cox is a staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, The Servants of Pilate.