Civil Rights

Poverty and the Profit Motive

By Mark Lipman

Disparity is all around us, pocketed by great bunkers of wealth.  Fortified swimming pools and Rolls Royces share the same intersections as shopping cart homeless.  Invisible to all, poverty is everywhere.

The common theme we see from California to New York, from Benton Harbor to New Orleans, is that in every single community in this country there is an out and out war on the poor and dispossessed, with a mishmash of local “quality of life” ordinances targeting and criminalizing the weakest among us.  Any sign of community or compassion is jeered at and attacked relentlessly by vigilante neighborhood watch groups.

The wealthiest and well-connected do not want to have to see poverty; do not want to be directly confronted with the by-products of the system that made them rich – the system that supports their every need and desire – as only money can for the few.  They do not want to feel guilty, so they get angry and look for someone to blame.

Unable to find a mirror, they instead turn their fury to the very victims of the system, convincing themselves that the poor are there because they are lazy and don’t want to work.

That, however, would better describe trust-fund socialites than the family of four trying to scrape by, in a system that has trained them to be dependent on factories and corporations – dependent on the next paycheck – which then overnight took all the jobs away, casting aside countless of middle aged workers, who are then left unprepared for survival in a jobless economy.

Those, who somehow think that merely “working hard” is the solution, have forgotten the founding principles that govern the economic system known as capitalism.

For every “boom” in one corner of the world, a “bust” is required in another.  The very cornerstone of the profit motive is founded on the exploitation of others, of disposable workforces and communities that are used up for their resources and labor, and then quickly discarded as soon as a cheaper means of production – through both the use of robotics, and the exportation of local manufacturing to unregulated markets abroad.

Poverty is a necessary and inevitable pillar of capitalism, for the greater the poverty, the more widespread the destitution and destruction, the more wealth that is accumulated and hoarded by those at the very top.

At this very moment, while America reels from one financial crisis after another, with tens of millions of families living in abject poverty, the richest one percent are sitting on a combined wealth of $4 trillion, which lies stagnant outside of the economy in private coffers and offshore accounts.

Any attempt to tax or redistribute this wealth for necessary social programs is immediately scoffed at by politicians, who are indentured to corporate lobbyists and campaign contributions, in order to maintain their own positions of privilege and power.  The ability to concentrate wealth enables the capitalists to also concentrate power, leaving all those without out.

Without poverty and the massive debt it ensnares, capitalism would not be able to function.  Therefore, when we speak of overturning the system of capitalism we are going directly after the root causes of the poverty that we see in our everyday lives.