Friday, October 31, 2008

Capitalism With a Conscience?

So much has been said lately concerning Obama's supposed socialistic agenda that I think that it is important to step back and think about his critic's remarks, and the ideology that we ALL have been socialized to believe. In America, there is great importance put upon "self made success" and being rewarded for one's merit.
Indeed, I feel that someone who can "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" is a person that usually deserves great respect and our admiration for beating the odds in becoming successful. I say beating the odds because, unlike the movies and the "bright-siding" of the news media, with an occasional success story, it just does not happen enough to make these adages even partly factual. "Work hard and you will be rewarded" is a hard sell to many people who experience otherwise.
After years of working hard, they do not see the truth to this. Their jobs get outsourced to another nation because American companies can exploit the labor of the host nation's people and resources, thus, corporate profit skyrockets. Other working class Americans, though, they make twice the minimum wage, are still below the poverty line and barely survive, much less succeed. They see the gap between themselves and the middle class increasing, just as the gap between the elite and everyone else is.
What the middle class sees is the price of everything, from their medical bills to the food they buy, from the insurance policies they must maintain, to the utility bills they pay monthly, increasing faster than than their salary. Some see the wealthy of this country becoming wealthier at everyone else's expense. Others? Well, it is obvious to them that they are inferior to the "majority" of people, whom they feel are capable of success. And, of course, they have some members of the elite, who deserve nothing more than our scorn and a kick in the ass, to back up their claim. This is where the ideology- the rewarding of merit- comes into play.
I think that this serves the elite of this nation by maintaining their superiority in the minds of those less privileged. If merit is rewarded, and the elite have the most money, power, and prestige, the less privileged, while believing this ideology, come to feel that they are incapable and that they themselves have little worth. Secondly, the elite benefit by maintaining the exclusive superiority of their class. It allows some to pat themselves, and each other, on the back for being worthy fellows in comparison to the less privileged, though, some had no hand in making their inherited fortunes. Their elite status, in addition to the widespread belief in their "merit," allows those elite, who are inclined, to steer political outcomes in their favor. So, power begets power. In sum, whether "ready-made' or self-made, their experience and status become the standard to which the elite and the less privileged measure themselves and others. An ideology that most all Americans have been taught since they learned to talk.
Now, when the rich, powerful, and prestigious accuse Sen. Obama of socialism, and as a threat to capitalism, one must think carefully before supporting their position. Obama says that his plan calls for tax increases for those making $250,000 or more a year, while, people who make less will receive tax reductions. After the media recorded a sound-bite between Obama and "Joe the dumber," Obama's proclamation "to spread the wealth around" brought this "socialism" critique from his republican rivals who, most agreeably, supported the partial nationalization of our banking system recently. These shouts of socialism by conservatives were met by Obama, with the claim that their is nothing more American than "providing opportunity." Well said.
As Americans, we all have been raised to wholeheartedly believe in capitalism, while forsaking other ideas, such as universal health care, free education, "spreading the wealth," and even the safety net for old age that is social security, as "evil" socialism. If someone brings up one of these ideas, they become the "enemy," violating our American values and economic system [have they become the same yet?].
I am an American, with great love for my country. I come from a family that taught me to value capitalism and "the American way of life." I will not, though, believe the arguments linking the fall of our capitalistic system with the act of providing the above mentioned to American citizens. How in the hell could anyone argue that, while making $250,000 or more a year, a modest tax increase would cause them hardship? They have, and will continue, to prosper. Likewise, who would be against free health care and education? Does it not serve the future interests of this nation by, among other things, providing an intelligent, innovative, and healthy workforce? How about helping people who are disabled or elderly? In the absence of social programs for them, could we justify their living on the street and eating garbage, as we sidestep them on our way to work?
I will tell you who primarily fights against these programs, those who stand to maintain or increase their profit from limiting the quality of life in America. Instituting social programs like these in America would correct a problem that was created when we allowed capitalism, and its overriding goal of maximizing profit, to invade education, health care, and the majority of our politics.
As much as I believe in making a buck, safeguarding capitalism should not justify excluding the less wealthy from these pursuits of happiness and security. It is absurd to believe that capitalist have any other concern than profit. What does it take for America to understand that business is not concerned, until it is too late, if America's populace is educated, healthy, and secure?
America has the ability, one of its better ones, to be critical of itself. When we stand back and look at our ideologies, such as the one about rewarding merit, or that one about all people "being created equal," reality just does not prove their truth. Unfortunately, this inconsistency is displayed in our history, as well as presently. One needs only to look back at how women, minorities, and immigrants have suffered from inequality and the mechanism of "merit" that excludes them from opportunity. Today, although things are better, these groups still experience it, as do those outside the elite class. As a nation, if we want to prosper, I advise that we stop sweating about the names of things and develop capitalism with a conscience.