By: Sheyenne White
On July 24, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “Another stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people.” Not only is this tweet glaringly ignorant but it comes not long after the U.S exceeded four million Coronavirus cases. Although this tweet may appear innocuous, it’s anything but—as it blatantly disregards the millions of Americans suffering financially amidst the global pandemic. While millions of Americans face poverty, Musk’s wealth has grown $20 billion during the last four months alone (Forbes).
However, Elon Musk’s remarks hardly make him unique, considering he’s just one of the many billionaires that lobby, pressure and dangle donations in front of politicians in order to bring down taxes on the rich yet disparage federal welfare for the working and middle classes. Given the staggering 79% nosedive in billionaire taxes in the last four decades, it is questionable if plutocrats’ entirely predictable declarations on economic issues are even news at all (Institute For Policy Studies). Nonetheless, the jump in the sum total of U.S billionaire wealth from $240 billion in 1990 to nearly $3 trillion today demands further examination as it brings attention to the failure of American capitalism (Americans For Tax Fairness). Simply put, capitalism is dependent upon a foundation of economic subordination rooted in class inequality and social discrimination along the lines of gender, race, and citizenship status.
The absence of institutional safety nets within American neoliberal financialized capitalism work to exacerbate such wealth disparities. In particular, many state unemployment systems are designed to make it difficult to apply for and receive aid through complicated eligibility requirements. It must be pointed out that every person a program fails to help is a reduction in the cost of that program for the state. Such needless complexity undermines the efficiency of social programs, incentivizes dysfunctionality, and offsets the cost of tax giveaways to the rich. With this in mind, we can no longer allow ourselves to be placated by empty promises of reform from establishment politicians and instead accept that the inadequate welfare infrastructure is intentional. Afterall, capitalism is an elitist political-economic system favored by both mainstream political parties.
A capitalist economy is driven by a free market in which both prices and production are dictated by corporations and private companies in competition with one another. The irony lies in the fact that capitalist innovations are publicly funded but the profits are privatized, making the exploitation of marginalized and vulnerable communities inevitable. Behind the widespread misconception that “immigrants steal American jobs,” is the sad truth that migrant labor is preferred because it coincides with neoliberal business strategies to lower costs and diminish union power. The lack of social mobility afforded by destructive capitalist forces is atrocious to say the least. With this in mind, no one can become a billionaire without exploiting other people’s underpaid or unpaid labor—making capitalism organized crime.
It is important to note that anti-capitalism perspectives are often uncomfortable and unpleasant for Americans to consider given the capitalist propaganda we have been force fed. Afterall free-market capitalism fuels the notorious but elusive “American dream.” The idea that all Americans are provided the same opportunities for success and upward mobility given they work hard. However, in Corporate America workers are working longer hours for less pay and benefits while CEO salaries and corporate profits soar. Yet the exploitation of the working class has become normalized as many scramble to be in false class solidarity with billionaires in the desperate hopes that they too can accumulate billions. Although we’re told by the ruling and political elite that the American dream is incompatible with federal welfare for the working and middle classes, it’s the contrary. As the connotations of equality and equity behind the American dream clashes with the privatization of wealth.
As a class, billionaires exert an insidious influence on party politics and the economy as their “generous” contributions allow them to mold legislation in their favor. Considering their astute ability to protect their wealth from taxation, the burden of paying for public goods— be it healthcare, education, or housing—is increasingly shouldered by average taxpayers. It’s institutionalized theft. Upon reflection, the billionaire class is a moral abomination and must be abolished. Nonetheless, the hierarchical economic structure of capitalism remains the culprit and therefore we must first change the way our economy is organized. Capitalism derives wealth from a system of labor exploitation and concentrates wealth and power within privileged subsets of the population. The obscene hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few imperils the sanctity of our democracy as we know it. Ultimately, justice will only prevail once the laboring class reclaims the means of production.