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America’s Biggest Crisis: The Economy Is Rigged for the Wealthiest

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Posted on Jan 26, 2014

Monster Pete (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance

This piece first appeared at AlterNet.

A paradigm shift is taking place. It is coming from the awareness that all of our crises are connected to an economy rigged for the wealthiest. The symptoms of big finance capitalism create the poverty, low wages, economic insecurity and environmental destruction so a handful can profit. While these facts have been hidden by political leaders and corporate mass media, now people are seeing them and understand the task we have before us.

The Radical Dr. King

This past Monday, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. History books and the new Memorial in DC commemorate Dr. King for his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and his work for civil rights. Most people have been led to celebrate this limited version of Dr. King’s life. In fact, there has been an attempt to erase the last 5 years of his life, a time when he espoused a deeper political analysis, dared to question capitalism and militarism; and broke with the status quo groups.

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report tells us that Dr. King did not “break with the legacy of grass roots organizing and direct action” as some of his Lieutenants did when they entered business and the Democratic Party. He understood that direct action “meant bringing a social institution or the society itself locally to a halt, to make the system scream, just like its victims screamed, to bring contradictions to a head, so that everyone could see what the real problem was, that is, to confront authority.”

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Some reclaimed the celebration of this Dr. King. In Portland, day laborers and people without housing marched on Dr. King’s birthday to honor his radical legacy. In Washington State, peace activists honored Dr. King’s day through direct action by protesting a naval base that deploys the Trident nuclear submarine. Kellogg’s workers in Birmingham, AL remembered Dr. King and are still fighting for their rights. They’ve been locked out since October.

Dr. King would have turned 85 on January 15 if he had not been assassinated. In a wrongful death suit brought by King’s family the jury found the murder was a conspiracy involving the Memphis police as well as federal agencies.  He was assassinated in part because he was a powerful leader who threatened the power structure.  The Poor People’s Campaign he was organizing when he died would have brought waves of thousands of people to Washington, DC in the longest lasting occupation the city had ever seen to highlight poverty and economic injustice. Using the Stratfor system, King would have been classified as a “radical” and when marginalization doesn’t work to stop radicals, elimination is the next step.

What was radical about Dr. King is that he called for independent politics and he made the connections between racism, poverty and militarism. He was calling not just for a few concessions and improvements, but for change of the whole system.  In his 1967 speech at Riverside Baptist Church, Dr. King said, “But one day, we must ask the question of whether an edifice which produces beggars must not be restructured and refurbished.” The work the social justice movement is doing today is the unfinished work of Dr. King’s last campaign.

What Is The Edifice That Creates Beggars?

This is the question that people are asking. As we wrote in “Our Tasks for 2014,” during this phase of the social movement, deep political education is essential. Activists must understand that ‘their issue’ is a symptom of a fundamental disease, a system that creates these crises. Without changing the system, the crises cannot be resolved. Through reforms, some may be reduced and perhaps delayed such as the current health care law is doing for the ongoing health care crisis. But some will continue to worsen such as climate change and the growing wealth divide.

Professor C. J. Polychroniou calls the current system “Predatory Capitalism.” We have passed the era of industrial capitalism and have entered finance capitalism based on expansion of the neoliberal economic model globally. This is fundamental to understand because it is this model that is driving all of our crises.

Neoliberal economics is not related to liberalism in ideological terms, but liberalism in terms of a freeing of the market from any regulation and a freeing up of our resources to be used by private corporations for profit. In this model, government actively serves the financial elite, as Polychroniou describes: “Policies that increase the upward flows of income and the availability of public property for private exploitation rest at the core of the global neoliberal project, where predatory capitalism reigns supreme. So does privatizing profits and socializing losses.”

It is predatory capitalism that drives the race to the bottom in worker rights and wages and that drives the dismantling of our public institutions and privatization of education, transportation, health care, the postal service, prisons and more. Predatory capitalism sells our resources to the highest bidder without regard for destruction of the planet, displacement of families or poisoning of communities.


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