Sunday, February 13, 2011

We Have Met the Enemy...

Supercapitalism, by Robert Reich, is not the book you want to read if you want to get angry at somebody.  We all know the problems -- growing poverty, joblessness, pollution, corporate control of Congress.  But Reich makes a compelling and disquieting argument that the blame is not to be laid at the door of the corporation.  The conflict is not between us and them.  The conflict is between we the consumers/investors and we the citizens.

Look around and see the conflict everywhere.  The parking lot at Wal-Mart is full of people who have chosen to support the low-wage anti-union corporate philosophies of Wal-Mart.  SUV's are votes for big oil.  Less obvious is the fact that the stocks in which our pension funds invest are those that guarantee through cost cutting the highest returns; cost cutting means the cheapest material and labor.

And so, as we have made these consumer and investor choices over the decades, we have found ourselves with fewer dollars because our wages continue to shrink.  We vote for lower taxes and find ourselves with bad schools, bad roads, higher unemployment because the government employees that we need for needed government services are being cut.

Here we are, in this vicious circle, where, because we chose to shop at Wal-Mart, we now must shop at Wal-Mart.  We allow CEO's to be paid criminally high salaries and bonuses because we insist on the highest stock market returns, and we demand that they cut costs in order to be competitive, so we can reap even higher returns, until we lose our jobs or health and have to raid our IRA's to survive.

Still, we feed the beast.  We refuse to support the regulation that could cost us a few more pennies in the short run while empowering us to live better, healthier lives in the long run.  We vote for politicians that promise to cut taxes and allow industry the freedom to, well, continue to do what they have been doing, make the most money they can.

Stuff gets cheaper, but corporations get more expensive.  They cost us our health, our livelihoods, time with our families, our children's futures.

You could get a good deal on an SUV right now, but I guarantee, you won't be able to afford the gasoline.  In many more ways than the sticker price for a gallon.

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