Sunday, July 3, 2016

CAPITALISM FOR THE HAVES AND HAVE NOTS

                            

Poverty Has Always Accompanied Capitalism

Hailed by Cornel West as "the leading socialist economist in the country," Richard D. Wolff paints a very different picture of the global economy to that offered by mainstream commentators. His new collection, Capitalism's Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown, covers the failures of neoliberal policies and austerity, the massive upward transfer of wealth in this latest stage of capitalism, and more.

For at least the last 30 years, the mass of Americans has seen stagnant real wages even as labor productivity rose steadily, losses of job benefits and security, reduced public services, and a political system increasingly corrupted and compromised by inequalities of wealth and income. Incremental changes in capitalism and Wall Street accompanied every step of these declines for most Americans. Promises that those incremental changes would work to the benefit of most Americans have proven to be false. To believe them now is to have learned nothing from the last 35 years of the nation's history.

Poverty has always accompanied capitalism (as Thomas Piketty's work documents yet again). As an economic system, it has proven to be as successful in producing wealth at one pole as it is in producing poverty at the other. Periodic "rediscoveries of" and campaigns against poverty have not changed that. Capitalism's defenders, having long promoted the system as the means to overcome both absolute and relative poverty (i.e. to be an equalizing system), now change their tune. They either abandon equality as a social good or goal or else try to avoid discussing poverty altogether.