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The Endgame of Capitalism

February 4th, 2013 · No Comments

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‘The board game “Monopoly” was originally invented in the early 20th
century to warn players of the dangers of free market capitalism.’
(photo: Fiona Shields/Flickr)

The Endgame of Capitalism
By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News
03 February 13
The board game “Monopoly” was originally invented in the early 20th century to warn players of the dangers of free market capitalism. The original
title was “The Landlord Game,” made to show how property owners exploit their tenants with exorbitant
rent. The game eventually evolved to include rules that let players
charge higher rent if they owned all the railroads or the utility
companies. But the endgame scenario of Monopoly is a lot like the
endgame of capitalism that we’re witnessing today – no matter how the
game starts, the wealth will eventually accumulate in the hands of one
player, while the other players have to sell off their property to pay
their debt to the owner and, eventually, lose everything they have.
The Dow recently closed above 14,000, the highest it’s ever been since October of 2007. While the financial pundits on CNBC would use this figure to have us
believe the economy is bouncing back better than ever, the only ones
sharing in the benefit of a healthy market are the wealthy investor
class and corporations that have been insulated from the effects of the
recession that still continues for the rest of us. The influx of
high-frequency trading that now makes up half of all trading signifies the change of using the market as a vehicle for making
long-term investments to manipulating it for short-term profit.
The market’s latest high numbers are due to
corporations turning out record profits quarter after quarter, having
grown profits by 171 percent under Obama’s watch. Most of those profits have come about by companies cutting costs by shifting jobs overseas, where they can pay a Chinese
worker a fraction of what they would pay an American worker to do the
same job. News has also broken about Fortune 500 companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T and IBM using inmate labor at private prisons, meaning they can slap a “Made in the USA” sticker on a product made by
someone working for slave wages. The influx of immigrants looking for
work thanks to free trade agreements like NAFTA, has led to the inevitable exploitation of immigrant labor which will continue as long as US immigration policy punishes the
exploited rather than the companies exploiting them. And these record
corporate profits also have right-wing governors and state legislatures
to thank for union-busting right-to-work laws that really only exist as a vehicle for businesses to pay workers less
money for the same work, and for Republicans to erode a major
fundraising base for their opposition.
The rest of the uptick in corporate profits can be
attributed to a lax tax code that allows companies to book profits made
in the United States in overseas tax havens. There’s an estimated $2.3 trillion in US corporate profits booked in overseas accounts. Apple alone stashes $1 billion a week in overseas accounts to dodge corporate taxes. That’s equivalent to
over 4 million full-time minimum-wage jobs, every week. The share of US
tax revenue from corporations has gone from 6% of GDP in the 1950s to just 1% today.
The executives of these companies make out like
bandits, as they use their increased profits to buy their own company’s
stock, which makes the stock price go up, making the stock options owned by the executives more valuable. And with dividends taxed at a much
lower rate than actual work (20% vs. 35%), the tax revenue needed to
keep society functioning continues to dwindle as the investor class
accumulates greater wealth than ever before. The six Waltons who own
Wal-Mart own as much wealth as the bottom 40% of Americans.
Some financial analysts say this market surge is just a rally, destined to drop as Congress expects to wrangle with the deficit in May, including a possible downgrade of our credit rating. But the
fact is, our deficit would disappear if we had a small sales tax on all Wall Street financial transactions, taxed capital gains at the same rate as by-God-hard-work and overhauled our tax code in favor of one that would do away with the loopholes that allow big corporations to offshore their billions in American
profits. However, even that could get worse, as Obama has shown
willingness to talk about a territorial tax code that would effectively allow corporations to pay a 0% tax rate on their profits all over the world, including the US.
In a recent Daily Show appearance, Al Gore made a half-hearted attempt at explaining the idea of
“sustainable capitalism” to Jon Stewart. But even Gore’s description of
capitalism as the only economic system that works sounded incredibly
outdated to those of us who weren’t millionaire media moguls or TV
personalities. We’re witnessing the endgame of capitalism, where a few
wealthy individuals and corporations have accumulated most of the wealth while the rest of us are left to fight for the scraps. And it looks a
lot like the endgame of Monopoly, where every player is selling off
their house and foreclosing their property to pay the one player who
already has everything. And when the Monopoly game has gone that far,
the only thing left to do is flip the board over, scatter all of the
winner’s winnings, and try playing something else that everyone can

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