in the United
has reached such levels lately that even members of the "one
percent" have started worrying.
founder of Bridgewater Associates hedge fund who is ranked
57th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine, quipped in a
recent interview that capitalism is denying "equal opportunity
for the American dream". He said that he was "a by product
of capitalism when it also gave equal opportunity", adding "I
was very lucky to live the American dream by having the proper care
and the proper public school education … A number of things
Starbucks CEO and prospective presidential candidate Howard Schultz,
who prefers to be called a "person of means" rather than a
billionaire (ranked 617th by Forbes), recently observed that "the
vast majority of Americans are living
paycheck to paycheck"
and declared that the next US president must urgently address
of JP Morgan Chase Jamie
(ranked 1,717th) also noted earlier this year that: "A big chunk
of [Americans] have been left behind […] Forty percent of
Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent can't afford a
$400 bill, whether it's medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent
of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids."
the growing impoverishment and despair that are plaguing our country
are hard to miss. The US also has the highest rate of income
among Western nations, with the top one percent claiming 40 percent
of US wealth in 2016, in contrast to a 25 to 30 percent share in the
1980s. According to the rather conservative estimates of the US
Census Bureau, around 14 percent of the population or 45 million live
in poverty. According to the
8.5 million of them face extreme poverty and 5.3 million suffer in
"Third World conditions of absolute poverty".
in reality, many more Americans struggle to secure a dignified life
for themselves and their families. A damning report
published by the UN in 2018 found that: "High child and youth
poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of
poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is
rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity,
which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for
minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers."
parts of the American "one percent" are finally ready to
admit that socio-economic inequality has reached unprecedented levels
and that the current status quo is unsustainable because just like
South African billionaire Johann Rupert, the prospect of the poor
masses rebelling is keeping them "awake
They are now saying that capitalism "needs work" and are
proposing various "fixes" - mainly "trickle-down
philanthropy". Some have gone as far as suggesting that social
provision should be enhanced and that the wealthy should be taxed.
all of them are quick to outright reject "socialist policies".
In a recent interview for NBC, Melinda
co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of the
second richest man in the world, echoed the thoughts of many of the
super-rich, saying that: "What I know to be true is I would far
rather live in a capitalistic society than a socialist society."
Gates is wrong. The current system in place in the US is not
capitalism, but rather"socialism
for the rich"
which favours the "one percent" by granting it
ever-increasing subsidies, exorbitant tax breaks, deregulation and
executive bonuses. The rest of the population lives in an unfair
system of inequality and segregation, struggling to make ends meet
under severe austerity and erosion of labour rights. It is a system
of "survival of the fittest", which privileges some over
the others based on race and gender.
growth now only "uplifts" the rich, who are able to control
the distribution of wealth by influencing the government and making
sure it serves their interests and maintain their power. Through the
US system of legalised corruption, the wealthy funnel billions of
dollars in donations to election campaigns.
the stop-gap fixes that people like Gates, Dimon, Schultz and Dalio
are proposing are unlikely to work because they are designed to
maintain the current system in place so they can continue to
accumulate wealth unrestrained. The only viable solution that would
prevent a major socioeconomic disaster in the US and subsequent
social upheaval would be to overhaul the system.
to economic inequality and the excesses of American capitalism are
necessary to save capitalism from itself, or better yet, to save
people from capitalism.
is an increasing number of dramatic proposals for economic justice
that look promising. These include Congresswoman Alexandria
which envisions a national mobilisation to eliminate carbon emissions
and transform the US economy, boosting economic growth and job
creation, while seeking economic and racial justice for vulnerable
communities. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a 70 percent marginal
on earnings above $10m.
Elizabeth Warren has a plan to wipe out $1.5 trillion in student loan
debt by levying a surtax on the ultra-rich, while Congressman Bernie
Sanders has put forward a proposal for universal healthcare. The idea
which could help alleviate some of the racial inequality in the
country, is also gaining ground.
conservatives attack proposals promoting economic justice and equity
as dangerous because they could lead to a totalitarian socialist
system, such policies have long been a part of the US system. After
all, the Green New Deal is named after the New
which was introduced during the Great Depression to protect the poor,
strengthen labour rights and impose strict regulation on the
the same time, Americans are increasingly in favour of a major
overhaul of the system, due to the problematic and corruptive nature
of the current one. Existing
government programmes of economic redistribution and equity are
popular. Socialism is also gaining popularity, even surpassing
among Democrats, particularly millennials. Such policies, which
translate into more democratic ownership and control over the
government and greater public accountability, most certainly frighten
the wealthy for their effectiveness and political popularity.
members of the "one percent" truly care about the widening
wealth gap, they should not resist the implementation of these
policies. An overhaul of the system might make them less wealthy, but
ultimately will not be to their detriment. A profit can still be made
if workers are paid dignified salaries, provided proper healthcare,
and granted social and labour rights.
the choice of the "one percent" is reduced to either living
in a more equal and just society or facing the wrath of angry
commentary was originally published by Aljazeera.com