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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/7/17

Capitalism And American Politics

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Capitalism, the oft quoted system that supposedly has the built-in ability to lifts all boats, and rewards individual creativity with success, is one of those enduring myths repeated over and over again that has now become accepted by most Americans. Its just like the much touted and ever-changing concept of the "American Dream" (that is now a nightmare) that is open to varied interpretations. Today, by almost every major statistical measurement, the average American is worse off than they were a generation ago. Some people have taken to blaming the younger generations, saying that they're entitled, self-centered, too absorbed in their smartphones to work, and while some of those complaints may have a grain of truth to them, the data suggests that the kids are not the problem. The truth of the American Dream based in myth is much more complex. Consider: Today, approximately 25% of people with college degrees don't have a job and aren't even looking.

The reality of capitalism's American-Dream-Turned-Nightmare is that now there are millions of hardworking, intelligent people who are living from paycheck-to-paycheck and are stuck in jobs with few opportunities for advancement and little hope for the future. In the wake of capitalism's abject failure is the fact that small businesses, longingly yearning to become big, genuflect to the pompous denizens of the corporate oligarchy that presumably are, in the words of President Donald J. Trump, "the best and brightest" in all industries in the world.

Phew! That's American exceptionalism for you touted by no less a person than the "orange-haired-one-in chief." Never mind that it was these same corporate "wunderkinds" who royally screwed up the U.S. economy in 2008 causing what economists now call the Great Recession. It was a stroke of luck that one Barack Hussein Obama was elected that same year and who stemmed the cash hemorrhage started by a bunch of greedy Wall Street fat cats that Trump so adores and admires.

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But back to the much ballyhooed American system of capitalism. Debunking these long-held and media promoted myths, lies and falsehoods about a 200 plus year old economic system is not going to be easy but the very first place to start is WITH THE EXAMPLE OF TRUMP HIMSELF. He's a capitalist. He sees American politics and economics as intertwined and interwoven with capitalist policies. In fact, a unique peculiarity of politics in today's advanced capitalist systems is how those systems corrupt and train politicians.

American corporations and the ultra-rich provide the funds that create, cause, and enable election victories -- from local city races to big congressional ones. Money, the saying goes, is the "mother's milk of politics." And who has the money? Large corporations now considered "people" due to a United States Supreme Court ruling. So that when people like Donald Trump become President of the United States, capitalist America rejoices because they now have one of their own in the White House.

For their support, they get, no, demand, access to the president, to manipulate polices in their favor, and expect specific favors in return. Things like a favorable pro-big business government order, a tariff on manufactured goods, financial crisis bailouts, or a foreign intervention that triggers war profiteering, for example. There is little doubt that politicians in office must deliver those, or risk removal by their overt and covert corporate sponsors, next time around.

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They must also camouflage those deliveries with deliberately confusing verbiage about the US national interests, the people's safety, job creation, and other vague yet important-sounding priorities. These bought and paid for politicians of all hues and stripes usually do the favors (or, at least, most of them) while allaying popular concerns with infantile public posturing.

So we might ask what must happen for Trump's actions to yield the outcomes he claims to hope for? Indeed, these answers will point to some sense of where this theatrical new administration is most likely to thrust the American people. For example, how might Trump deliver on his promised "middle class" jobs and incomes to the millions who lost or lack them? Trump's rickety economic plan is to stimulate demand for labor power, supposedly via major infrastructure spending, and relocating manufacturing workplaces back into the United States, while limiting the supply of labor power, by deporting and banning the entrance of millions of immigrants.

Such policy contradictions and confusion makes his job creation policy very suspect and unworkable. So for all that to happen, it will be necessary, no critical, to prevent a surge in automation as the employer response to rising wages. It will also be necessary to prevent or offset retaliatory tariff and protectionist measures by foreign countries. Consider one such scenario: Countries (like Mexico) may place tariffs on incoming US exports or tax or discriminate against US holdings inside their borders. It will be necessary to prevent or offset a business cycle downturn. Nor is this short-list by any means complete or include the many other conditions that need to happen to enable President Trump to deliver on his promises.

Then too, in capitalist nations like America, the perpetual anxieties that politicians constantly experience flow, in part, from their general function as scapegoats for the system's bad economic outcomes - instabilities, inequalities and injustices. The fallout from these occurrences is that they shamefully blame each other, and thereby cultivate illusions among the electorate that rotating the major politicians will change the basic capitalist economic structures and their inevitable effects.

Most importantly, they reinforce long-held taboos against blaming economic ills (such as unemployment, low wages, foreclosed homes and unsustainable debts) on the capitalist economic system that has fired, underpaid and/or evicted so many in their rush for super profits. To the extent that politicians address economic issues at all, they carefully and methodically avoid systemic critiques. For example, they will attack a price, an interest rate, some tax or fee without exposing or attacking the economic system that reproduced and continues to produce it.

The political sleight-of-hand used by now adept politicians is to find and fasten onto important issues -- less immediately connected to the economic system -- to establish some real differences (e.g., on ecology, abortion, civil liberties, immigration policy, etc.). Thus, mainstream politicians - Democrats and Republicans alike - do this hypocritical dance because in the final analysis there is very little difference between them when it comes to supporting, protecting and reinforcing capitalism.

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Indeed, for politicians, acting as willing scapegoats for capitalism's systemic dysfunction they are quick to identify others upon whom to offload as much of their scapegoat status as possible. So-called "soft political targets" include: immigrants, foreigners, religious or ethnic minorities, "named" terrorists and so on. In this sense, as evidenced by the modus operandi of the Trump Administration, capitalism's politics turn ugly, vicious, vengeful and can become lethal.

When all is said and done the million-dollar question is this: What if Trump's actions are not followed by enough rising jobs and incomes? What if his now still myopic popular base begins to turn against him and heed his many detractors? What will Trump do then? For President Trump to accept defeat and abandon his "Make America Great Again" project is out of the question. What is more likely is he'll ratchet up his tried and tested scapegoating program of American's most vulnerable and defenseless communities and populations -- immigrants, Muslims etc. So we'll see more deportations, more refugee bans, more industry deregulation, more foreigner bashing, more saber rattling, and calls for war. With that also comes more demonization and repression of those who will likewise increase their questioning or disapproval of the way Trump "does business."

To better understand this looming showdown between capitalism, its politics, and the reaction of the Trump Administration we must start with the uncoordinated and unstructured "resistance" movement that has quickly become the watchword of an impressive opposition to the Trump government and its oppressive potential. But the lessons of capitalism's dysfunctional politics and what it has spawned will go unlearned if opposition remains only at the level of simply resisting this particular administration.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)
 

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