Why Do So Many Americans Defend the Failed Capitalist Experiment?

Why Do So Many Americans Defend the Failed Capitalist Experiment

28th July 2016

By Paul Buchheit

Guest writer for Wake Up World

People vastly underestimate the wealth gap in the United States, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth — when in reality the poorest 40 percent own much less than 1% of the wealth.

Capitalism has worked for big business and for the people with stocks and estates. But for the past 35 years our economic system, stripped of sensible regulations, has poisoned the U.S. nation with deadly inequality and driven much of middle America to an ever-widening lower class.

Yet for much of the nation the delusion persists, against all common sense, that deregulated free-market capitalism works, that it equates to true Americanism, and that people have only themselves to blame for their failure to thrive in this expanding world of wealth. The reasons for this delusion are not so hard to determine…

1. Capitalism Justifies Selfishness 

“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of motives, will somehow work for the benefit of all.” ~ John Maynard Keynes, Economist

Studies have consistently shown that increased wealth causes people to turn inward, to believe more in their own “superior” traits, and to care less about the feelings and needs of others. This anti-social attitude blends well with the Ayn-Randish “greed is good” message of unregulated capitalism.

Other studies have determined that money pushes people further to the ideological right, making them less egalitarian, less willing to provide broad educational and other opportunities to all members of society, and certainly part of the reason that our investment in public infrastructure as a component of GDP dropped by 60 percent from 1968 to 2011.

2. The Media Keeps Telling Us that Capitalism is the Only Way to Live 

The mainstream media’s unwillingness to state the truth about inequality has led people to vastly underestimate the wealth gap in our country, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth, when in reality they own much less than 1% of the wealth. Out of every dollar, they own a third of a penny.

Conservative writers overwhelm us with their capitalist-loving mantras:

  • Income inequality is simply not a significant problem. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful… (The Washington Post’s George Will, quoting John Tamny)
  • Capitalism has worked very well (Bill Gates)
  • A free market system…ensures a fair, democratic process (Sarah Palin)
  • Let the market do its job (Chicago Tribune)

Many of them believe that the state of America is reflected in the stock market. But the richest 10% own over 90 percent of the stocks and mutual funds. No problem for the Koch Foundation. They comfort us with the knowledge that If you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest one percent in the world.

3. The Capitalist Education System

Capitalism allows profit-seekers to view students as sources of revenue, conditioning them for lives as working “resources”. David Brain, head of the tellingly named Entertainment Properties, called the charter school business “a great opportunity set with 500 schools starting every year. It’s a two and a half billion dollar opportunity set in rough measure annually.”

But the money didn’t start rolling in until the public school system began to be starved. The U.S. Department of Education reported that $197 billion is needed to repair the nation’s K-12 public school buildings. The public system is going broke, deprived of tax dollars that go to charters. State budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — in many cases far less.

And the results of the capitalist school experiment? Evidence is quickly accumulating that many charter school systems are mired in fraud and secrecy, and shaping up as a prime example of the folly of treating human beings like products to be bought and sold.

4. Class Wars: Those Above the Lowest Class Look Down on Others

Members of the sinking middle class in our pathologically unequal society may well find it convenient to blame people in lower economic classes, who are unlikely to fight back. Guidance for such condescension comes from libertarian writer Charles Murray, who apparently doesn’t understand the family stress caused by the lack of educational and employment opportunities. He accuses the poor of having a “genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line.” And, he adds, “Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms.”

This inspires people like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, both of whom compared the safety net to a “hammock,” and John Boehner, who explained the thinking of poor people as: “I really don’t have to work… I think I’d rather just sit around.”

The critics of struggling Americans should be reminded that nearly two-thirds of all working-age poor are actually working, but unable to earn a living wage, forcing them to rely on food stamps, which only provide about $5 a day per person for meals. In addition, over 83 percent of all benefits going to low-income people are for the elderly, the disabled, or working households. Furthermore, the cost of the entire Safety Net is only about ONE-SIXTH of the $2.2 trillion in annual corporate tax avoidance that primarily benefits the rich.

A good American capitalist like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham would say, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally… It’s a game we play.”

In reality, it’s a game for the people looking down on a troubled nation.

Also from Paul Buchheit:

About the author:

Paul BuchheitPaul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at [email protected].

This work originally appeared on www.commondreams.org and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


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  • Nicole

    As I read your article, could not help but feel compassion for those who think they are better than another because of a printed piece of paper or their illusion of grandeur. We all judge one another, one or self as being better than another, always using labels of separation- called co-creation. This is created by our ignorant minds lost in the darkness of the mass consciousness (thoughts), leading many to insanity. No matter where or who you are, the trap is a trap. Who supports this illusion, all of us through our own ignorance, we are tied up in being a player and give all our energy to feeding the greed. This is part of our awakening, we are all of the same stuff, not one is better than another, all these labels of separation are just that. Become aware of all the labels that separate us from one another – truly incredibly insane. We are one.

  • BikeIce

    It’s not the “economic system” that is creating the widening income gap……its the POLITICIANS and their failed tax and spend policies. This article is full of non-truths. The free market is what made this country the most prosperous ever……..until about 35 years ago when the dingbats in DC started adding ever more “social programs” that create government dependency and destroy individual initiative. As a result the nation is in massive debt. Of course that is exactly what the power happy overlords want, and creating a wider gap between rich and poor gives them the leverage to continue more wasteful government run programs that do nothing to promote individualism and resourcefulness. So if our capitalist system is so bad……..the answer is what, Socialism/Communism? The author offers no solutions, but reading between the lines this is what he appears to think is the answer……..yet those political systems create even more poverty and inequality and have failed everywhere they have been tried.

    • Sanddab

      You’re absolutely right. The author is too since he starts his column with:
      “Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of
      men, for the nastiest of motives, will somehow work for the benefit of
      all.” ~ John Maynard Keynes, Economist

      What the author might be saying here is that ‘Capitalism’ was thrust upon the world as a way to eventually ‘subvert’ us. Though ‘capitalism’ appears to be the most ‘righteous’ human system available, it’s also the easiest system for the ‘unrighteous’ to corrupt.’ Thus, the capitalist system must be monitored incessantly for ‘corruption’ or the whole system reverts to its ‘steady state,’ Corporate Tyranny and Totalitarianism – which is Babylonian Talmud and what we have today. Corporations were illegal and the ‘Founding Fathers’ gave us a mechanism to dissolve the government in 1798 if this ever happened to us.

      Corporate Totalitarianism. It’s been 500+ years under this system, though 99.9% have no clue. It’s also called, “Discordianism and Nihilism,’ which is an ‘on-purpose’ management style to keep the population ‘asleep’ through a vast network of ‘Hegelian Dialectics.’ Skull and Bone’s stuff from 322 BC Demosthenes Greece. 322 tells the ‘secrets’ of the ‘spiritual Veil’ construct, including: Law of 5s, Temple of Apollo, Alexander the Great, Aristotle and bunches of other things related to philosophy and mind control. Biggy is Genesis 3:22 – these guys consider themselves, ‘gods.’

      Torah calls the ‘highest’ King in the Universe, “Melchizedek.” The High King of Righteousness. Without a ‘high king’ in charge of a ‘capitalist system,’ it will always revert to its Babylonian form. Question is, was ‘capitalism’ thrust upon the world for righteous reasons, or to subvert. (East India Company ‘proves’ which it is).

      In 1649, the ‘bankers’ from the Netherlands (via Spain and 70AD Israel), beheaded the English King. East India Company took charge. Babylon. Nothing has happened in the world since to disrupt the the world’s power pyramid. ‘They’ control every single nation – nobody is free and there are likely only 144,000 or so souls that know how it all works.

      We live in the age of ‘The Return of the King.’ More than 2,000 years of discordianism is almost over. ‘Righteousness’ will reign again.

  • gomurr

    We have no free market when government, including federal, state, and local, have all but made it impossible for small business to survive. The dream of starting a business is buried under an ever growing pile of rules, regulations, codes, laws, directives, fees, permits, licenses, taxes, tariffs, restrictions, and violations. These things only serve those that can afford to comply with such regulation.

    It has been scientifically broken down to 40 multinational corporations owning the majority of the worlds businesses and Fortune 500 companies, from the banks to your favorite gourmet pasta sauce. That’s only as far as they have been able to go. My own opinion is it’s much smaller if you can navigate through it.

    Eliminating the competition this way crushes the free market. Believe it or not, some people are content to own a small business employing a few people that provides them with a decent, not lavish, lifestyle. We’re not all possessed by the lure of amassing wealth……most people just want to have a secure and decent life for themselves and their families.

    People are saying America was never great, but the people of this country built the largest, most prosperous middle class in the world. It was built through industry and small businesses, both quickly disappearing or nearly gone.

    The free market works….we just don’t have one.