By Jack Rothman
The following is the first few paragraphs of a paper which was originally presented at the Left Coast Forum and later published by the LA Progressive. While it is not an official DSA publication, we believe it can serve as a useful basis for discussion and reflection, especially with new members. You can read the whole document here.
American Capitalism in Crisis
Americans in large numbers are becoming puzzled and agitated. Every day newspaper headlines blare out that the US is in trouble, together with our Western free market allies. The government doesn’t work, as political divisiveness freezes decision-making. The extent of inequality is “obscene,” to borrow an oft-used description by Bernie Sanders. The elected president comes over as an egomaniac and buffoon. The middle class is in continuing decline, struggling to survive through multiple jobs. The infrastructure is decaying and CEOs dismantle industry, transporting production to more profitable global domains. Racism abounds, punctuated by recurring protests against police brutality. Workers face unemployment, declining wages, reduced benefits, and weakened unions to fight their cause. Homelessness is a continuing, intractable shame. All around us students agonize about being able to afford college and old people worry about whether Social Security will hold firm for them.
At the same time, America’s foreign policy (its imperialist cast ever more obvious) has fomented a sequence of unwinnable wars that have damaged our reputation and drained our treasury—while destroying the lives of so many of our young people and of populations around the world. Increasingly Americans have disturbing doubts about what has been happening to and around them. Why else do almost a hundred million eligible voters fail to go to the polls? Scholars generally agree that capitalism is in deep crisis and many see it positioned at cliff’s edge.
The dysfunctions and heartaches of capitalism are no mystery. It stands to reason that a greed-based model emphasizing maximum profit accumulation as a philosophical value, together with dog-eat-dog competition, inevitably will cause an amassing of social ills. . . .
Jack Rothman is professor emeritus at the UCLA School of Public Affairs and a member of Los Angeles DSA.
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