Richard Wolff 3-pack
Corporations are riding high in the saddle. With their friends in Washington they are raking it in. That certainly is the case with the tax law passed by Congress in late 2017. If you look at the details it is warmed over trickle-down economics. While most workers will get crumbs, the big winners will be corporations. And along the way, the deficit will go way up. Corporate tax contributions to the federal budget has been declining for decades and this bill will make it worse. The right-wing plan seems clear: Cut taxes on corporations and then reduce and eliminate programs like Social Security, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid because there is no money. As the saying goes, the rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer. Inequality has soared into the stratosphere. To bring it down we need a concerted grassroots movement.
The great radical historian Howard Zinn once told me, half in jest, that one of the greatest disasters to befall socialism was when the Soviet Union put it in the official name of the country: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I asked him to explain and he said, The USSR, which had little to do with socialism, it was an authoritarian state, wanted to capitalize on the almost universal good name that socialism had. And the capitalist countries played along by smearing socialism and conflating it with the USSR. If you expressed interest in socialism the response would be: “Why don’t you move to a gulag in Siberia? Today, because of growing wealth and income inequality and the Bernie Sanders campaign, he got more than 13 million votes, there is a resurgence of interest in socialism. Many young people are fed up with predatory capitalism and are looking for alternatives. Worker-owned and operated coops are springing up. These initiatives can proliferate and grow. And as Howard Zinn always said, authentic socialism must be small “d” democratic.
Myths die hard. Just as there are no unicorns, there is no free market. The myth is propagandized by its beneficiaries, i.e., the rich and powerful, the 1%. The oft-repeated line is the market is some neutral entity which fosters competition and people benefit as prices come down. Reality is slightly different. We don’t have a really free market because there is massive government intervention to prop it up through bailouts and subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes. The system generates more and more monopoly and concentration. Attempts at regulation are non-existent or are so watered down as to be virtually meaningless. The market as a paragon of virtue? Heard of secret deals and insider trading? The crucial question: how do we create an economy which is responsive to people’s needs, meets social goals of equality and protects the environment?
Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and currently a visiting professor at the New School in New York. The New York Times calls him “America’s most prominent Marxist economist.” He is the author of numerous books including Democracy at Work, Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens and Occupy the Economy with David Barsamian.