Sunday, July 25, 2004

Capitalism, Exploitation, and Over-Consumption

The ideals of Capitalism and the Free Market have long been ingrained in all of us, but the end results we have witnessed are far from ideal. It is true that of all the sociopolitical systems devised by mankind, the combination of democracy and the Free Market have resulted in the most productive and fair results; however there are many flaws in the system that prevent us from becoming a truly fair society. The Free Market system was designed at a time before the technological advancements of our society have changed the entire fabric of our society.

First, I would like to outline some of the flaws in our current society that would not be present in a truly fair society:

#1. Shrinking Middle Class– The gap between the rich and the poor in our nation continues to widen, and the vast majority of wealth is controlled by a disproportionately small segment of our society. In 1992, the middle fifth of all households accounted for 15.8% of the nation’s income. The same segment had fallen to 14.8% by 2002. During the same period, the wealthiest fifth of all households saw their share of the nation’s income rise from 46.9% to 49.7%. (USA Today, 07/23/2004) The top 20% of the nation’s population controls almost half of the nation’s wealth. If left unchecked, this trend will continue, and a small percentage of the nation’s population will control almost all wealth in our nation, while the vast majority of the country will struggle with day-to-day living.

Can the work of one person truly be worth $43 Billion Dollars ($43,000,000,000.00)? Compare that to the average American salary in 2002 of $36,764. If you assume the average worker will work for 35 years, Bill Gates could pay the lifetime salaries of 33,417 people with his current accumulation of wealth. How can this be considered equitable? According to Bloomberg, CEOs in the United States are paid an average of $12 Million dollars per year.

We are increasingly facing the risk of developing into a 2-class society. The rich class, consisting of CEOs and stockholders, and those that are financially well off, continue to develop an increasingly large stake in the control of our nation.

#2. Increasing control by Corporations - When capitalism was first designed, it was implemented as a means to an ends—to motivate each individual of society to act in a way that would be productive to society as a whole. The mantra of the American Dream could be summed up as “Find a need in society, and fill it”. We need to recognize that the motivational factors decided upon during the birth of capitalism no longer apply. I don’t believe this age of multinational corporations, fueled by government tax breaks and exploitation of third world countries, could ever have been imagined. Corporations continue to ask American workers to work longer hours for smaller pay, all in a bid to help the companies increase their profit margins, and stay competitive in the world economy. According to a recent article on NPR, working hours in the United States have increased by 20% in the last thirty years, while declining by the same amount in Germany. Now feeling increased pressure in the new world economy, companies in Germany have begun asking workers to work longer hours, and give up other perks as well, including 5 minute breaks every hour. The Germans had it right in the first place, yet they are forced to follow the lead of US Corporations. This will only result in increased profits for the corporations, while stretching the average worker to work longer and longer hours.

Can you not see that corporations are now controlling and exploiting the world? In every other socio-political system in mankind’s history, the root cause of failure was that a small percentage of the society was in control of the major decisions affecting day-to-day life. The combination of democracy and the free market was designed to have checks and balances that prevented this from happening. In this age of corporate tax cuts, government financing, global exploitation, large-scale corporate mergers and layoffs, deregulation, and campaign contributions, we no longer have those checks and balances in place. CEOs and corporations have become the elite class of our society, able to pay of the United States government and exploit the workforce without breaking stride.

It has becoming increasingly improbable that the average person in the United States can become a successful entrepreneur. If we continue to accept the status-quo, upward mobility will one day become a virtual impossibility. Outsourcing/offshoring by American companies is a process that is driving out high paying jobs from this economy, which are replaced by McJobs, all while increasing the profit margins of the corporate America.

#3. Environmental Exploitation/Over-Production- There are no more needs in our society, yet corporations have convinced Americans to continually desire and upgrade the newest, greatest fads, while disposing of perfectly good products that are no longer in style. We produce more food, housing, and other goods than we need, yet we continue to feel pressure to work hard to keep our jobs, all in the name of profitability. We have turned into a disposable nation, where it is cheaper to buy a new printer or monitor, than it is to have it repaired. One only needs to watch the recent documentary, Super Size Me, to recognize that we have become an over-indulgent nation. We continue to consume vast quantities of our natural resources, with literal regard for environmental concerns. Here is but a small sample of the issues we face:

-Ozone Layer Depletion
-Greenhouse Effect
-Over-harvesting of fish
-Overflowing landfill sites
-Toxic waste dumping
-nuclear waste sites
-Over-consumption of non-renewable resources

In the capitalist system, there are no checks in place to ensure that corporations function in an environmentally responsible manner. Each individual and company is motivated to keep up with the mechanisms of the giant profit-driven corporate machine. The United States is currently waging war, all in the name of keeping prices of gas and oil as low as possible (Even as they refuse to publicly say so) The fact is, the Bush campaign has lied through their teeth, and have failed to come up with a single plausible explanation for the war. One multinational company, Halliburton, is going to profit more from the Iraqi war than any other. This company, formerly headed by vice president Dick Cheney, was awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts by the United States government. In 1999-2000, Halliburton gave $709,320 in political contributions, of which 95% went to the Republicans. At the same time, Halliburton’s Subsidiary, kellog Brown and Root (KBR), is under now under scrutiny for illegally operating in Iran, and wasting tremendous amounts of money. Corporate America is in bed with the United States government, and for these reasons, the government cannot be relied upon to hold these companies accountable.

#4. Failure to Provide Quality of Life for all – Despite the fact that our nation is rapidly depleting the natural resources of the world, and producing more than our country is able to consume, we have failed to provide for a large percentage of the United States population. According to US Census data from 2002, there were 43.6 million uninsured people in the United States. At 15.2% of the entire population of the United States, this represents a large portion of the country that will either have difficultly paying for their health care costs, or will not be able to receive the medical attention they require. To help you put this into perspective, a recent feature on NPR, this amounts to the entire combined population of the following 24 States:

Oklahoma, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Kansas, Arkansas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, West Virginia, Nebraska, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.

There are an estimated 700,000 homeless people per night, or 2 million per year in the United States. 31 million Americans now live in hunger, or on the edge of hunger.

What can we do?

The first step is awareness of the issues involved. We must learn not to accept the status-quo. In a future blog, I will explore some of the ideas I have for change, along with other interesting ideas that I have discovered. There are many other sociopolitical issues that I plan on exploring in future blogs. These issues include the state of health care; ideas for improving democracy using technology; technocracy; software patenting; along with offshoring and outsourcing in the software industry.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Where is the public outrage?

The current political climate in the United States angers me. What angers me is the almost complete lack of public outrage to the Iraq war, given the lack of justifiable reasoning for said conflict. I'll start by stating that I recommend that every person in the United States owes it to themselves to watch Fahrenheit 9/11. The day the movie came out, the Bush administration was administering spin control, claiming the movie was a pack of lies (Without even having watched the movie!) Before condemning the movie, I recommend

A) Watching the movie,
B) Taking a look at Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 Notes/Sources
C) Forming your own opinion on the subject

The truth is that the American Media is very corporate/right wing oriented, which makes it hard to have a balanced view on the issues. While you're at it, I recommend taking a look a couple other documentaries:

A) Control Room: A documentary on perception of the United state's war with Iraq, with an emphasis on Al Jazeera coverage - This title should help you get another perspective on the impact of the War.

B) Out-Foxed: I have yet to actually see this film, although I have ordered it. This documentary provides some insight into the government's influence on reporting
by the Fox News Network. Lawrence Lessig has some material on this film. The New York Times also has an article on the film:

You can order the film from the following website:, or from (In fact, since being released last week, Out-Foxed is the #1 seller on DVD at

c) UNCOVERED - The Truth about the Iraq War - A summary about the deception of the Bush Administration used to justify the Iraq War. This documentary includes a video montage, showing clips of Bush and Powell attempting to back up the intelligence stating that Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is almost pathetic watching the certainty on their faces disappear over time. The penultimate moment comes when Bush is asked: (Paraphrasing) "Do you think the United State's credibility is on the line concerning the finding of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?" Bush stutters for a few moments and then states "I, uh, have no idea what you mean..."

D) The Fog of War - A documentary by Robert McNamara about his career as Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War and the Cold War. This documentary helps you to understand the futility of the war.

Getting back to my original point, I would like to re-state that I am angry at the current political climate of the United States. Where is the public outrage? Why are the opinion polls showing Bush/Kerry in an almost dead-heat, given the complete lack of evidence to support the current War on Iraq? What were the original reasons given to justify the War on Iraq?

#1. Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Bush has now himself conceded that they will probably never find evidence of WMDs. The senate intelligence committee has now found that the pre-war intelligence that the Bush Administration claimed to have simply failed to exist. This sentiment is now echoed by the Butler report findings in Britain. Before the war began, there was speculation that the administration did not want to reveal the information contained in the intelligence reports, because it would compromise the security of human intelligence assets within Iraq. The reports now reveal that the administration actually had poorly trained intelligence teams, which collected unreliable information, and a shortage of agents within Iraq. Where is the outrage?

#2. Saddam and Iraq have ties with Al Qaeda - There is no credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein with the Al Qaeda terrorists of 9/11. IN FACT, a much better case can be made for claiming ties between the Osama Bin Laden and the president himself. These ties can be documented as follows:

-President Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard with James R. Bath.The two were suspended together for failing to take a medical exam. Later, the Whitehouse attempted to hide this connection when releasing a public document, however the Michael Moore already had the original.
-James R. Bath later financed President Bush's first company, Arbusto Oil. James R. Bath became a money manager for the Saudi Bin Laden group, owned by the Bin Ladens, who one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia
-The Saudi Bin Laden Group invested heavily in several Texas companies, and is heavily linked to the Carlyle Group, President Bush Sr., James Baker, etc.
-The Bush Administration has tried to downplay/marginalize/spin this link by stating that Osama was the black sheep of the family, and has no ties with the rest of the family. This may or may not be true, but it is pretty astonishing that the Bin Ladens were escorted out of the country without even being held for questioning immediately after the national airspace was re-opened. The fact that the nation of Saudi Arabian Royal Family has trillions of dollars invested in the United States economy makes it very difficult or the US Government to act impartially when dealing with these people.

The fact is, is that is much easier to link the Bush Administration directly to Al Qaeda than it is to link Saddam Hussein to the Al Qaeda. If the Bush Administration had this type of evidence to demonstrate a link, it would be all over the news. The Senate Intelligence Committee once again refuted this claim, stating that there is no credible evidence that could be used to state this claim.

The United States AND The World are now a safer place - Now that evidence has come out to show that the War on Iraq was waged on false pretences, the Bush Administration has started to once again administer spin control, stating that the War on Iraq was justified by stating "The United States is now a Safer Place". This fact was hammered home by the fact that George W. Bush repeated this phrase 8 times during a recent 32 minute speech in Oakridge, Tennessee. The fact is: AMERICA IS NOT A SAFER PLACE! Iraq has now become a breeding ground for anti-American sentiment. I watched some of the images from The Control Room, and saw hatred in the faces of young children growing up in Iraq. Iraq has now become a failed state, and we have created a new generation of children that will grow up hating the United States. What evidence is there that the United States is now a safer place? In fact, Tom Ridge recently stated that there is evidence that a wide scale terrorist attack will be made in the United States, with the intent of disrupting the democratic process. How is the United States a safer place?

The State Department issued a "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report in April, and tried to point to lower terrorism numbers, stating that Global Terrorism had declined to a 34-year low in 2003, stating that the Bush Administration's efforts were working. Later on, it was found that the report was severely flawed, missing hundreds of terrorist attacks. In fact, when a revised report was released, the number of casualties due to terrorism shot up to 625, which was more than twice as high as the report initially showed, marking 2003 as having one of the highest levels of terrorism ever reported. (Audio Report, NPR.

The fact remains that the Bush Administration has failed to provide credible justification for the war on Iraq. Every justification they have used has turned out to be a lie. The only valid assumption that can be made is that this is a war of greed. Several large corporations in the United States, most notably, Halliburton, stand to make a mighty profit from the war (Search Google News: Halliburton Iraq contract). The Bush Administration claims to stand for strong moral values; however their actions have failed to live up to their words. The soldiers fighting this war, the people of Iraq, and the public, in general, all deserve a proper explanation.

To Summarize: The Bush Administration deceived the United States Public and the Senate by using flawed intelligence and deception to wage an unjust war on the people of Iraq. After the Senate Intelligence Report came out condemning the war, the Bush Administration was given the chance to state that they had made a mistake. Instead, they have continued to state that the War on Iraq was just. The hubris demonstrated by Bush Administration has gone unchecked for far too long. I find it amazing that, given the overwhelming evidence of deception demonstrated by the Bush Administration, that the results of the 2004 election are still in question. Where is the public outrage? How can the United States public still support this administration? Why are the current polls showing the race to be dead heat?