Check out the latest content from Democracy at Work.
New this week: Economic Update, Ten Years Ago: Defense Spending, Anti-Capitalist Chronicles, Capitalism Hits Home and Ask Prof Wolff, and Wolff Responds...
Check out the latest content from Democracy at Work!
On this week's episode, Prof. Wolff talks about Rolls Royce's $400,000 cars, unionization defeat at Amazon, why Biden boom is just hype, and progressive wins in the New York state budget. On the second half of the show, Wolff welcomes Green Party leader Dr. Jill Stein to discuss the achievements and goals of an anti-capitalist 3rd party.
Wolff: "[Corporations] want Mr Biden to be just like Mr Trump when it comes to taxing corporations, namely not taxing them. He's going to have a lot of problems. And therefore he's not going to be able to pay for these spending programs with taxes, because the corporations won't allow it and the mass of people don't can't afford it. So he's going to borrow the money which takes our already huge, unprecedented deficits and makes them larger, and makes our already record-breaking national debt go up even higher even faster. And that runs all kinds of economic risks." - Richard Wolff
Stein: “We need to reject voter suppression in its usual forms but we also need to reject voter suppression of progressive forces, and progressive voters. And that means we need a ranked choice voting system so that fear cannot be used as part of this "lesser evil" mode of politics, which is really a form of extortion.”
Defense spending was never really a story of military issues. It's really more of an economic story.
To mark Economic Update's 10th anniversary year, Professor Wolff is revisiting relevant moments from 10 years ago to explore how capitalism, its defenders, and its critics have all changed.
For the month of April, Prof Wolff takes a look at defense spending, which was at its height in 2011, accounting for 4.5% of the total US GDP. 10 years later, the Biden Administration has announced the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, ending the 20 year war without the defeat of the Taliban. But there was a winner: the defense industry.
Wolff: “Let me give you just one way to understand it. All corporate taxes to the federal government amount to 1% of our GDP, one of the lowest rates in the last half century. But the proportion of the government's budget (in terms of its cost to the GDP) that goes to the military is 3.5%. In other words corporations, all of them, pay a small fraction of the amount of money given back in contracts to the military industrial complex. They are the winners.”
In this episode of Anti-Capitalist Chronicles, Prof. Harvey applies Marx's theory of absolute contradictions to the post-war period. He draws parallels with 1860s France under Bonaparte's rule and the pressures that led to his demise. The post-war boom facilitated by Roosevelt's centralized planning and production led to the rise of left-wing groups and ideals that began to threaten the very survival of capitalism. The crisis created by this contradiction led to the systematic repression of socialist ideologies which in turn led to the turmoil of the 1960s and 70s. This is part 3 of the 4 part series.
Harvey: "It's amazing to say this to people but in World War II you have one of the best examples of the centrally planned economy that you'll ever likely see... So what the US saw was a situation where it had to get the economy going and at the same time as it had to do something about this particular kind of ideology which was creeping in, that said the government direction is a good thing, government direction helps, government can be for the people and by the people, and all those kinds of rhetorics."
Capitalism's Connection to America’s Mass Shootings On this week's CHH, Dr. Fraad and Prof. Forlano talk about the intersection of capitalism with mass shootings. Why has the US had more than one mass shooting every day for a month? We are outliers. No other developed nation has had more than 18 mass shootings in the last 50 years. The shooters are overwhelmingly male. Fraad and Forlano look at the mutually shaping influences of capitalism, the NRA and gun sales, along with mass outsourcing of well paid male jobs, gender dislocation for men, and American retreat from connection with others in unions, bowling leagues, community organizations, and families. These combine with and feed narcissism, a capitalist affliction which hides our mutual connection with one another.
Fraad: "Another capitalist problem here is that the NRA has masked itself. They can't say, "Buy a gun, make us rich." It's a much smarter thing to say, "Be a man, buy a gun, protect your family, protect your property..." It isn't just that the guns are there, it's that they're used to address loneliness, and to address the absence of feeling manly. And that's where gender, and class, and capitalism really are evident."
Forlano: "It's the conversation around how [the social safety net] shouldn't be there and it should be this rugged individualism. When people go down the road toward rugged individualism they wind up being these sort of lone gunmen."
A patron of Economic Update asks: "I was wondering if you could talk about the rise of the left 'Pink Tide' governments of Latin America in the last couple of decades. In what ways have these governments questioned capitalism and in what ways have they remained trapped within it?"
This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.
Wolff: “The notion that what socialism and Marxism are about is a greater economic role for the state has to be questioned. The failure of 20th century socialism and Marxism, despite many successes, the failure to transform the workplace to literally bring socialism and democracy right into the heart of enterprises (whether they're owned privately or by the state) is really something that means that modern socialism is trapped, leery, and worried about reproducing the problems of excessive state power in the 20th century… These are ways that the Pink Tide in Latin America could have a clear, theoretically and empirically based focus for its organizing focus for what has to be done, without replicating the problems of statism.”
In this Wolff Responds, Prof. Wolff talks about the polarization occurring within both the Democratic and the Republican parties. The cracks and splits within each party are deeper and more threatening than ever before. The catastrophic problems of the American capitalist system, with its record number of deaths from COVID-19, high unemployment and massive wealth inequalities remain unaddressed by Democrats and Republicans alike. Wolff argues that the fissures within each political party create opportunities for those at the margins of American politics never seen before.
Wolff: “It may be possible for either party or both parties to paper over the cracks and splits, to get together at least at election time, and put the differences aside. Maybe. But they are deeper and more threatening than ever before at least for a long time. And the reason is not hard to find: catastrophic problems of this system… Social fissures of this sort get reflected in political cracks and splits. The opportunities for those at the margins of American politics to become powerful haven't been this open and encouraging for a long time. And that too will play its role in determining how these cracks and splits in both parties shape up in the months and years ahead.”
Learn more about Prof Wolff's latest book, The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself.
Now also available as an eBook!