Saturday, April 20, 2013

Modern Capitalism's Hall of Hypocrisy by Paul Buchheit


Capitalist greed is splitting our country in two. But rather than look objectively at their failures, many of those responsible have been hypocritical, portraying themselves as advocates of freedom and prosperity while the greater part of America slides toward poverty.

Some of the candidates:

1. The "Get a Job" Critic

This usually well-connected person criticizes the jobless for being lazy. But in a recent poll that asked if "the government in Washington should see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job," 68% of the general public agreed, while only 19% of the wealthy were in agreement.

Apparently they feel the free market will find those jobs. But as they staunchly adhere to their notion, large corporations are holding trillions in cash, transfering millions of jobs overseas, and paying low-level wages to those who have managed to stay employed.

2. The Illusionist

It all started with a "world is flat" reverie, by which every individual in the world is empowered to accomplish great things. Then on to "create your own job" hyperbole, and on a global scale to the capitalist's belief that "a billion people have been lifted from poverty through free-market competition."

The message being spread by the people at the top is that everyone benefits, and everyone has opportunities.

The reality is that only the top of the mountain is flat. Or more accurately, the plateau just below the top of the mountain is flat. Perhaps 10% (or somewhere between 5% and 20%) of the U.S. is doing reasonably well, especially with 93% of non-home wealth owned by the richest quintile of Americans. Everyone else has experienced a 35-year decline in income. But hypocrisy bares its contemptuous soul with its hurrahs for the ever-growing stock market.

Outside our borders, world inequality has decreased, but largely because of the rapid ascent of China, while INSIDE China inequality has grown at a pace rivaling the United States. There may be a half-billion young Chinese laborers who are technically above poverty level, but GDPs don't measure the quality of life or asset distribution of 70-hour-per-week factory workers.

3. The Self-Made Man

Wealthy individuals pride themselves on their successes from meager beginnings. Many of this self-congratulatory group grew up as educated white males in the richest nation ever in the most productive time in the history of the world. They rode the technology engine for thirty years, benefiting from federal funding that provided almost half of basic research funds into the 1980s, and half of research in the communications industry as late as 1990.

Now, of course, it's much different. Globalization and automation have eliminated many of the old opportunities. Half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. And while it's always been more of a struggle for the lowest-income people, it's even worse now, withmore than half of those individuals in the bottom income quintile remaining there 10 years later. Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. ranks near the bottom in economic mobility.


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