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(DV) Rahkonen: Capitalism Has Been Tried and it Just Doesn't Work







Capitalism Has Been Tried and it just Doesn’t Work 
by Dennis Rahkonen
November 26, 2005

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With Delphi and GM announcing a combined elimination of over 50,000 industrial jobs, it’s hard to go on believing that much-glorified “free enterprise” is succeeding.  

The system we were all propagandized during our school years to think of as the world’s best is looking terribly flawed today. 

And it’s not just the massive losses of good employment -- supplanted by low paying service work where folks often well beyond teen age “manufacture” curly fries and mushroom burgers at strip malls -- that makes the picture so bleak. 

It’s people who toiled all their lives, who are approaching retirement, finding that the company pensions they were promised have vanished. While corporate CEOs receive salaries measured in the millions of dollars. 

It’s senior citizens beset by poor eyesight and hearing, plus cognitive failures, being  forced into impossibly confusing prescription drug “coverage” that can wind up costing them more rather than less. Nothing so compellingly makes the case for real, affordable, national healthcare as this convoluted travesty! 

It’s approaching supermarket checkouts and routinely finding coffee cans with pitiful, hand-written pleas for donations for destitute souls without insurance who are afflicted by serious disease. Spaghetti feeds to fund the hospital bills of fellow citizens with cancer are a crushing indictment of the American Way.  

Meanwhile, our entire culture is mired in sleaze and corruption. 

A greed-based sickness we could well call “Enronhalliburtonitis” has rotted our corporate moral fiber.  With cooked books, cronyism, sordid scandals, and sweatshop-based profiteering having become virtually standard, it’s difficult to find a categorically honest businessman.  

After engaging in ethically compromised work during the day, what solace do we find at night? Our leisure entertainment consists of televised reality-show vacuity that leaves our spirits weary.  In uneasy moments before fitful sleep, we wonder: “How did it all go so awry?”  

It gets worse. 

Sexism, racism, and homophobia not only persist but are getting a decisive boost from a false, supremacist Christianity that’s forsaken Sweet Jesus for bitter, benighted, bigotry that painfully punishes the involuntarily different. 

We violate international law -- and related portions of our own Constitution -- by invading without any provocation or credible cause much weaker foreign states that have natural wealth we covet. 

Science is being shunted aside by know-nothing superstition -- or hidebound denial -- taking us away from the empirical proof of evolution and toward the environmental catastrophe that surely awaits if Global Warming isn’t acknowledged...and halted. 

Our children and their own progeny face grim futures of deficit indebtedness, less-than-living wage employment, tattered social safety nets, aggressive wars, lethally polluted surroundings, and sickness without relief or recourse. 

All of this because our avaricious capitalist “values” are rigidly structured to discourage us from abiding by the altruistic teachings that history’s great philosophies and religions jointly share. 

We aren’t our brothers’ keepers.  We don’t do unto others as we’d want them to do unto us. 

We grab the easy, exploitatively derived money and run, letting the Devil take the hindmost.  American commercial life consistently works at vicious cross-purposes with public welfare and the common good. 

Making real the last six words of our Pledge of Allegiance -- “with liberty and justice for all” -- would necessarily require dismantling the pervasive biases and systemic economic inequity that form the foundation of American monopoly capitalism. 

But Wall Street high rollers will never permit that. It doesn’t matter how many desperate youths come to tragic ends from drugs or guns in festering ghettos or barren reservations.  They don’t care about the elderly on inadequate, fixed incomes who must choose between eating and heating in the dead of winter.  

Their rip-off prosperity insulates them from concern. They take Mediterranean cruises in January.  Their focus is fixed on Forbes magazine, not the obituary pages of newspapers in impoverished communities where opportunity and hope are the stuff of impossible dreams. 

Capitalism had two strong selling points back when I learned about it first in grammar school: 

1.) It promotes freedom and democracy. 

2.) It assures a high living standard. 

That was before a retrograde president shamelessly exploited terrorism to push through the hideously misnamed Patriot Act, making the quashing of all dissent its actual, authoritarian purpose. It’s hard to believe in American capitalist “freedom” when any progressive or radical critic could be nabbed -- at any given moment under concocted pretext -- and held without charge for an indefinite period in some secret jail. 

That was also before our country developed the industrialized world’s widest gap between haves and have-nots. The American workday masses have clearly become a host to plutocratic parasites who can generate the level of profit they need to thrive only by peonizing us via almost a Third World degree of super-exploitation. 

Their pieces of the economic pie have grown into huge, brimming chunks, while ours are reduced to crumbling slivers. 

The real meaning of the “ownership society” is that you and I are on our own, without any governmental assistance, to try to make it from one meager paycheck to the next, purchasing generics and shopping at dollar stores in diminishing expectation of getting by. 

What’s worst is that the accepted way to escape this quagmire is to completely sell out and become a knowing, willing part of the oppressive apparatus itself...turning on the very working class to which our struggling forbears belonged! 

Judas Iscariot taught us something about betrayal as a way of getting ahead. 

No, I can’t believe in capitalism any longer.  

Being cutthroat worshippers of mammon who’ll doom multitudes to consequent, widespread suffering isn’t what our species should to be about. With the planet itself endangered by unmitigated profit lust, change is mandatory. 

The third capitalist selling point is individualism, the more rugged the better. 

But there’s precious little individualism to be found in lemming-like propaganda sops who can’t think for themselves, who don’t dare be the first to remove the debacle-perpetuating “Support Our Troops” ribbons from their SUVs.  No individualism, either, within the thoroughly regimented ranks of dutiful soldiers who parrot the official, militaristic line even as they drive their Humvees straight into explosive, Iraqi death traps. 

Actually, there’s scant appeal in being a rightwing version of an individualist in any case. What virtue is possessed by self-centered conservatives adept at ruthlessly negotiating the American rat race by clawing and scratching their way through the dirty maze, leaving the weaker souls among us bloodied and defeated? 

Call me a “socialist” or worse, but I can’t see humanity finding better tomorrows through more dog-eat-dog behavior. In fact, only collective, cooperative, public-profit alternatives and true people’s democracy can give our race a realistic chance of survival. 

When Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez ordered his country’s state-owned CITGO petroleum apparatus to make cheap oil available to Boston, South Bronx and other hard-pressed U.S. locales faced with a stark inability to pay rising heating costs, my jaded heart leapt for joy. 

People must come before profits, not the other way around. 

In Bolivarian Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America, the ghosts of Che Guevara and Salvador Allende have risen from their graves.  Their great, transcendent vision of workers and campesinos being the true cream of society, to be rewarded accordingly, is sweeping the region like a cleansing wave.  

I couldn’t be more thrilled. 

May no spot on earth -- no morass of capitalist failure and filth -- escape the coming tidal surge! 

Dennis Rahkonen from Superior, Wisconsin has been writing progressive commentary for various outlets since the ‘60s. He can be reached at:

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