A hotly debated topic these days is whether we can change human behavior in time to avert climate catastrophe. But let’s look first at why we say “catastrophe.” Isn’t that a little strong?
Ronald Reagan got a lot of things wrong. But one of his more outstanding errors was to suggest that “government is the problem.” As with many utterances from Republicans these days, he got it backwards: politicians in bed with corporate managers and wealthy billionaires make business the problem. This is not a new problem.
In my last column, I discussed how some corporations are managed solely to be attractive to shareholders. They don’t take into consideration the interests of a much broader range of stakeholders.
If you’re middle class or poor, the bankers and politicians want your money. First, the Republicans have declared war on the poor by slashing the food-stamp program that provides a bare minimum of daily nutrition.
Over the last three centuries, capitalism has poisoned the very well of prosperity it has taken such pains to create.
The genie of capitalism, aided by the Industrial Revolution, can largely be credited with moving Western societies, and eventually much of the world, out of feudalism and the Malthusian trap.
Malthus, you remember, complained that humans never were able to increase our living standard through much of our existence. But capitalism’s advent increased the world’s productivity and living standard; it brought humanity ease, luxury and comfort, along with prodigious choice in
products and services.
As I was driving to an appointment recently, I began to see the rows upon rows of telephone poles I was passing on city streets and country roads as crucifixes: symbols of the violence our society depends on for its daily energy and legitimization.
While we were away on winter recess, some more pieces of democracy have been trashed or made ready for disposal. We’ve already seen how the Supreme Court has allowed whoever has enough money to buy elections, just as corporate lobbyists buy legislative favors. Now, more of our rights as citizens are being thrown in the wastebasket.
Don’t you think it’s curious that while the rest of the developed world has created significant social safety nets, policy makers in the U.S. are still mired down in old-fashioned ideas that those who are poor or ill or old bring their misfortune on themselves?
The Republicans are really steamed now, because a recent Congressional Budget Office report on the U.S. fiscal and economic outlook contained two pieces of great news on the economic effects of the Affordable Care Act.
Have you noticed how often simplistic solutions are offered, and generally accepted by the public, for even the most complex problems? “Cap ‘n Trade” for climate change, “austerity” for economic depression or “tests” for troubled schools, for example.
Upward social and economic mobility used to be a hallmark of America’s working classes. American workers pursuing these values typically came to the negotiating table in “good faith” when they bargained with capital for higher wages and benefits. But those clutching the purse have had little taste for such idealism – economic justice has never been America’s strong suit.
Are you not amazed at the Black Friday mobs of anxious, competitive, occasionally even violent shoppers rushing to crowd into the discount stores the day after Thanksgiving? It seems to me they’ve got more anger than cash, more vulnerability than good sense. Maybe we should take a closer look.
We can now see capitalism’s last crash, and indications are that it will be a spectacular disaster.
In September 2001 Osama bin Laden launched a terrorist attack on the heart of capitalism, when al-Qaida operatives flew passenger airliners into the World Trade Center. That horrendous disaster stunned Americans with more than 3,000 deaths, allowing George W. Bush to grab his chance to start the “War on Terror.”
Ever notice how difficult it is now to do good? Many do what’s politically expedient, or what they calculate is in their own self-interest. But doing good, especially working with others to stop the effects of economic violence on our citizens, can earn a pretty sharp rap on the knuckles from the boss, the police and the media.
Everybody talks about the need for higher education, especially how it’s supposed to bring graduates higher paying jobs. But is this just a come-on designed to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the banks?
Does the U.S. pursue a moral purpose in the world any longer, or are we just another schoolyard bully?
Caution: We’re being invaded by aliens from inner space. Yes, it’s something we’re doing to ourselves. But don’t panic; let me explain.
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