Your typical wage is below what it was in the late 1970s, in terms of what it can buy. Two-thirds of you are living paycheck to paycheck. Almost 30 percent of you don’t have steady employment: You’re working part-time or on contract, with none of the labor protections created over the last 80 years – no unemployment insurance if you lose your job, no worker’s compensation if you’re injured, no time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours a week, no minimum wage, and you have to pay your own Social Security. Over 37 percent of you have dropped out of the workforce altogether because you’ve become too discouraged even to look for work. That’s a near record. As if all this weren’t enough, the schools and infrastructure on which you rely have been neglected, and the ravages of climate change – droughts, fires, and floods – are worsening.
Yet the American economy is twice as large as it was in the late 1970s. As a nation, we are richer than we’ve ever been. We could afford to do so much better.
None of this has happened by accident.
The other night I watched The Greatest Cable News Program That Absolutely Ever Was. The host was extolling the virtues of capitalism, repeating the claims you can read in The Economist or Wall Street Journal; that capitalism has lifted many millions out of poverty worldwide.
The same broadcast also reported that most Americans “could not lay their hands on $1,000” in an emergency. That figure may be on the high side. Other published reports put it at $400, including what may be available on a credit card.
The program host missed the contradiction. You can’t be a capitalist without capital. The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t have any, and are completely excluded from the “benefits” of the capitalist system he extolled.
Capitalism is not a form of government. It is a system of wealth management. It does not create wealth, but only allocates it. It is indifferent to the welfare of people. It has no social purpose. Private profit is everything.