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The elite dilemma

February 25, 2011

The class nature of global capitalism has probably never been more evident as the divide between the massively wealthy few and the rest of the population becomes ever starker.  Capitalism is clearly not working for most and it’s becoming increasingly recognized that it probably can’t.  Those on the radical left have been pointing out the system’s many contradictions for well over a hundred years but it somehow keeps managing to survive.  The contradictions, though, now seem to be hitting us like a tsunami.  More thoughtful observers within the elite class can’t help but see this but they can find no way out.  That’s because none exists short of confiscatory taxation of their hoards or a radical change in the conception of money, either of which would greatly reduce their power in society.

Billionaire tycoon and editor in chief of US News & World Report Mort Zuckerman provides a perfect example. He gives a stark and factual critique of where we are but then proceeds to tell us there’s nothing that can be done except for regressively financed infrastructure projects.

Here’s where we are:

(In the US, we have) a “household” unemployment rate of slightly under 17 per cent.  The result is that some 25m Americans are now either jobless or underemployed.

Long-term trends are depressing job growth. There is more outsourcing abroad, more automation, more conversion of full-time jobs to temps and contracts, and a stagnant median wage.  Information technologies are advancing dramatically and increasingly being employed to eliminate jobs of all types, especially those that are fundamentally routine and repetitive in nature.

(W)e face the risk that high unemployment may become chronic.  It is critical to understand that the number of workers seeking jobs grows every year as students graduate and immigrants enter the labor force.

This is truly a crisis situation.  But, within the prevailing logic, nothing meaningful can be done.

There are no short-term solutions. The best longer-term solution, widely understood to reflect a national need, is reinvestment in America’s infrastructure, which would not only create hundreds of thousands of jobs but would also safeguard private sector growth. These projects would have to be managed by an independent public/private commission based on a minimum calculated rate of return and would also have to be tolled so that, over the long run, they would be paid for by their users. The costs would therefore be seen as an investment and not as an addition to our debt, which would spook the bond market.

Infrastructure spending is the only prescription offered by the lords of the system.  That it’s grossly inadequate to the scale of the problem is clear.  Zuckerman says it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, but just a few paragraphs earlier he documented that we have tens of millions suffering from inadequate employment and the condition is worsening.  Further, he proposes that the infrastructure spending be financed by the workers themselves through tolls while providing his class of wealth “a minimum calculated rate of return”.  The arrogance is staggering!

Political systems in the US and throughout the world are incapable of offering a way out of the crisis because they’re dominated by those who most benefit from the status quo.  The key to where we’re headed  is on the streets.  There’s hope if the streets are full and none as long as they’re empty.

From → Wealth & Poverty

  1. Tom Hickey permalink

    Five million person march on DC this spring to demand that every politician that takes money from corporations resign immediately (that’s all of them), and that everyone that has potentially broken the law be investigated and prosecuted if evidence warrants, regardless of wealth or position. Time to end this travesty.

  2. I’m there!

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