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Welfare Abuse and Corrupt Capitalism

October 10, 2011

Two weeks ago, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren made headlines with an eloquent speech about paying it forward.

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Standing ovation. Brilliant. She is able to eloquently summarize two hundred years of socio-economic progress in just over two minutes.

Yes, we have social safety-net programs that are being abused. No one is disputing this fact.

But we also have an economic system that allows those at the top to abuse capitalism. Ethical business practices are rewarded in employee and customer loyalty, but not always in profit or legal protection. Unethical business practices are often protected and even encouraged under the guise of creating jobs.

In honor of my hometown joining in with the Occupy Wall Street* peaceful protest movement, here are five reasons voting is no longer enough:

  • For every mother who buys groceries with food stamps and then pays cash to get her nails done, there is a food company** that still uses toxic BPA in its packaging because it’s 2 cents cheaper than a safe alternative.
  • For every politician who calls Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme,” there are untold thousands of Boomers who built the American Dream, paid their taxes, gave their children the promise of a secure economic future, then lost everything in the market and are now struggling to live on the $2,366 maximum monthly benefit.
  • For every graduating high school senior, there are ten under-employed or unemployed college graduates who did everything right, but were left with a mountain of debt and nothing to show for it.
  • For every person who goes to the emergency room without health insurance, there is a Pharmacuetical company*** making billions of dollars in profit and paying zero in taxes.
  • For every minimum wage worker struggling to pay their bills, there is a company that moves to Texas to exploit cheap labor, avoids providing their share of employee income taxes and health care coverage, and incentivizes illegal immigration.

*Think Tea Party for people who understand and can recall history accurately. Disagree? Check out the wealth and power distribution of the Soviet Union just before it collapsed and compare it to modern America. Then ask yourself if it is better for capitalism to reach the same end as history’s grandest communist experiment or for capitalism to be balanced with a progressive social government policy.

**Examples of companies that do not use any BPA, baby food that is safely packaged, and companies that are trying.

***Pfizer profited $9.4 billion in 2010, but paid $0. ZERO. The estimated 2010 tax bill for a teacher earning $30,000? $4,500.

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