— Richard Hofstadter, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life”
America has long had socialism for corporations and social Darwinism for everyone else. It privatizes the profits and nationalizes the losses.
The latest example: a proposed trillion-dollar bailout for failing financial giants, behemoth banks and gigantic insurance firms.
In vivid contrast, universal health care is forbidden. That is dreadful socialism. Making money is more important than health. Besides, capitalism flourishes even more if people have to pay big sums for insurance.
Congress is bought and paid for by campaign contributions. This influence racket and legalized bribery works. Corporations get off scot-free, taxpayers pay the bills.
The retrograde President Reagan proclaimed his faith in free markets. He called big government the problem not the solution. But government is the solution for Big Business failure. Recall that in the late 1980s the savings and loan industry got a $200 billion welfare check.
After Ayn Rand’s glorification of self-interest in “Atlas Shrugged,” the motto of the Right became greed is good. Immoral? Certainly.
Naomi Klein skewers that notion in her recent book, “The Shock Doctrine,” aptly subtitled “The Rise in Disaster Capitalism.”
Some still think America had an “immaculate conception” and has never sinned. Her book shatters such illusions. Indeed, it is profoundly upsetting, filling the reader with black despair.
Klein traces the economic genocide to the teachings of “Dr. Shock,” University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman. His mantra was deregulation and privatization.
He urged deep slashes in the social contract. He preached “free trade, low taxes and minimal government intervention.” Indeed, he was such an archreactionary that he proposed abolishing public schools.
William Grieder noted in a Nation article that Friedman “championed an ethic of unrelenting, unapologetic self-interest that pushed aside human sympathy.”
The horrible results were evident in Chile, post-Sovet Russia, China and Iraq.
Friedman’s “gospel of wealth” was adopted in America with tax cuts for the wealthy under Reagan. It continued in the archconservative reign of Bush II. His deregulation madness produced the scandal of Enron’s energy shell game.
Wall Streeters get eight-figure salaries. CEOs reap outrageous salaries even when their corporations fare badly. The CEO of Nike earned $6.3 million in 2007.
Yet Congress still embraces socialism for the rich. The tax system is regressive, the minimum wage a pittance.
Congress really has just one party, a party oozing love for Big Business. It lets corporations set up tax havens offshore, avoiding $50 billion in taxes yearly. Subsidies. Outsourcing. Sweatshops. Plants abroad with scandalously low pay and inhuman hours.
Bill Moyers in a Nation article puts it about as well as anyone since Marx: “freedom to accumulate wealth without social responsibilies and the license to buy the political system right out from under everyone else.”
France’s Le Monde observed: “Inequalites constitute one of the world’s cancers.”
America has that cancer with the ever-widening gap between the Haves and Have Nots. The class system abounds in America although few dare mention it. The new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium was built with tax-free bonds subsidized by taxpayers.
Its skyboxes and luxury suites are for the fatcats, removed from the rabble. Seats behind the dugout will cost $850 a game, seats near home plate up to $2,500.
Look at the sad state of many Americans. The economy near recession, home foreclosures stunning. Trapped by debt. Joblessness exceeding 6 percent.
Pensions cut back, wages and salaries slashed. Medical costs ever rising, gas prices onerous. Thirty-seven million living in poverty. Nearly 50 million without health insurance.
Even Barack Obama, who is far worthier of being president than John McCain, is limp in the financial crisis. He lacks the Rooseveltian fire and blunt-speaking. Teddy: “the malefactors of great wealth.” Franklin: “the privileged princes” of “economic dynasties.”
But even that is better than McCain mouthing clichés about corporate tax cuts and smaller government.
The horror of capitalism is cloaked by what Marx called sham watchwords: democracy, liberty and freedom of the press. These are “cobwebs, embroidered with flowers of rhetoric, steeped in the dew of sickly sentiment,” he wrote.
Capitalism is soulless, what Helen Keller indicted as an intolerable system. America epitomizes that heartless, predatory system, promoting war, destroying unions and displaying hostility to working people.
Civilized nations like France have long since rejected Friedmanite capitalism.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.