And no, this week's title is NOT a ploy to once again promote Michael Moore or his new movie, "Capitalism," aside from that blatant plug.
No, this has been an exciting week for capitalism folks, as in the economic enterprise that supposedly sails our ship of state through the stormiest of seas. If only we believe. If only we believe and remove the shackles of unfair unfree trade. Once again that definition of Free Trade: anything Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh agree is good for business and they always agree with their bosses.
Broken down to its nuts and bolts: Capitalism means you screw people over as hard as you can for as much as you can. If they lose their homes, die from lack of medical service, or find themselves treading water next to a drowning polar bear, it is not your problem if you can successfully deny it through litigation. OR, that other popular definition for capitalism: provide as minimal a good or service as possible all the while convincing your customers that they are happy. OR, the one most of us live through: essentially slavery, except they also get to torture you with math problems you'll never solve: how can you afford to live on the little bit you make. And the capitalists will tell you loud and long how they have done you a favor by inventing this system and your place in it; but most of all theirs.
By those and numerous other standards, 2009 has been a very good year for capitalism. This year saw the number of billionaires in America nearly double at a time when the rest of the world lost over $5 trillion. Where did the money go? Up the ladder. It's the famous trickle up theory made famous by Reaganomics-loving neocons way back when. There are now 793 billionaires in America. That's a lot of billions that had to go somewhere, such as away from our schools and roads and healthcare. But it sure made a lot of millionaires a whole lot richer.
In fact, among the factoids amid this week's news flotsam is that the 400 richest people in America got $30 billion richer. Whew. At a time when 3.5 million more homes are expected to go belly up, it warms my heart to know the money is safe.
Look how much happier we all are now that they have our money and not just our houses, but our taxes, too. With a year like this, it is hard to keep straight which example of unfettered capitalism is the most audacious, so I personally have taken to breaking down my list to a week-by-week basis. With several outstanding examples of why this paradigm has been good for society in the current news cycle, there are so many choices to be dazzled by.
To hear the right-wingers blog about it, the biggest news this week is that the entirety of global warming is a hoax and that every scientist everywhere who does not propound that Jesus dated dinosaurs is part of a conspiracy to ruin petrodollar profits and thus screw over Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and several Bushes all at the same time, and that, sir, is Un-American.
Those of you who know that Rush is always right also knew it all along that it's all those phony lying lefties that cooked up this whole fake global warming thing and now they have been busted. Sure.
Where is my Hummer? Can I get it to reduce my mileage to like 5 mph, maybe 3? And why not if there's no global warming? Maybe you can get it rigged up to run on clubbed baby seals?
Anyway, all that was good red meat for the anti-environmentalists around the country. Except the opposite side, the folks who say that scandal is a classic misdirection, folks who say it's all a conflation and intended to distract the public support away from serious commitments at Copenhagen's Climate Change Conference, which happen to be the majority of the world's scientiests who are hoping we as a people will wise up before we destroy our planet beyond recognition.
They explain that the accusations being hurled against the e-mailing climate scientists in question are intentional outlandish distortions of language and intent. By the way, backers of the e-mailers include their bosses, and John Roberts, the CNN reporter sent to talk up the teapot into a tempest, and even Bill Nye the Science Guy doing his level best to debunk the global warming would-be debunkers. The CNN coverage of the controversy was a load of bunk to be sure. But as Roberts noted, finishing his coverage, by the time the experts sort it out, Copenhagen will be over and Exxon-Mobile can continue to make billions by destroying our future for the mere cost a few hackers and a couple of bribed talking heads spreading a little doubt.
Over in the banking sector, which has been so inspiring this last year when it comes to doing dirt unto others and calling it good clean profit, many folks are impressed with Bank of America's announcing they are attempting to return their TARP money so they can award themselves more profits and bonuses. But I am partial to that other Bailout Powerhouse AIG. In "Bailed-Out AIG Forcing Poor to Choose Between Running Water and Food," Yasha Levine's not-that-astonishing expose on AIG going all 3rd world on the poverty stricken of Rural Kentucky. Taking a page from the Bechtel rape of Bolivia's water supply back in 2000, AIG subsidy Utilities, Inc. acquired the water supply for poor mountaineers who barely keep their families fed and then jacked their rates by more than 51%. Phony, erroneous and repetitive billing ensued. Kidding aside, these are people whose per capita income is $13,000. Through the rate hike and working out the "bugs" in their new billing system, AIG nets an additional $750 thousand and all they had to do was torment a few more poor people. Why not, they're good at it, they're capitalists.
But my choice for This Week in Capitalism's "Just Getting Down to the Brass Tacks of it All" award for cutting to the essence of capitalist values, at least the espoused capitalist values of our captains of capitalism in the press and the pubs of America ... well, it actually goes to Mexico. That's right, the people who were once held as farm animals and concubines for their Spanish missionaries have now gone that ultimate last mile for capitalism, cut labor costs completely and just kidnapped themselves a bunch of slaves right in the heart of the biggest city in the world. That's right, December 4th the Associated Press, among others, reported that a factory in Mexico City that disguised itself as a rehab center was actually kidnapping people off of the streets then forcing them to work 16-hour days making shopping bags and clothespins. One hundred and seven people were rescued having been found working as slaves, and 23 suspects allegedly working as their overseers and guards were taken into custody.
And I say, well what happened here? Why has the free market failed capitalism? People need their cheap plastic bags and clothespins and the businessman has a right to make a profit, doesn't he? Of course that's not that different from the occasional corporate faux pas here in America where dozens of undocumented immigrants happen to be working in the same meat packing plant, or restaurant, which just happens to be owned by some big American business: like Tyson, like McDonalds, like Swift.
Like another Swift might once have suggested, next thing you know the capitalists will be selling us our own babies to eat. Why not? It's pure capitalism in motion. They don't have to pay for the labor. They don't have to guarantee the product. They don't have to protect the consumer. Yipes, if the capitalists ever figure out how to make a buck on this, we're doomed.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ