Over Easy: Shut Down the System, Not the Government
This week’s episode of Professor Richard Wolff’s Economic Update contains a segment discussing the Government Shutdown through the lens of Marxian analysis. Inevitably, the analysis is not a gentle one.
The theory begins with the assumption that both political parties in Washington want to assure the continuation of the capitalist system while creating different scapegoats to explain the obvious and worsening failures of capitalism.
Republicans blame government for all ills. As Reagan told us, government is the problem, not the solution. For decades, the right has tried to explain declining wages and the falling standard of living caused by the capitalist form of wealth distribution on government-instituted regulations, overtaxation, and social spending. Nevermind that the 1970’s saw a reversal in the trend of worker shortages that allowed 200 years of growing wages to stagnate as automation cheaply replaced a segment of the workforce and drove wages down while productivity and profits rose.
No, according to Republicans, government intervention into the magical, wealth producing markets made regular families grow poorer while the elites profited wildly. The only way to remedy the plight of the struggling middle class, they say, is to cut government spending and lower taxes so that the alchemy of unchecked free markets can create gold for the masses. Obamacare must be prevented. The deficit must be slashed. Government ought to close down until this is done.
Democrats, on the other hand, believe that capitalism is a good system with a few flaws here and there that can be fixed with the gentle hand of a federal entity nudging markets here, providing assistance to workers there. Democrats acknowledge that working people have suffered through the boom and bust cycles of capitalism but believe that the best way to avoid total social collapse from an uprising of workers angry at their economic losses to the wealthy elites is to string together a minimal system of safety nets to keep the middle and working classes at bay.
To achieve an acceptable economic homeostasis, Democrats believe that programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, and other government funded benefits are necessary to prevent angry mobs from overturning the capitalist system. Obamacare–weak tea that it is–must move forward. Social spending must continue unimpeded since our economic system depends upon smoothing over the rough edges of workers’ economic life.
You may notice that no solution offered by Republicans or Democrats begin to solve the underlying economic problems caused by our capitalist system–falling wages and upward distribution of the mass of our nation’s wealth. No solution can be found from a political party whose goal above all is to assure the survival of an economic system that distributes resources based on wealth. No solution can be found from a party that maintains power with the explicit approval of the wealthy to the exclusion of the rest of us.
As always, off topic is on topic. Lurkers are encouraged to join the conversation.
Image by DonkeyHotey released under a Creative Commons license.