Schwab: Capitalism works if we save it from true believers

The economy may not survive the Republican tax cuts after it fans the flames of the national debt.

By Sid Schwab

Unprecedented stock market volatility. Poorer-than-expected jobs reports. Layoffs. Businesses still sending jobs out of country, working people still struggling to get by, an extra ten bucks a week notwithstanding. The only difference between Trump’s and Bush’s tax cuts, and the other Bush’s, and Reagan’s, is that its economic shortcomings are becoming evident sooner than usual. Maybe because the others figured on two terms.

Readers seem to like calling me a communist when I point out the obvious about what’s needed to make capitalism work. In addition to showing how unaware they are of the meaning of the term, they refuse to provide examples of my alleged affinity. Which is understandable: There aren’t any. Capitalism has been good to me. In turn, unlike Trump, I’ve been good to capitalism: Pay my taxes, follow the law, don’t cheat people or go bankrupt. Invest in good companies. Recycle. Minimize polluting.

Communism and unfettered capitalism do have something in common, though: They both assume a level of goodness inherent in humankind that doesn’t exist. Self-designations to the contrary, there’s never been a communist country. Purely socialist, yes; and they’ve failed. Other than a few collective farms, the USSR was never communist. It wasn’t even in its name. Same with China. It’s an unworkable, borscht-in-the-sky system.

Over here, a few hippies and transcendentalists tried to live “from each according to ability, to each according to need,” (communism’s essential definition) but they dispersed after acrimonious collapse. As a whole, notwithstanding examples of individual selflessness, humanity simply isn’t good enough to manage it.

Since the point is philosophical rather than economical, this isn’t the place to discuss how upside-down and ill-timed Trump’s tax cuts were, other than to point out that with a humming economy after President Obama rescued it from Bush, with corporate profits at record highs, with crumbling infrastructure and escalating economic inequality, money extracted from revenues and handed to corporations and, therefore, to their investors but mostly no one else, while causing untenable increases in budget deficits and national debt, could have been much better spent to guarantee the survival of our system, by creating jobs and raising wages for real rather than a couple of impermanent boni. (There. I devoted only one sentence to it.)

Communism doesn’t work because humans are inherently greedy and jealous. Pure socialism doesn’t work because most people need incentives to be excellent, and when the government controls all production, there aren’t any. (That, plus the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, not Reagan, is why the Soviet Union ultimately failed.) Capitalism works, but does so to the extent it’s mated with regulations providing reasonable restraint on the worst human tendencies.

America has experienced unregulated capitalism. It led to abuse of workers (including children), disregard for the environment, the Great Depression, and, as is happening yet again, sequestration of too much money in the hands of too few. It’s the opposite of what drives successful capitalism: average people having the means to buy stuff, and rules mitigating corporate greed. And it’s where Trump and his invertebrate Congress are taking us, yet again.

For Trump’s part, maybe the wrongness of his tax cuts derives from his ingrained disinterest in educating himself. Republican congressfolk had to have known though, from experience; they just don’t care. By action and inaction they’ve signaled their intent to take the money and run; and since they don’t see preserving our planet as remunerative, they figure they may as well take it with them, too. What they’ve done, while being decidedly pro particular donor capitalists, is demonstrably anti-capitalism. Proof is everywhere.

There’s one thriving system of governance that’s designed to improve the lot of its citizens, giving them a voice in the process while confronting the strengths and weaknesses of humanity: “democratic socialism,” a better name for which might be “democratic kinda socialistic capitalism.” Countries demonstrating it regularly top lists of health and happiness. Also, they invented telephone handsets, implantable pacemakers, medical ultrasound, three-point seatbelts, zippers and dynamite.

“Godless” liberals, foolishly counting on human decency, call for shared sacrifices to help all Americans, while the party claiming an inside track to Jesus Himself gives itself over to human nature’s darkest side, legislating every man for himself. (Woman, not so much.) Liberals get called communists by people who think Trump loves America. And Mick Mulvaney admits it’s all about bribery.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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