Unsure About Socialism? Here's More Evidence That Capitalism Is Killing the US

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit Author, editor, expert on income inequality

A recent Gallup poll found that less people would vote for a socialist than for an atheist, a Muslim, or an evangelical Christian. Media-numbed Americans still believe that "government is the problem." Yet evidence keeps pouring in that free-market capitalism treats public safety as a profit-killer, dismisses environmental issues as irrelevant to business, and eliminates jobs to please investors.

Reports from the past six months show that the ongoing record of capitalist greed and irresponsibility has plunged to new lows.

1. Mocking Public Health and Safety

It's disturbing enough that Volkswagen and Ford and General Motors and other auto companies rigged emissions tests and took safety shortcuts to save money; and that the Southern California Gas Co. lied about its poisonous sulfur levels; and that Exxon was found to be hiding its own climate change research for four decades; and that tens of thousands of government-subsidized abandoned mines have been left to pollute our waterways.

But Monsanto, which proclaims "We are committed to long-term environmental protection," sued the State of California for trying to protect its citizens from the company's toxic materials.

2. Showing Contempt for Workers

The sharing economy has created companies that promote worker 'independence' while denying them health and retirement benefits, sick pay, overtime pay, and vacation pay. It's not a new capitalist idea. Merck and Out Magazine are among the companies that have "outsourced" employee positions to independent contractor positions, either by a mass layoff or by selling part of the company, after which former employees could be hired back at lower pay and without benefits.

Companies like American Express and AT&T have gone a step furtherwith "individual arbitration" clauses, which effectively prohibit class-action lawsuits, the only economically feasible way for defrauded employees and customers to fight back against corporate malfeasance. Legal expert Brian T. Fitzpatrick explained, "Without a class action, if someone loses $500, they will not be able to do anything about it."

3. Discarding the Poor

An "emergency financial manager" (EFM) privatizes the democratic process, stripping citizens and elected officials of power, granting unlimited power to a CEO-like figure who can sell off public assets to save money, even when it threatens the welfare of the community. This is what happened in Flint, Michigan. The EFM was the disaster capitalist's solution, and as a result the city's children have been poisoned.

To mount insult upon inhumanity, Flint residents were paying the highest water rates in the country, and, incredibly, they were threatened with a shutdown of water (still needed for toilets and cleaning) if they didn't keep paying for the toxic product.

The EFM concept is not limited to local governments. In Ohio, where the already privatized charter schools are so bad that they've become a national joke, Republican candidate John Kasich signed a bill to allow CEOs to take over 'failing' school districts.

4. Catering to the Rich (While Discarding the Poor)

This has been evident most recently in the housing market, especially in the big cities, where developers are seeing dollar signs on affordable housing, and driving rental prices up twice as fast as incomes. The median rent in San Francisco is over $3,000. A New York City parking spot can cost a million dollars.

A half-million homeless Americans walk the streets while 17 million housing units remain vacant.

In New Orleans, tens of thousands of African Americans have been forced to leave the city as starry-eyed developers have more than doubled the rents to attract the wealthy. Louisiana Republican Richard H. Baker thanked God for the change: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it. But God did."

5. Health Care: The Worst Legacy of Capitalism?

According to the Milliman Medical Index, the cost of healthcare in 2015 for a typical American family of four covered by a PPO was $24,671 -- nearly half the median household income. Over $10,000 of this was paid directly by the family, through payroll deductions and out-of-pocket expenses.

Insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors all take advantage of the American people, but the main culprits are pharmaceutical companies, who think nothing of 10,000% markups, even while they and the banks enjoy the world's highest profit margins. A Roche executive explained, "We are not in the business to save lives, but to make money. Saving lives is not our business."

Americans who can't afford their life-sustaining medications are the victims. They're being killed by the profit incentive of capitalism.

***

This has been reposted from Truth-Out.

Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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