A recent Gallup poll found that less people would vote for a socialist than for an atheist, a Muslim, or an evangelical Christian. Media-numbed Americans still believe that “government is the problem.” Yet evidence keeps pouring in that free-market capitalism treats public safety as a profit-killer, dismisses environmental issues as irrelevant to business, and eliminates jobs to please investors.
Reports from the past six months show that the ongoing record of capitalist greed and irresponsibility has plunged to new lows.
1. Mocking Public Health and Safety
It’s disturbing enough that Volkswagen and Ford and General Motors and other auto companies rigged emissions tests and took safety shortcuts to save money; and that the Southern California Gas Co. lied about its poisonous sulfur levels; and that Exxon was found to be hiding its own climate change research for four decades; and that tens of thousands of government-subsidized abandoned mines have been left to pollute our waterways.
2. Showing Contempt for Workers
The sharing economy has created companies that promote worker ‘independence’ while denying them health and retirement benefits, sick pay, overtime pay, and vacation pay. It’s not a new capitalist idea. Merck and Out Magazine are among the companies that have “outsourced” employee positions to independent contractor positions, either by a mass layoff or by selling part of the company, after which former employees could be hired back at lower pay and without benefits.
Companies like American Express and AT&T have gone a step further with “individual arbitration” clauses, which effectively prohibit class-action lawsuits, the only economically feasible way for defrauded employees and customers to fight back against corporate malfeasance. Legal expert Brian T. Fitzpatrick explained, “Without a class action, if someone loses $500, they will not be able to do anything about it.”
3. Discarding the Poor
An “emergency financial manager” (EFM) privatizes the democratic process, stripping citizens and elected officials of power, granting unlimited power to a CEO-like figure who can sell off public assets to save money, even when it threatens the welfare of the community. This is what happened in Flint, Michigan. The EFM was the disaster capitalist’s solution, and as a result the city’s children have been poisoned.
To mount insult upon inhumanity, Flint residents were paying the highest water rates in the country, and, incredibly, they were threatened with a shutdown of water (still needed for toilets and cleaning) if they didn’t keep paying for the toxic product.
The EFM concept is not limited to local governments. In Ohio, where the already privatized charter schools are so bad that they’ve become a national joke, Republican candidate John Kasich signed a bill to allow CEOs to take over ‘failing’ school districts.
4. Catering to the Rich (While Discarding the Poor)
This has been evident most recently in the housing market, especially in the big cities, where developers are seeing dollar signs on affordable housing, and driving rental prices up twice as fast as incomes. The median rent in San Francisco is over $3,000. A New York City parking spot can cost a million dollars.
In New Orleans, tens of thousands of African Americans have been forced to leave the city as starry-eyed developers have more than doubled the rents to attract the wealthy. Louisiana Republican Richard H. Baker thanked God for the change: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it. But God did.”
5. Health Care: The Worst Legacy of Capitalism?
According to the Milliman Medical Index, the cost of healthcare in 2015 for a typical American family of four covered by a PPO was $24,671 — nearly half the median household income. Over $10,000 of this was paid directly by the family, through payroll deductions and out-of-pocket expenses.
Insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors all take advantage of the American people, but the main culprits are pharmaceutical companies, who think nothing of 10,000% markups, even while they and the banks enjoy the world’s highest profit margins. A Roche executive explained, “We are not in the business to save lives, but to make money. Saving lives is not our business.”
Americans who can’t afford their life-sustaining medications are the victims. They’re being killed by the profit incentive of capitalism.