The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
Capitalism Is a Bigger Threat than the Weather

Sep 17, 2018

A couple of weeks before Hurricane Florence slammed into North Carolina, President Trump bragged about what a great job he did helping the people of Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria a year ago. This was such an insult, even Republican Party officials distanced themselves from what Trump said.

But Trump’s lies were just more crude than those told by the rest of the political establishment from both big parties.

Look at what’s happening right now with Hurricane Florence. When the storm approached, public officials exhorted people to flee for their lives. The politicians said nothing is valuable enough to risk your life for.

But these same officials carry out policies that put the interests and profits of big business, the banks and their richest stockholders, over the lives of working people.

They provide big business with ever more tax breaks and subsidies and pay for them by repeatedly cutting budgets for vital infrastructure, from 911 emergency response systems, to dams, sewage and water systems.

At the same time, government officials systematically allow big companies to boost their profits at the expense of health and safety of people and the environment. In the path of the storm are more than 40 Superfund sites containing dangerous chemicals that the government took over from big polluting companies. There are also dumps filled with radioactive waste next to nuclear power plants and coal ash next to other power plants. These sites should have been cleaned up decades ago. Instead, they are like ticking time bombs, ready to release their toxic contents during big storms like Florence.

Major livestock companies also raise and slaughter tens of millions of pigs and chickens every year. The earthen lagoons containing the manure regularly spill out their contents during big storms.

So, the flood waters filling up streets, homes, schools and workplaces are made poisonous and dangerous.

And what will happen after the storm?

For an idea, look at what happened after Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area a year ago. Sure, the capitalists and big parts of the middle classes have recovered from the effects of the hurricane, partly because they were more protected in the first place.

But it’s a different story for everyone else. Many are still homeless, forced to live with relatives or friends. Many, who can’t live in their homes, still have to pay taxes and insurance on them. Others live in flood-damaged, mold-infested houses. Still others live in trailers and even shipping containers.

These are the results of the drive to protect the profits and wealth of the capitalist class, at the expense of working people and the rest of society.

To actually protect the population from storms like these would require up front planning and intervention. First, bigger and more powerful storms are becoming more likely because of global warming. So, society and production would have to be reorganized to greatly reduce the harmful emissions that cause it. Second, society would have to stop doing the kinds of things that magnify the damage from the storms, like paving over flood zones, heaping dangerous chemicals into toxic waste dumps and letting the infrastructure fall apart.

Today, this social planning – so crucial to human welfare – is impossible because society is dominated by the capitalist class with its chaotic, profit-motivated functioning. Only a society run by the working class in its own interests can carry out this kind of planning in the interests of everyone.