Tuesday, May 5, 2009

God damned . . socialist.

A vast majority of America’s socio-economic faults stem from our fundamental belief that capitalism works, and everything else fails. One could argue that a bulk of it is a result of the demonization of communism during the Cold War, and the current demonization of anything involving the word “socialism”. However, socialist economic ideas in America have played a large role in passing fair labor legislation that, today, we take for granted, and creating the political climate we deal with on a daily basis. It isn't that hard to believe, especially considering Eugene V. Debs, leading and representing the Socialst Party, received 6% of the popular vote in the 1912 United States presidential election. In a time of massive labor strikes and even before the Bolshevik revolution, socialism was in the hearts of many Americans.

One of the most common arguments for the decency of capitalism is the profit motive. Each individual’s desire to be successful and garner wealth builds an economy to be reckoned with. While the concept of profit motive may seem wholesome, there are severe and often overlooked byproducts:

Exploiting (a wild understatement) workers,
• A preference for cheap, sub-par materials in the stages of production (high fructose corn syrup),
• Generally building things that simply aren’t meant to last (obsolescence schemes - American cars, for example),
• Perpetuating the already rigid caste/limiting social mobility,
• An imbalance in the influence of corporate interest, and
• Promoting the acceptance of American greed.

The profit motive also leads to the creation of the corporation. We’ve seen too many examples in the past 20 years of corporations failing, burning the accounting books, for the sake of profit and not disappointing investors. Wall-Street speculation and predictions of a stock’s growth dictates the company’s bottom-line. Corporations such as Fannie May and Freddie Mac, AIG, and the “Big 3” Detroit auto makers all have something in common that affects the tax-payer and government: they’re too big to fail. They provide too much tax money that accounts for a large portion of the federal government’s budget, too many American jobs, and too many investments made by the American people.

Profit for the owners of the means of production is simply withheld wages and benefits for the laborers. The question this leads to is whether a power-house economy and the world's largest number of millionaires and billionaires justifies the fact that we also have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty for a developed, industrialized nation. Almost 1/4 of American children are raised in relative poverty, and more than 46 million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever -- that's over 18% of the total population.

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