Michael Moore’s new film, Capitalism: A Love
Story, looks and sounds a lot like a huge conspiracy theory.
Too bad all of it is true.
Missing this time around were the legions of corporate
shills employed to discredit this film, the way they tried to
do with Moore’s previous film about the healthcare industry, Sicko. Maybe they just gave up. There
comes a time when no amount of spin will cover up the truth. You
can sprinkle sugar on a turd and call it candy, but in that moment
of reckoning, the truth becomes self-evident.
American-style capitalism is the system that gives
you airline pilots buying groceries with food stamps; sheriffs
and robber barons throwing families out of their homes and into
the street; corporations taking out insurance policies on their
own employees; corporations slashing jobs to earn record profits;
college loans the size of mortgages, and people dying because
they have a pre-existing condition, or can’t afford to get sick.
a number of years, the boosters, the sales representatives, the
pimps and prostitutes of this deeply flawed system did a great
job of convincing the rest of us that no one else in the world
had it better. This is the land of opportunity, they told us.
The reality is that for all of its rhetoric, America is more unequal
in terms of wealth and income than other industrial democracies.
Far more economic mobility is to be found in those “socialist”
European nations that conservatives are so loathe to emulate.
is a nation of sharecroppers. Not in the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps
sort of way, either. The few at the top now have more than ever
because they stole it from the many, typically by highway robbery.
And every day, they continue to dupe the many into giving more.
at the bottom actually believe that they will emerge at the top
someday, so they don’t make a fuss. Capitalism, American-style,
is that great big Ponzi scheme. And apparently, we was had. This
is what they do, unfettered, unaccountable, and unconcerned.
Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee
that is investigating the $700 billion bank bailout giveaway,
a.k.a., Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), told the Washington
Post that “the middle class is under terrific assault.” Middle
class families are actually earning about $800 less than a generation
ago. This reality precipitated the need to have two wage earners
in each family, and to borrow more and save less just to stay
above water. But people are drowning by the millions.
Meanwhile, the economic puppeteers seem to gloat over
the fact that they are stealing an ever-increasing part of the
economic pie at the expense of the multitude. On March 5, 2006,
Citibank - a TARP welfare recipient of late - issued a memo to
investors titled, Revisiting
Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer.Plutnomy
is defined as, “An economy that is driven by or that disproportionately
benefits wealthy people, or one where the creation of wealth is
the principal goal.” The Citibank memo proclaimed that
The latest Survey of Consumer Finances, for 2004,
has been released by the Federal Reserve. It shows the rich
continue to account for a disproportionately large share of
income and wealth in the US economy: the richest 10% of Americans
account for 43% of income, and 57% of net worth. The net worth
to income ratio for the richest 10% of Americans increased from
7.4x in 2001, to 8.4x in the 2004 survey. The rich are in great
Perhaps the most invidious part of the report warns
that electoral democracy threatens to disrupt the wonderful party
the rich are having:
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that
the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without
its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation,
would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth
gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead
to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater
share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfrachisement
remains as was – one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At
some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the
rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political
backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be
felt through higher taxation (on the rich or indirectly though
higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect
indigenous laborers, in a push-back on globalization – either
anti-immigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening
yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However
we are keeping a close eye on developments.
is as capitalism does. Maximization of profit above all else -
to the exclusion of ethics, morality and the public good - is
the mark of a vulture society. And this arrogant, coldhearted
endeavor has been a bipartisan effort. Beginning with Reagan,
Republican administrations have championed drastic cuts to the
social safety net and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Meanwhile, the Clinton years ushered in deregulation of the financial
markets, and an end to welfare as we know it. Corporations have
far more power than a free society can tolerate. And both major
political parties are the water carriers of this plutonomy. They
are the field hands for the financial interests that currently
run the show and drive public policy - and are driving this nation
into the ground.
in this jobless recovery, where there is one job for every six
job seekers, Wall Street is doing well because its fate is not
dependent upon the employment of everyday working people. Rather,
its fate is dependent upon government handouts, paper shuffling,
and the exotic hustling instruments to which they have grown accustomed.
we have been here before. Eighty years ago, on October 24-29,
1929, the stock market collapsed. It was a testament to an economic
system run amok, unregulated and unrestrained, for the benefit
of concentrated, monopolistic power. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
ushered in the New Deal - a series of economic programs and initiatives
based on relief to the unemployed and farmers, reform
of business, banking and finance, and economic recovery.
The New Deal meant public works and infrastructure programs, economic
planning by the government, social security, and labor standards
that favored union growth. There was a sense that workers, consumers
and farmers should have influence with the government, not just
- with the erosion of the New Deal legacy creating the huge mess
that is early twenty-first-century America - President Obama has
a golden opportunity to make things right. But will his administration
step up to the plate and bring in the necessary reforms? Just
as F.D.R. saved capitalism from itself, will Obama save America
from capitalism? Or is the game already too fixed?
times scream out for a “new” New Deal. Jobs are sorely needed
by millions, but will not appear out of thin air. The foreclosed
and unemployed middle class are joining the ranks of the poor
and the homeless. The national infrastructure is crumbling. And
the cartels and monopolies of old have returned. A paltry and
ineffectual stimulus package, accompanied by some tweaking at
the edges of a carnivorous, predatory system, will not make a
the Obama administration wants to be a truly transformational
force in American history, rather than a slightly-better-than-average,
one-term presidency with good intentions, it will give America
the new New Deal. The Obama administration will find the intestinal
fortitude to take
on the banking system, and divest itself of Wall Street enablers
and Goldman Sachs cronies. It will cast out such underwhelming
individuals as Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, and seek the
advice of Nobel laureates such as Joseph
Stiglitz of Columbia, and Paul
Krugman of Princeton. It
will go beyond its laudable plans for a consumer
protection agency, and either reform the current economic
system, or replace it entirely with one that reduces the status
of corporations, and brings economic fairness and justice to the
other words, President Obama will do what the people voted for
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15 , 2009
published every Thursday
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Est. April 5, 2002
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