Jan 12, 2020
The Gross Domestic Product has now been expanding for 11 years. It’s the longest U.S. economic expansion in history. Stock market indexes are also breaking historic records. Life couldn’t be better!
Of course, it all depends on whose life you are talking about. The CEOs of big corporations make more in one day than the average worker makes in a year. Dennis Muilenberg, the head of Boeing, who lost his job after the 737 Max plane disasters, walked out the door with 80 million dollars—on the same day Boeing cutbacks led to 2100 layoffs of production workers. A corporation like Enbridge, whose pipelines poison Michigan waterways, showed that the pursuit of profit knows no bounds.
Corporations rolling in profit “invest” in financial speculation, putting an already fragile financial system at greater risk. The hereditary leisure class whose income comes from the ownership of stocks and bonds grabbed enough this year to buy up another Cayman island or two. But for the majority of the population, the degeneration of living conditions continues. Most households are poorer than they were before the financial collapse of 2007. The percentage of people with a job—any kind of a job—is lower than it was before the 2007 collapse. Life expectancy continued to decline—in this country with the most advanced medical technology in the world. Factories close—and on the heels of their closures come increases in suicides and in deaths by drug overdose. Battered by climate and government policies, farmers lose the family land to banks intent on selling to “developers.” In cities like Detroit or Baltimore or Chicago, the neighborhoods where working people lived for generations are destroyed by “developers” who pursue profit by “revitalizing” cities for the benefit of the wealthy. As for Los Angeles—impossible rents have pushed people out into the desert, or into tent cities put up by the homeless.
In the midst of all this, war in the Middle East forces itself on our consciousness. And the crazy weather reminds us that global warming is real, and the threat to human life cannot be wished away by politicians who deny its reality.
This has been the steady rhythm of life for almost a half century. The steady increase in wealth of those at the very head of capitalist society is based on the worsening situation of people who work every day for their living. And U.S.-provoked wars in the Middle East have laid down their steady background for it.
There are people who look at all this and say there is nothing that can be done about it. It’s true, one person can’t change all this. All of this is based on a system. And one person doesn’t change a system. The system we live under was built up over long years by the capitalist class.
It will take another class, organized for itself, to replace it. That class is the working class—us, all of us. Even while we feel like victims of capitalism today, we are the ones who make society run. Today we make it run for the benefit of the capitalist class. Tomorrow, we could make it run for the benefit of the population.
Our position in the economy gives us the means to do it. Not only could we bring the capitalist pursuit of profit to a screeching halt, we could use our position in the very center of the real economy to reorganize the way society runs. We produce the goods everyone needs, we distribute them, we stock them in stores for sale, we sell them, we keep the records, make the orders, carry out all the processes that society needs to function, including health and education.
This is what we need to think about as the year 2020 unfolds—what power we could have, how we could use it, what kind of life we would build.