Whatever praise may have been lavished on capitalism historically, there can be little doubt that in its present most sophisticated form --- that is, oligarchy --- there is little if anything good to be said for it.
Under the guise of purporting to meet the essential needs of humans, capitalism can now be seen to have proceeded hell-bent towards a system that strips all of the wealth of society, and especially that part of the wealth that is newly created, from those of the lower economic classes, who, after all, perform most of the work in society, and places it in the hands of the richest.
This has never been clearer than it is now, with the governance of the United States, the largest capitalist economy and the one with the least controlled economy, resting in the hands of a government of kleptocratic and supremely wealthy oligarchs.
President Donald Trump promised a two-pronged tax reform: part of it would be minor decreases in personal taxes, but the major part would be a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent. This latter has been described as a naked giveaway to Trump’s class of billionaries and millionaires. Naturally, with such a swingeing cut in taxes, the government revenues could be expected to fall, although the conservatives responsible for these cuts argued that they would stimulate more economic activity, and thereby help the national economy. Sure enough, the latest figures show that the budget deficit of $780 billion has added $1.2 trillion to the national debt, a figure caused by the fact that the government does not consider much of what it is borrowing to cover the deficit as part of the national budget. So the national debt increases hugely because the government has been borrowing 60 per cent more than it is pretending to borrow. Observers watching all this expect these deficits in future figures to skyrocket up to at least $3 trillion in the coming year.
Of course before the corporate tax cuts, most of this money would have gone into the national Treasury instead of into the pockets, or bank accounts, if you like, of the oligarchs, and the industries they control. Now, I am not an expert in this sort of economics but I heard one expert say earlier in the day that the funded portion of the national deficit had reached $21.2 trillion, after which another expert said, “that is only the funded part of it: but if you include the huge amount of non-funded amounts, including such things as contingency liabilities and so on, the real figure could balloon up to $100 trillion dollars.” Whatever such liabilities my be....
To me, these are almost imaginary figures, but they do indicate the extraordinary extent to which the governing oligarchs have gotten away with the nation’s wealth. Not much surprise then, that in the most recent figures, while the so-called “defence” budget has swollen to more than $600 billion, the highest ever (a figure granted by Congress that was even higher than the President asked for), the money sent on education fell by 43 per cent. And meantime, of course, big banks experienced phenomenal increases of 60 to 30 per cent in their profits, compared with previous quarters. I heard a commentator say that since the “Great Depression” (referring, I imagine, to the depression following the 2008 financial meltdown), bank profits had increased during every quarter, one after the other, in an unbroken line...
All these are facts about the economy of greed, as capitalism can justifiably be described. One can throw into this balance sheet the statement of Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the U.S. Senate, that the next serious business will be to re-examine what are called “entitlements” in the United States, that is, the pensions, and support programmes like medicare, food stamps, housing subsidies, veteran’s benefits and the like, established to keep the very poorest from going through the economic floor.
Critical economic analysts have pointed out that to cover the deficits, the United States has turned to what is now euphemistically called “quantitative easing,” otherwise known as the printing of money, a process that, followed over the years, leads to a dollar crisis, which, if one is to judge by many economic commentaries in recent days, people are now bracing for.
The moral of all this is clear for everyone to see: you cut taxes for the benefit of the super-rich; and then, because your government is deprived of that income, you take the butcher’s knife to programmes for the poor.
We probably need to be reminded what the United States spends its vast defence budget on: its 840 foreign bases, its unremitting wars against poor nations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, none of which it seems capable of winning, and its naked, drumbeat interference in the governance of sovereign nations around the world, like Iran, North Korea, Ukraine, etc.....