News From Terre Haute, Indiana


July 30, 2013

READERS' FORUM: July 30, 2013

Are we prisoners of capitalism?

A dominant question in American politics today is the relationship between democracy and the capitalist economy. Jonathan Levy, an assistant professor of history at Princeton University is the author of “Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America,” and his thesis: “You’ve got to understand capitalists.”  

We are so much inside the system that we are unable to comprehend that capitalism is responsible for the extreme concentration of wealth in a few hands, loss of hundreds of thousand of jobs, death, destruction and a number of wars. Several non-exhaustive microcosmic observations illuminate these macrocosmic phenomena.

On the morning of Jan. 22, one of the CNBC anchormen on “Squawk on the Street” was heard saying that storms are good because they provide the opportunity to raise insurance premiums (after Hurricane Sandy caused havoc on the East Coast). Capitalists have cleverly celebrated closing of manufacturing plants in the U.S. because they raise prospects for higher profits for the companies involved. Arms manufacturers are inventing ever deadlier weapons and have flooded the country with more guns than people. Bill Moyers of PBS calls it the “Military-Industrial-Congressional complex.” David Stockman, President Reagan’s former budget director, recently used the term “Military-industrial-security complex.”

On Feb. 13, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, the CEO of a multinational company claimed that he was a great American patriot. Moments later, the same CEO said he was not going to bring his company’s overseas profits back to the U.S., for the company will have to pay taxes on that part of the profits. What a great patriot. Bartiromo did not protest the obvious hypocrisy.

Readers might have seen on television commercials for drugs of major pharma companies spelling out the details of elaborate side effects including some even causing death. Have viewers ever wondered why such drugs were approved? The expensive litigations that follow for the big pharma companies are treated as part of doing business.

The boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism benefits a select few and is responsible for an endless cycle of wars, death and destruction and financial crises. Some filthy rich people create tools of distraction and do not want the rest of us to think about these things.

Hence they came up with Fox News. To be fair, there are some billionaires who do give to charities generously.

This year Forbes has uncovered a record 1,426 billionaires worth $5.4 trillion, an astounding 17 percent jump in a year. And the obscene CEO and CFO pay of tens of millions dollars continues. Meanwhile, tens of millions of people on this planet live on less than $2 a day? And despite a growing disparity between the rich and the rest of America, congressional Republicans have proposed to cut Social Security benefits by lowering the cost of living adjustments for millions of retirees, widows and orphans. Also, low-interest federal loan rates for college students have doubled recently.

Free market economy did experience the greatest economic expansion since the industrial revolution. But capitalist systems also produced European colonialism and two world wars and several other congressionally undeclared wars.

Despite pre-election promises based on lofty ideals, all presidents become part of the system. Do they become ideological prisoners of capitalism after they get elected?

— Khwaja A. Hasan

Formerly of Terre Haute

Wadsworth, Ill.

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