America’s cruel capitalism

Monday, 01 July 2019

Corporate America’s worship of “shareholder value” has clearly achieved to put shareholder’s interests before society’s. The lack of government regulation has done the rest to ruin America’s low and middle income households.

The constant pour of nonsense from Trump’s administration makes us think everything that is wrong in the US has its origin in Trump. This is hardly the case. Most informed people are well aware of the abyss that separates the US and other developed nations such as Canada or Western Europe in the provision of health care and education. Even with unemployment at its lowest in nearly 50 years, four in ten Americans struggle to pay for groceries, housing and other basic needs. That same 40% of Americans, unsurprisingly, don’t have the means to cover for an unexpected expense of US$400. None of these fiascos can be attributed to Trump.

Walmart, the largest private employer of the country, owned by a family who’s fortune is estimated to be 175 Billion, does not pay many of its employees enough to make a living. Jeff Bezos, owner of 16% of Amazon and head of the company makes more per minute than his lowest paid employees — full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal — make in two years and eleven months. McDonalds has enough money to buy back 22 billion in stock from its shareholders, but not to pay its employees a living wage. Again, none of these can be blamed on the current administration. And the more you dig, the more you find.

Wall Street recently found another pot of gold: US trailer parks. One of the last remaining areas of affordable housing and a symbol of American poverty. Most of the aprox. 22m Americans who live in them (1 in every 15), own their trailers but rent the land underneath it. For Wall Street, trailer parks double the average return of other real estate investments and are growing in demand (after the financial crisis less people can afford a regular home). Tenants, activists and academics have complained rents are rising faster since large investors started to pour in. The epitome of the forces increasing income inequality.

Lastly, the story of the medication Oxycodone, or “hillbilly heroin” as it came to be known, is by far more sinister. Purdue Pharma (the manufacturer), in connivance with authorities, brushed aside countless evidence of the dependency caused by opioids, and managed to start to commercialise their supposedly non addictive opioid back in the 90s. Since another opioid, heroin, had already proven to be a disaster amongts black and “brown” Americans, Purdue targeted doctors in predominantly white poor rural communities. Two decades later the death toll is above 400,000, or 133 times as many as got killed in 9/11. By far America’s largest public health epidemic.

Rightfully, Purdue Pharma and the family who owns it, are facing more than 1600 federal and state lawsuits. But even if they’re forced into bankruptcy and sentenced to life, this won’t undo the destruction of hundreds of thousands of families. Corporate America’s worship of “shareholder value” has clearly achieved to put shareholder’s interests before society’s. The lack of government regulation has done the rest to ruin America’s low and middle income households.

The roots of the problem are deep and go way beyond this administration. A society where hoarding money is the highest achievement someone can aim at, and where current robber barons are referred to as “high net worth individuals,” is plainly sick. The positive note of the current outcry around events like these (and the exacerbation of them in Trump’s presidency), is that they have shaken the foundations of the Democratic Party, moving it much more to the left. American citizens badly need it.

David Abuchar