The Stealthy Killer That is Capitalism

The process is gradual, insidious, lethal. It starts with financial stress in various forms, and then, according to growing evidence, leads to health problems and shorter lives.

Financial stress is brought upon us by the profit motive of capitalism, which offers little incentive to feed hungry children, to treat the sick, to secure us in retirement, to provide job opportunities for middle-class Americans. Some of the steps in the process are becoming more and more familiar to us.

1. Giving Half of Your 401(k) to the Banks

The Frontline documentary The Retirement Gamble reported that a 401(k) fund earning 7 percent a year with 2 percent in fees would lose up to 60 percent of the value of an equivalent non-fee fund.

A 2 percent fee doesn’t seem like much, but the documentary’s claim was close to the truth. Based on the 6 percent historical stock market return, an employee investing $1,000 a year for 30 years in a non-fee fund and then holding the accumulated sum for another 20 years would end up with $269,000. Imposing a 2 percent annual fee would reduce the final total to $127,000, a 53 percent loss. Imposing a 1.3 percent fee, which according to the documentary is the industry average, would reduce the final total to $165,000, a 39 percent loss.

The financial industry is taking this money from more of us every year. The number of private sector workers depending on a 401(k) instead of a company pension has increased from 12 percent to 68 percent since 1983.

2. Watching 24,000,000 Children Go Hungry to Avoid Inconveniencing 20 Rich Individuals

It’s an unthinkable trade-off, but it’s happening. Although the 2013 SNAP (food stamp) budget of $78 billion is less than the 2012 investment earnings of 20 wealthy Americans, SNAP is being cut while not a penny extra is taken from the multi-billionaires.

The children, who make up nearly half of the 48 million recipients, will now get $1.40 for a meal instead of $1.50.

3. Listening to the “Job Creators” Mock the Truth

Casino billionaire Steve Wynn: “Guys like me are job creators and we don’t like having a bulls-eye painted on our back.”

Bank CEO John A. Allison IV: “Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive.”

The reality is that corporate profits have doubled in ten years, and the corporate tax percent has been cut in half, while millions of jobs have been lost. Some of the job-cutting data comes from The NationMarket Watch, and Business Insider.

How did “job creators” Steve Wynn and John A. Allison IV do? The following numbers are taken from their annual 10-K reports, submitted to the SEC:

From Wynn ResortsA doubling or more of profits, a reduction in employees

—- 2012 Income $728,699,000  Employees 16,000—- 2011 Income $825,113,000  Employees 16,400—- 2010 Income $316,596,000  Employees 16,405—- 2009 Income $ 39,107,000   Employees 18,900

From Allison’s bank, BB&TA doubling or more of profits, little difference in employees

—- 2012 Income $2,028,000,000  Employees 34,000—- 2011 Income $1,332,000,000  Employees 31,800—- 2010 Income $ 854,000,000    Employees 31,400—- 2009 Income $ 877,000,000    Employees 32,400

4. Feeling the Debilitating Stress

Over 200 recent studies have confirmed a link between financial stress and sickness. In just 20 years America’s ranking among developed countries dropped on nearly every major health measure.

Lack of proper health care is one source of that stress. A Harvard study estimated that nearly 45,000 Americans lost their lives in 2005 due to lack of health insurance.

In addition to its effects on our physical health, financial stress threatens our mental well-being. Stunningly, one out of every five American adults had mental illness in 2011, as reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Another recent study found that unemployment, whether voluntary or involuntary, can significantly impact a person’s mental health. But only one of two Americans needing mental health care can afford treatment.

Grimmer still is the growing suicide rate, also linked to unemployment and declining wealth. The rate has accelerated since the 2008 recession.

The facts show that we were a relatively healthy people until unregulated free-market capitalism began to disrupt our lives. Now, because of its winner-take-all profit motive, we’re literally fighting for our lives.

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This article was first published at Nation of Change. The link to the original posting is here.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, RappingHistory.org, PayUpNow.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.  The piece here was published with his permission.

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  • Stephen mills

    We need systems that work for we the people ,especially a banking system that is run by a government of we the people not by the bankster s that make off like bandit’s into the setting sun.The governments must control the money supply loaned out to the real economy for maximum efficiency.Market’s are a creation of government and until we are sufficiently enlightened to do what is in the highest interest’s they should have been regulated as greed takes hold and the wealth gap increases the feeling of not enough to go around takes hold.This greed is a disease of fear and at the moment humanity is in a dark place or the system that was created really only serves a very small % of us all.

    However many enlightened writer,s ,authors ,politicians ,economists are starting to see the real costs to us all and what this inequality has done !

    The book The Spirit Level describes what you have said above in great detail and hopefully we will start to wake up and change our cultural story.

    Namaste

  • Karen G.

    When I read this article about capitalism it presented no surprise to me. The problem is the fear it creates: the gigantic monster it’s become that we’ve been told since childhood was the solution to all the ills of the world. Now that it’s gotten so out of control, we see no way to slay this dragon and our fear magnifies. Why not try ignoring any such information? Maybe not ignoring it, but certainly not seeking confirmation every where you turn. Try creating a request to the Universe of what you want instead. “I want more equal society, for everyone on Earth!” Trust that it’s happening. Turn off the TV and bake some cookies with the kids, or have a beer with the neighbor, something that feels good. Enjoy those cookies, savor that beer! You’re being more powerful in that moment than you imagine. It’s Law of Attraction in action.