What Does End-Stage Capitalism Look Like?

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POLITICS/U.S. ECONOMY

The indoctrination begins early. Do you remember learning in elementary school how America is the greatest country in the world? It didn’t even seem the least bit weird to pledge our allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

We were emboldened with the notion that if you work hard, you will be rewarded. Ah, yes. The ideals of meritocracy.

Furthermore, it is implied that if you are poor, it’s simply because you don’t work hard enough. It’s your fault. This echoes the ideals of the Prosperity Gospel, an evangelical principle that instills the notion that if you give your life to Jesus, you will be healthy and wealthy. Those who suffer from illness or poverty, therefore, must have some kind of moral failing to have earned such a state.

That sounds manipulative to me.

And in this society, your importance is often marked by your possession of material things: cars, clothes, houses, experiences, etc. Companies advertise, tempting you to buy impractical things.

Our first lessons in “needing” the hot, new thing typically happen in school. I clearly remember becoming aware of this in middle school, when suddenly my fashion life was ruled by The Limited, the creator of the coveted Forenza and Outback Red brands. You were a nobody without a shaker knit sweater and henley shirt.

What no one tells us in school, however, is that the system is rigged. There are rules and regulations in place to ensure that the wealthy retain and accumulate more wealth, while the poor have to work even harder for whatever is left.

It’s all about the Benjamins. Photo by 金 运 on Unsplash

Wealth is also the gatekeeper to healthcare in this country. Since there is no universal healthcare in the U.S., our ability to obtain private health insurance has largely been tied to our employment status, with larger corporations having less expensive plans than smaller companies. Sometimes the benefits that go along with a job will convince us to work for a corporate giant over a smaller company.

The U.S. treats healthcare as a commodity rather than a right. Care choices are often dictated by your insurance provider, not your doctor. And care is not driven by helping others, but by what is most profitable at the levels where global decisions are made. That’s not to say that individual healthcare professionals are in the field to make money; as a provider myself, I’m in the business of helping others. But it’s no secret that we spend more on our care than any other Western country, and not always with the best results. And we can also go bankrupt treating our illnesses.

As flawed as our healthcare system may be, our justice system is worse. Many small crimes, if convicted, involve punishment by fines. It can be something as simple as parking in a handicapped space when you don’t have a permit to do so. If a poor person does this and incurs a fine of $250, it may be devastating financially. But for a wealthy person? They may have no problem paying the fine and may even park there deliberately.

If someone can’t pay the fine, they may be imprisoned for their debts. It’s a swirling system that may lead many down a hole of debt that no bootstraps could ever be long enough to pull them out of.

The U.S. is tops when it comes to incarcerating people. Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

The United States incarcerates more people than any other Western nation. But why? My best guess is that we have allowed the privatization of some jails, leading to incentives for those in power to push for legislation and judgments that favor incarceration for seemingly minor crimes. When companies profit from having more people in their facilities, it’s a logical outcome. Some people even equate this to modern slavery, as our justice system is skewed to favor white men.

Are you seeing a trend here? The more sectors which should be public are made private, the more corrupt the system.

This is where public schools are moving. We have a set of lawmakers who are trying to convince the general public that teachers and librarians are evil pornographers, and the only solution is to divert tax dollars to private and charter schools. Under the guise of “parental choice,” they want our public educational systems to fail to seemingly create a more ignorant society that is easier to manipulate. The movement has also spawned a rash of book bans and more stringent, discriminatory rules targeting the LGBTQ community throughout the country.

The rise in homophobic and transphobic regulations has seemingly endorsed more public discrimination of LGBTQ persons, especially students and teachers, with hate crimes toward this community quadrupling between 2022 and 2023.

Policies are shifting to promote discrimination against LGBTQ persons. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Some of the “good” parts of Capitalism are no longer applicable. Monopolies were often busted by legislation, but now, it’s the norm. The free market economy is a myth. With so few companies controlling the majority of industry in the U.S., we no longer have competition, squelching innovation and punishing workers and consumers as wages remain mostly stagnant and prices for goods continue to climb, even though the inflation rate has recently slowed.

The American dream is dying, proving that in the U.S., all men are not created equal. As the wealth gap explodes exponentially, goals like home ownership and even retirement are further out of reach for many due to multiple variables. And with the continued threat of ending the Social Security entitlement program, retirement dreams are even less viable.

Sometimes it feels like our society is spinning out of control. Don’t be jaded, though. Educate yourself about the direction in which our society is moving. We have some big decisions to make in November, and we need to choose wisely.

Even if you hate your available choices for office, please vote for those who most align with your vision for this country. Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I’m no economist, but I am certain our current system is unsustainable. What are your thoughts about the U.S. economic system? I’d love to hear about it.

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

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