Though Thomas Piketty’s book Capital In The 21st Century has proved popular among establishment intellectuals, the research in the book validates one of the most common radical critiques of capitalism – that when unrestrained by governments or social movements capitalism is a reckless and malevolent enterprise. And so after 30 years of Neoliberalism savage capitalism is now back according to David Graeber.
Without the threat of social movements and the hand of the regulatory state on its throat capitalism has returned to an unstable and wholly exploitative system that sucks wealth from 99% of the population into the bank accounts of a hereditary class of parasites who increasingly dominate the US economy.
As Graeber notes, much of the beloved post-World War II economic prosperity was the result of a heavy curtailment of the forces within capitalism due to demands from powerful social movements, command economy hangover from the New Deal and World War II, and concessions underwritten by fears of international communism taking hold. Capitalists can be quite generous when under existential threat which, ironically, leads to creating greater demand and subsequently growth in the economy.
Graeber’s critique comes as new evidence shows an extremely lopsided economic recovery. The “recovery” has mostly rewarded the owners of capital while leaving most workers without benefit.
As the Pew Research Center noted last year, all of the wealth accumulation in this recovery has gone to the top 7 percent of wage earners, with an increase of 28 percent, mainly because of gains in financial markets. As for the other 93 percent, its wealth has declined 4 percent.
About half of all Americans own stocks, regardless of portfolio size. Therefore a surge in the S&P 500 from 666 to 2000 is a meaningless abstraction for the other half. Say what you will about the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing and zero interest rate policy, but unless you own stocks or can buy a house or have access to other credit, it isn’t putting much jingle in your pocket. The upper strata, on the other hand, has been benefiting mightily from these policies.
This is particularly tragic given the recession was caused by criminal conduct by the top 1% on Wall Street. Those banksters have now mostly settled the cases against them by paying relatively minor fines to the Department of Justice and other federal agencies while receiving no jail time and some nice tax benefits.
As the corporate media trumpets a soaring stock market the overwhelming majority of the population has little to celebrate. Not that they have time to celebrate anyway given the precarious life of those that must struggle now that savage capitalism has returned.
Photo by David Shankbone under Creative Commons license.