To this point, Karl Marx offered a system of government that has not worked well anywhere that it has been tried, at least so far. I took a college course on Marx many years ago, and I was impressed with many of his criticisms of capitalism. Some of those criticisms of capitalism are becoming apparent to most of us, as set forth in this article by Sean McElwee of Rolling Stone. Here are the headings:
1. The Great Recession (Capitalism’s Chaotic Nature)
2. The iPhone 5S (Imaginary Appetites)
3. The IMF (The Globalization of Capitalism)
4. Walmart (Monopoly)
5. Low Wages, Big Profits (The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor)
Marx was wrong about many things. Most of his writing focuses on a critique of capitalism rather than a proposal of what to replace it with – which left it open to misinterpretation by madmen like Stalin in the 20th century. But his work still shapes our world in a positive way as well. When he argued for a progressive income tax in the Communist Manifesto, no country had one. Now, there is scarcely a country without a progressive income tax, and it’s one small way that the U.S. tries to fight income inequality.
Here’s a related article by Jesse Myerson of Salon: “Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism).” Here are the misconceptions:
1. Only communist economies rely on state violence.
2. Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.
3. Communism killed 110 million* people for resisting dispossession.
4. Capitalist governments don’t commit human rights atrocities.
5. 21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.
6. Communism fosters uniformity.
7. Capitalism fosters individuality.
Myerson’s conclusion regarding misconception 7:
As a matter of fact, most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated (see: the blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip-hop). Then, thanks to capitalism, it is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the “entrepreneurs” sitting at the top of the heap, stroking their satiated flanks in admiration of themselves for getting everyone beneath them to believe that we are free.
Barack Obama is seeking only skin-deep diversity when he chooses judicial nominees. 70% of judicial nominees come from the corporate sector and only 3.6 percent of the president’s nominees have a background in public interest organizations. Elizabeth Warren is concerned:
“Power is becoming more and more concentrated on one side,” she said. “Professional diversity is one way to insulate the courts from corporate capture.”
Chris Hedges is difficult to read, but not because he is a bad writer. Rather, it is because he is not satisfied with official lies. Consider these observations of Hedges:
Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—much of it worthless subprime mortgages—each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money—because wages are kept low—by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. … Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.
Who has the strength to see problems as immense and as obvious as these? Not many people, but their are some.
Yet we, like Ahab and his crew, rationalize our collective madness. All calls for prudence, for halting the march toward economic, political and environmental catastrophe, for sane limits on carbon emissions, are ignored or ridiculed. Even with the flashing red lights before us, the increased droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, monster tornadoes, vast hurricanes, crop failures, floods, raging wildfires and soaring temperatures, we bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.
This article by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is a year old, but it really lays out the national fraud that we call “the bailout.” Here’s an excerpt:
We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.
This is an astounding fact that, in and of itself, shouts for overhaul of the system:
“A senator has to raise $10,000 every day that they are in office to make the average amount that’s spent today in a Senate race.” So who are the Senators going to spend most of their time with? You and me, so that they can raise $50 or $100, or with big corporations and powerful trade organizations? And what type of legislation are they going to tend to support?
We decided to target Jim Himes because he’s emblematic of a much larger systemic problem: Our Congress is being corrupted by big money and no longer represents the people. Rep. Himes co-sponsored and helped push a bill called H.R. 992 through the House. 992 would further deregulate derivatives, a financial instrument that played a major role in the 2008 crisis (source).
Our organization doesn’t have a position on derivatives trading. What we do have a position is corruption, and this is a textbook case. The New York Times revealed that 992 was written by big bank lobbyists — 70 of the 85 lines in 992 were written by lobbyists for CitiGroup.
Nothing new here, in a way. Big money getting its way.
On the other hand, it is outrageous that anyone should be able to invade a public university’s hiring process, yes, even in return for donations. This is shameful. Rachel Maddow reports.
Apparently unsatisfied with simply buying politicians, the Koch Brothers have turned their attention and pocketbooks to purchasing economics professors of supposedly “public” universities and funding economic studies which support their extreme right-wing economic theories.
Henry Giroux was featured on Bill Moyers’ most recent show, and he regret that we are headed toward “zombie politics.”
In his book, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, author and scholar Henry Giroux connects the dots to prove his theory that our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.”
This week on Moyers & Company, Giroux explains that such a machine turns “people who are basically so caught up with surviving that they become like the walking dead – they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.”
What’s more, Giroux points out, the system that creates this vacuum has little to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. Under “casino capitalism,” the goal is to get a quick return, taking advantage of a kind of logic in which the only thing that drives us is to put as much money as we can into a slot machine and hope we walk out with our wallets overflowing.
We’ve already determined that the 2012 elections overall produced in the most expensive election cycle ever, costing an estimated $6.3 billion. Newly updated numbers that we released today in the Historical Elections section of OpenSecrets.org, though, show that the average “price of admission” went up as well. The average winner in a Senate race spent $10.2 million, compared to $8.3 million in 2010 and just $7.5 million in 2008. That’s an increase of 19 percent since 2010. Senate Democrats seemed to have to work particular hard to win their seats, spending an average of $11.9 million, compared to the average Republican winner who spent $7.1 million.
On the House side, there was a smaller but still quantifiable increase in the cost of winning. On average, a winner in the House spent $1.5 million, compared $1.4 million in 2010 and $1.3 million in 2008. In the House, it was Republicans who had to work a bit harder: The average winning House Republican had to spend $1.59 million to win a seat, a bit more than the $1.53 million spent by the average Democratic victor.
According to Lee Camp, little bits of comfort are getting in the way of the possibility of progress.